Buildings and Places, Design, landscape architecture, World Landscape Architecture Month

In celebration of World Landscape Architecture Month in April, we’re sharing stories about how landscape architect-designed spaces can advance resiliency, build social equity and help communities grow together.

Our Landscape Architects are tasked with designing resilient and equitable places around the globe. We’ve asked some of them to share their perspectives on what it means to create meaningful, lasting legacies in our communities. Read their stories here.

Blake Sanborn, Urbanism West Lead, U.S. West

How does Landscape Architecture play a critical role in shaping the world around us? Over the past year I’ve been reminded how critical access to the outdoors is for our mental health in addition to our physical wellbeing. Our landscape architects have partnered with local communities to implement the trails, parks, green streets, waterfronts, and healing gardens that have become critical infrastructure during this time of need. Businesses have relied on these shared spaces more than ever before to enable continuity of service and employee retention as a result. Citizens have taken over the traditional open spaces as well as the streets, the steps, and the sidewalks in the most creative and inspiring manner. If we want to build resilience into the future, we need to build in more opportunities for flexible open spaces that our communities depend upon when times get tough.

What is your favorite place you’ve designed and how has it created a meaningful legacy in the community?  The new pedestrian pier we designed with Caltrans, BATA and CTC at the Judge John Sutter Regional Shoreline in Oakland, California, creates a public access link to the waterfront where it was needed most. As the newest addition to the East Bay Regional Park network, the 600-foot-long long pier has already become a popular spot for the community thanks to its unique views of the Bay and San Francisco beyond. It’s constructed out of salvaged materials from the old Bay Bridge which celebrates the heritage of this place. The pier also doubles as an outdoor classroom and learning lab where future generations can learn about the Bay ecology, rising tides and the history of the area.

How can you design places to be more resilient and equitable? I believe strongly that the most resilient places are equitable. To enhance equitable outcomes, we have to make engagement accessible, inclusive and rewarding. Collaboration is the antidote to the threats we will face together. We are all connected.

Naeem Sharestani, Landscape Designer, U.S. East

How does Landscape Architecture play a critical role in shaping the world around us? Today, landscape architects play a vital role in shaping innovative thinking and should continue to advocate for performative landscape infrastructure to face 21st-century global issues.

What is your favorite place you’ve designed and how has it created a meaningful legacy in the community? While still in progress, I have been fortunate enough to be a part of the Master Plan Vision for Jersey City. Through extensive community engagement, we have identified goals and benchmarks of growth that foster civic unity, economic opportunity, resilience and adaptability through the built and social environment. We are continuing to build on the distinct and eclectic character of the city’s many neighborhoods while leveraging creative and flexible planning to shape a livable Jersey City.

How can you design places to be more resilient and equitable? Today more than ever, landscape architects are at the forefront of pressing issues revolving around climate change, public health and social equity. Through an optimistic approach to resilience, planners

Jessica Soleyn, Landscape Designer, U.S. East

How does Landscape Architecture play a critical role in shaping the world around us? Landscape architecture aims to provide design solutions that synthesize and organize the complex aspects of the built or natural environment. It helps balance aesthetics with functionality so that places are improved in such a way that they will be safe, usable, beautiful and sustainable.

What is your favorite place you’ve designed and how has it created a meaningful legacy in the community? I recently designed a pollinator garden for the Veterans Memorial Park. It was a small volunteer project that allowed me to use various native species that I don’t often use in projects and to play a hands-on role from start to finish when I got to help install the design with various community members and veterans.

How can you design places to be more resilient and equitable? I think it is important to ask more questions and utilize collaborative design methods in order to create places that are more resilient and equitable. We should not assume that we have all the solutions without first consulting the main users of a space, considering the history of a place and the future impacts of the proposed design changes.

David Jung, FASLA/ VP, Landscape Architecture Hong Kong Studio, APAC

How does Landscape Architecture play a critical role in shaping the world around us? Landscape architects compose and envision the places and spaces people inhabit. Our role is critical to understanding the intersectional relationships and systems that impact our built environment. Landscape architecture has no boundaries and strives to be resonant and transformative in our responsiveness and in shaping a place. It is in that process of creating and building that landscape architecture is the most impactful.

