Celebrating Landscape Architecture Month in Puerto Rico – The Field

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by Arnaldo D. Cardona, ASLA

ASLA 2018 Student Analysis and Planning Award of Excellence. El Retorno a la Tierra / Return to Earth. Las Marias, Puerto Rico. Nicole Rivera-Ramos, ASLA student / image: Nicole Rivera-Ramos

On April 5, 2022, I was honored to be invited to deliver the keynote address to kick off the celebration of Landscape Architecture Month in Puerto Rico. My goal was to share with members of the Institute of Landscape Architects of Puerto Rico the importance of supporting the profession and how they could contribute through ASLA and its platforms.

Although Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, there are currently no ASLA chapters on the island. The closest professional affiliation is with the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA). The theme for this year’s WLAM celebration in Puerto Rico was “Regenerative Landscapes” – however, I did not focus on presenting a project that incorporates this concept. Instead, I focused on using the concept of regeneration – giving something new use, or using it in a different way to improve it – as part of our concept of professional practice.

The response was so gratifying that I decided to share this speech after the event, perhaps inspiring others. My Landscape Architecture Month conference went like this:

Everyone in this room has something in common: we believe in improving our natural and built environments, in our country and around the world.

We also share that we have chosen the career that improves the quality of life in our communities, and we are:

  • Professionals who contribute to the fight against global warming and lead climate action,
  • Specialists who see our cities as urban landscapes, and
  • Designers who shape experiences and help improve the economy of states and countries.

Yes, we are the champions who improve the landscape, but the best landscape is the one I have in front of me right now – the landscape made up of all the landscape architects in Puerto Rico. This landscape of professionals will be even more beautiful when you all unite to become a force.

We are a productive, sustainable and regenerative profession, the profession of the future. Cities will run out of vacant space to fill, and ever-increasing populations, traffic, and temperatures in cities have determined that future design problems will require landscape architecture solutions. With the COVID-19 pandemic, schools are considering their surrounding spaces as outdoor classrooms. All of these design issues are related to landscape architecture.

That’s why I’m so proud to call myself a landscape architect. However, we still have work to do to make our profession more visible. We can:

  • Media Engagement: Share what we do on social media, in newspapers and publications, and even on TV, so people can learn about what we do.
  • Civic Engagement: Landscape architects should be represented in more government agencies.
  • Partner with other colleges to develop projects that help communities.
  • Partner with architects and other environmental professionals so landscape architects can be seen as the ideal partners any design team should have.
  • Participate with IFLA and ASLA so that we can promote our profession more widely.
image: courtesy of Arnaldo Cardona

We are landscape architects, we are the profession now, and those colleagues who are no longer with us will always be landscape architects, leaving a legacy of service and professionalism in the history of landscape architectural design in our country.

I would like to thank Zilkia Hernandez (APEE), president of the Institute of Landscape Architects of Puerto Rico, and architect Margarita Frontera, president of the College of Architects and Landscape Architects of Puerto Rico, for inviting me to such a wonderful celebration. I hope that by sharing this speech, I can inspire my colleagues to challenge our borders and network around our profession beyond our region, to increase the visibility of our profession around the world.

For more information on the events featured during Landscape Architecture Month in Puerto Rico, visit the Website of the Colegio de Arquitectos y Arquitectos Paisajistas de Puerto Rico. On Facebook you can also search Institute of Landscaping Architects of Puerto Rico to see a calendar of activities and photos of selected activities.

Arnaldo D. Cardona, ASLA, is a retired landscape architect and educator, and served on the ASLA Education Committee.

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