“The transformational leadership of landscape architects can help heal our post-traumatic world,” said Lucinda SandersFASLA, CEO of OLINin his introduction to Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF)the fifth class of Leadership and Innovation Fellows.
She told hundreds of people in downtown Washington, D.C., that the foundations of the landscape architecture profession felt like they were “shaking,” but that a path to a more diverse, equitable, and sustainable profession is under development. This path will be forged by “continuously cultivating the next game-changing ideas” and “removing barriers in order to design effectively.” During a year-long research project, the six fellows, who include both emerging and established professionals, were asked to “transform themselves to transform others”.
Deb GuntherFASLA, partner of mithun in Seattle, explained that this year’s class worked as a collective to explore ideas about transformational leadership. Guenther’s project focused on the need to create a greater sense of relatedness between landscape architects and the community leaders with whom they associate. Sharing the thoughts of the community leaders she interviewed through video clips, Guenther highlighted a key idea: “if we want to achieve transformation, we have to build or rebuild the relational, then live the transactional together.”
During his fellowship, Guenther interviewed over 300 community leaders and designers on how to build trust. In videos shown to the public, community leaders explained the need to view communities as ecosystems, how advocacy around shared goals can create a sense of togetherness, how shared values resonate, and the importance of creating wealth. community in the form of stronger relationships, a sense of belonging, and improved health and well-being.
His “Collective Impact Model” explained how community projects led by a core group, rather than a single champion, had a greater chance of success (see image above). She called for greater investment by landscape architects in building trust through community design centers, more practicing teachers in landscape architecture educational programs, and more designers-in-residence in non-profit organizations. In addition, other key objectives include investing in community organizations that advance equity and seeking opportunities for upstream policy change.
Olivia Busseya landscaper with Curtis + Rogers Design Studio in Miami, explored the landscapes of prisons and halfway houses. She said the US prison system had “systemic problems” and new landscaping standards were needed. His research has focused on the impact of inmates exposed to unsanitary prison landscapes, which are characterized by “lots of pavement, few trees, sometimes a few shrubs”.
According to Bussey, research by Dominique Moran finds that northern prisons that include inmates in the forests can access a “sense of calm, spaces for reflection and connection with the world”. Further research was conducted on Rikers Island, a prison complex in New York, which includes one of the oldest inmate-run gardens in the country. A detainee who worked in the garden is said to have said: “It’s the only place where I feel like a human being”. Importantly, Rikers inmates who gardened had a 40% lower recidivism rate than the general prison population.
The prison system does not stop once the sentences have been served. Bussey has focused much of her research on halfway houses, which provide formerly incarcerated people with career, health, and social services support. “These spaces are like corridors, transition spaces before re-entry into society.” Most halfway houses are not required to have outdoor spaces, but some do. She hopes to do more research on the correlation between recidivism rates and access to landscaping in these places, but getting information from prison system administrators is a major challenge. “We currently design for people who we believe deserve punishment, but instead we can design for public health and safety. 95% of incarcerated people will one day reintegrate into society. What do we want them to experience? »
For Linda Chamorro, ASLA, assistant professor of landscape architecture at Florida International University in Miami, the Cut|Fill unconference, organized in the wake of the 2020 murder of George Floyd, was an awakening experience. There she met other Latin American landscape architects who were struggling with the ideas raised by the event: “What should we remove and what should we add? As part of a collective effort with other designers – including Alexandra Burgos, Carolina English, Robert Colón, Assoc. ASLA, Jason Prado, ASLA, Sofia Charro, Jessica Arias, Ishaan Kumar, and Daví Parente Schöen – Chamorro sought to expand the labels of the Latin community to represent its true “diverse, multicultural, and multilingual” character. They came up with a new term to expand beyond the boundaries of terms like Latin and Hispanic: “Latin/x/a/o*”.
In his talk, Chamorro also explored how the term “landscape” is loaded with meanings that don’t resonate with Latin audiences. Landscape is derived from land and property and prompts ideas related to property, settlement and resource extraction. On the other hand, the old term “Tierra” conjures up a whole different set of ideas. “Tierra lives, breathes and opens.” Tierra is a “palimpsest of living stories and talks about kinship with Pachamama. Tierra is about raising awareness and moving forward.
During her independent study, Chamorro recorded video interviews with Latin American expats living in the United States about their feelings about Tierra. Through a poetic tour of travel, food and family memories, the narrators explained how “Tierra is a protagonist, a character in our stories”. As part of the project, Chamorro and his colleagues launched the Tierra Media Project. The collective’s goal is to “encourage a deeper way of being with the earth – to engage both the material and the spiritual.” They believe that “healing occurs in communion with one another”. Instead of looking to “add value and redesign places, what if we lead with healing and the spirit of reciprocity with Tierra? »
Read Part II of this series.