What is your favorite place you’ve designed and how has it created a meaningful legacy in the community? I’ve worked on a number of great projects over my career. With every single project, the goal is to have a positive impact.  I always like the ones that create unexpected equitable outcomes.  Of the projects I have designed, my favorite is Landmark East. It became a catalyst for urban regeneration, transforming an old industrial area into a more vibrant and livable urban district. Meaningful, artful and creative projects, I feel, always have the ability to create a legacy and generate value.

How can you design places to be more resilient and equitable? I think that those considerations are always part of my design process. The potential to incorporate resilience and equity within each project is a responsibility. It is a decision you make as a designer. The hope is to always bring a sense of purpose into the work and build on possibilities to infuse more resilient and equitable solutions and create the political space in our designs and landscapes.

Shannon Forry, PLA, SITES AP, LEED AP, Landscape Architect, U.S. West

How does Landscape Architecture play a critical role in shaping the world around us? Landscape Architects will always play a critical role in shaping our world by continuing to be innovative with climate resilience projects, shaping the urban environment, and providing spaces for public enjoyment and relaxation.  As designers, place makers, and innovators, we will definitely be influential in the coming years as climate change and resource depletion start affecting our spaces and environment more.

What is your favorite place you’ve designed and how has it created a meaningful legacy in the community? Two of my favorite places that I have designed include the East Green Sweep at Ohio University and the HT Building Landscape at Lakeland Community College.  These 2 projects drastically changed the campus environment for both colleges by establishing campus connections and new gathering spaces for students.

How can you design places to be more resilient and equitable? To build for resilience in projects, Landscape Architects will need to design with nature and not against it.

Brendan Kempf, Associate, Landscape Architect, U.S. West

How does Landscape Architecture play a critical role in shaping the world around us? Landscape architecture brings together the built and natural world to make spaces that are restorative for people and the environment.  By creating pockets of urban nature, landscape architects are creating opportunities for people to experience and appreciate the natural world and, hopefully, be inspired to champion regenerative futures for our cities.

What is your favorite place you’ve designed and how has it created a meaningful legacy in the community? Among my favorite projects is a stream restoration project on a college campus. Beyond restoring the stream’s natural riparian habitat, the project team worked closely with the faculty to create an outdoor classroom and living laboratory that is now used for courses ranging from biology to hydrogeology.

How can you design places to be more resilient and equitable? By designing places based on ecological systems and principles, we can build resiliency into our projects with creative approaches for managing stormwater, reducing the urban heat island effect, and creating urban habitat for birds and pollinators to improve biodiversity.  In Los Angeles, we’re seeing that urban biodiversity directly correlates with park and open space equity.  Increasing equitable access to parks and open space is key opportunity to improve biodiversity and resiliency throughout our cities while improving quality of life.

Vivien Chong, PLA, Associate Landscape Architect, U.S. East

How does Landscape Architecture play a critical role in shaping the world around us? How can you design places to be more resilient and equitable? As landscape architects, our ability to synthesize how the built environment, socio-cultural and ecological systems work together can help us to develop designs and policies that enhance our cities, communities, and regions. We should plan for places and systems that are adaptable and responsive to change and commit our skills to designing with vulnerable and underserved communities in mind. As part of the design process, we need to recognize that everyone experiences the same public space differently, and strive for early stakeholder and community engagement, to ensure that any public spaces we build are accessible, inclusive, safe and welcoming to all.

What is your favorite place you’ve designed and how has it created a meaningful legacy in the community? Crane Cove Park is a new waterfront park in San Francisco, located along a formerly inaccessible industrial shoreline. The park design celebrates its marine heritage and reflects the neighborhood, addresses sea level rise and ground contamination issues through the innovative re-use of materials and planting, and creates a long overdue public space with new public access and recreational opportunities in the Bay.

To read the second part of our Landscape Architects blog, click here.

Originally published 04.5.2021

Author: AECOM Editors