Jane Amidon Lecture

Refreshing. That’s the only word I can think of after hearing Jane Amidon gloss over her impressive, and diverse career in the field of landscape architecture. What stood out particularly was her off the cuff demeanor in the range of inquiries that were asked. In the beginning of telling her background, she brought up the idea of a “liberal arts” mentality in landscape architecture. Meaning, that as landscape architects we cannot pigeonhole ourselves into over-specialization, rather we must delve into the tangential discourses that influence landscape architecture. Examples she gave were partaking in Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA) conferences or engaging journals of philosophical inquiry, such as “New Geographies”. As she stated, there needs to be a “hybridization of liberal arts thinking with design.” Moreover, I thought her opinion on design being more multifaceted by being more data-driven was particularly interesting. As a student, becoming proficient with emerging technologies and using rich data banks, like GIS, I have seen projected designs become denser and more scaler.

Another sentiment that Amidon highlighted was an awareness to policy. As someone who was initially interested in policy, she highly encouraged that landscape architects stay on the forefront of policy issues that could affect landscape architecture. I think this was very important to hear. because as landscape architects,= we need to think in terms of longevity, and the way that longevity in designs is solidified is by insuring its immutability at a policy level.

As a director of an unaccredited landscape architecture program, Jane Amidon demonstrates the diversity of the profession and how it can–and should–be thought of in varying facets.


Gary Gaston, NCDC-Colloquial

Gary Gaston’s colloquial on the initiatives of the Nashville Civic Design Center was insightful. As a non-profit organization, I was impressed by the magnitude of projects that the NCDC is implementing in the Nashville metro area. At the core of their projects is the promotion for a healthy environment–a cornerstone for contemporary urban design. However, what was most impressive about Gaston’s overview of the NCDC is their ability to collaborate at various scales. From collaborators such as NashVitality, Vanderbilt University/University of Tennessee College of Architecture and Design, and small-scale groups like TURBO (Tactical Urbanism Organizers), NCDC has established themselves as key figures in the progressive future of Nashville.

Specifically, I was very interested to hear about the conceptual development of a more efficient transportation system in Nashville. Having lived in Nashville, the rapid growth is exceeding the ability to maintain the high influx of cars. So to hear about NCDC incubating design competitions to rethink transportation was very encouraging. Moreover, NCDC is rethinking ways that the city engages the water. As the Cumberland River has become cleaner, events like kayaking on the river gives it prominence as another area to be activated in Nashville. Furthermore, “Plan of Nashville” as a neighborhood based initiative contributes to a grassroots collaboration that puts forth the interests of locals.

Hopefully NCDC will continue to operate with their “Ten Principles” as the core of future initiatives.

[CEU credit]

Shawn Balon, ASLA

Prior to Shawn Balon’s lecture, I can honestly admit that I did not have the most accurate perception of what ASLA did. Luckily, his brief time with the Professional Practice class gave clarity to the multimodality of ASLA. One thing that struck me about Shawn’s pedigree was its diversity. His experience from a large firm –> graduate school –> China –> small firm(s) –> ASLA reflects the many facets that a landscape architect can explore. Moreover, it alleviates the fear that an initial path is set in stone.

With regards to ASLA as an organization, I am impressed by how powerful their internal groups and programs are. Specifically, their emphasis on advocacy. It is reassuring knowing that ASLA is keeping a hand in the legislation that governs landscape architecture as an ever-evolving practice. Upon Shawn’s suggestion, I explored the breadth of online webinars that are available, impressed by the accessibility of live/recorded and online learning presentations catalogued online.

Lastly, his insight on emerging technologies was the most reassuring thing I took from the lecture. Not that it was particularly related to ASLA, but being told that learning a technology in private practice is not necessarily a handicap as an entry-level designer. Rarely do we get a deep-dive into someone’s pedigree, so I’m glad that Shawn was so diligent in laying his out for us.


What is Landscape Architecture?

Landscape architecture bridges the elements of art and Earth that allows for humans to manipulate spaces and ideas into new forms. This can be demonstrated either through the design of an urban park or the strengthening of a town’s resilience to high flooding. Its ability to create new perspectives from existing sites is what makes landscape architecture so powerful. As we continue living in a world of greater consumption, new technologies, and rapid population growth, the way society thinks about space will be integral amongst future developments. For example, as self-driving cars become the norm of transportation, landscape architects will need to start thinking about the shifting landscape as a once human-operated road system to a potentially error-less computer-operated one. Furthermore, as we attempt to mitigate climate change, green initiatives to move toward more pedestrian/bike friendly commuting will change how landscape architects rethink the city. Site is ever-changing, and as humans continue to innovate and operate in the world, landscape architects must be able to adapt to these changes. There is only a finite amount of space on the planet, it is up to landscape architects to maximize its utility not just for the immediate future, but for many futures to come.