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Hello Philadelphia

By George Schmok

Welcome to LASN's Annual ASLA Show issue!

I have to admit I am looking forward to visiting Philadelphia for the first time when we attend the ASLA's Annual Meeting this October 3-7.

This will be the third time in five months that I will have visited the northeastern colonies and I am getting a better appreciation for that region's landscape and lifestyle. Not that I haven't been to Boston, Baltimore and D.C. before, but Philly and NYC were always on the "avoid it" list until now . . .

Having just returned from NYC and spending a solid week traversing the city, I still don't like the downtown lifestyle, but did see and experience more landscape than I first thought I would.

You know you've been in the industry far too long when one of the highlights was to see all the rooftop water towers made of sitecraft wood. The folks from sitecraft have told me the company started by supplying the wood towers and subsequently using the old wood from torn down towers to make their furniture . . . I think I was the only one on the bus taking pictures of all those water towers . . . Yep, definitely a tourist . . .

On that trip I spent a full day (and took better than 600 photographs) in and around Central Park. I have to give it up to FLO and the locals . . . It truly is a great park. We even found ourselves alone more than once, on a weekend day, surrounded by nothing but dense growth. Kinda felt like Big Sur . . .

You also have to hand it to "The Donald" . . . While one of only a few rooftop gardens throughout the city, Trump Tower not only added "green" to 5th Avenue, but also used the trees and landscape lighting to make it a showcase at night.

I mentioned "only a few" rooftop gardens, as I thought they would be everywhere, but realistically the city and the buildings of old were just not designed to hold a landscape. New York is an example of unfettered growth . . . Growth around growth, not around planning . . .

This was also evident in the several "pocket-parks" I saw wedged between apartment buildings, contained by chain link and mostly unlit and unused. These parks, like many we have featured in LASN, are, in theory, a great idea, but I didn't see any sign of life and surmise they were used a lot when first built, but end up abandoned and in decay.

There is, of course, a lot of history in NYC, much like I am expecting to find in Philly . . . Judging by the submissions we received from the local Landscape Architects there, the city and the region will be rich in both history and in landscape.

Hopefully the people of PA will be as hospitable as the NewYorkers, who were more than eager to offer guidance throughout the subway system and navigation advice through the maze of high rises.

Flying southeast out of JFK before looping back to the west I could see from northern New Jersey to the top of the Chesapeake. From the air the area is lush with forest and fresh water. What an awesome canvas for the local Landscape Architects to play with. It is easy to see, though, how the early development of the region could have taken the open space and landscape beauty for granted. Old world cities grew from the center out with the greatest demand being for proximity to the center. This is really evident throughout the northeast and upper Midwest-beautiful natural landscapes and highly defined city centers.

I can see how this works for business, but I can't see how one can raise a family in a downtown like Manhattan.

So, I guess that's why you . . . Landscape Architects . . . are in such great demand these days. That's why you are being asked and are gaining proficiency in master planning communities and working transportation plans.

If "The Donald" is using prime downtown real estate to showcase a few trees then the rest of the world must be getting it and will soon be following . . .

It is just so rewarding to see the profession grow as it has over the past few decades. With meetings like this one in Philadelphia and judging by the work we see from you across the globe, the next several decades will be known in perpetuity as the Renaissance of Landscape Development . . .

--God Bless

George Schmok, Publisher

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May 19, 2019, 8:21 am PDT

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