From parks to streetscapes, educational campuses, and commercial developments, landscape architecture surrounds us. It integrates the built world into the natural environment, creating unique and inviting spaces with notable benefits including increased aesthetic appeal, stormwater management, and reduced energy costs. As we strive to overcome some of the most significant 21st-century challenges we face, landscape architecture is poised to help provide sustainable, environmental solutions.
“As Landscape Architects, we get to influence the outdoor environment through design which enhances people’s quality of life. This influence can be seen in parks, streetscapes, site developments, and public spaces. At Snyder & Associates, we work with communities and other professionals to create unique projects and outdoor spaces for generations to enjoy,” explains Don Marner, P.L.A., Development Business Unit Leader for Snyder & Associates.
During the month of April, we’re excited to join the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) along with colleagues from across the country and beyond to celebrate World Landscape Architecture Month (WLAM). With a focus on diverse landscape architect-designed spaces located internationally, WLAM raises public awareness of the profession and its role in the world around us.
A showcase of the ASLA’s 49 U.S. chapters is taking place throughout the month and into early May on Instagram. Both landscape architects and the public are encouraged to join the celebration by sharing photos of their favorite landscape architect-designed space via social media with #WLAM2017. Logos, local ASLA chapter information, and other resources are available online.
As we honor and celebrate WLAM, members of our landscape architecture team reflect on career experiences, inspiration, challenges, and more.
I believe the most important role of landscape architecture is to protect and enhance the aesthetic environment of our outdoor world.
Tim West, P.L.A., LEED AP
With everything going on in our environment including climate change, landscape architecture is critical in helping to counteract these changes. We must focus on sustainability and create more green spaces for communities and future generations to enjoy.
Lara Guldenpfennig, P.L.A., A.S.L.A.
We design spaces that influence how people experience places.
Clay Schneckloth, P.L.A.
Look around and you will see the impact of the Landscape Architecture profession. Whether you’ve walked on a trail or attended a concert in a downtown plaza, chances are that a Landscape Architect played a role in making that area a reality. That is what makes the profession so important to society.
Monte Appelgate, P.L.A.
Senior Project Manager
Landscape Architecture is a fairly young profession and therefore I feel many people today still have little understanding of the scope of our profession.
In one day, I may address questions pertaining to bridge aesthetic enhancements, community recreation goals, and best management practices for addressing stormwater. Our breath of work is often much more vast than many realize. We are often challenged to create something visually appealing yet technically sophisticated. We’re also challenged to provide solutions that require a strong understanding of art, architecture, and engineering elements combined with a knowledge of natural and social sciences.
Diane Goering, P.L.A.
I like seeing a project start from an idea and grow into a real space. It’s really satisfying to see a space being used the way you designed it to be, after it’s built.
Working with great people whether it’s a client, community leader, or co-worker.
The diversity of projects I have the opportunity to work on and the real impact they can have on the livability of a community. Visiting a finished project and watching people enjoy the place I helped create.
There can be short deadlines that are challenging to meet.
Working with new clients whether it’s a developer or community. Understanding their needs, goals, limitations, and how to best achieve a successful project.
I think for myself and many designers, an important challenge to overcome is taking yourself out of the design. The most effective design provides solutions for the people most impacted by it. Discovering what your client’s priorities and vision are for a project can sometimes be an unanticipated challenge, especially when multiple individuals or jurisdictions are involved. How will the client or intended user utilize a site? What are the anticipated aesthetic outcomes? What are the client’s budgetary constraints?
I enjoy working on projects with teams of different designers and professionals. I find these teams can challenge you to think differently about your design and how it may be used or an alternative way it can be constructed. I feel like this pushes you to do better in your design work.
What inspires me about the projects I work on, is what happens within the space after it is complete. It’s seeing kids on a new playground at their school, or community members of all ages coming together outside and interacting with one another. Having the chance to change the environment for the better inspires me every day.
When I look at a new site or project, such as the NW River District in Fort Dodge, I enjoy the discovery of each project’s particular needs and how those needs are interconnected to a much broader solution. For example, you can’t revitalize a community by simply adding a park, gateway feature, safer road alignment, or some new architectural or development standards. We have to look at the complexity of how all aspects are interconnected to create a desirable place to live.
Many projects also require site visits. Walking around a particular site you’re able to get a better understanding of how the natural and social systems are currently interacting. My ideas often begin to formulate based on observations made during these visits.
My work often requires a public engagement process. It’s during this phase that I’m often inspired by those impacted by the project and their vision or passion for addressing particular challenges. The final solution is often a combination of ideas inspired by site visits and what I heard from those impacted by the project.
One of the projects I’m most proud of is the Edge Residential Development in downtown Des Moines. The project was partially funded by the Iowa Economic Development Authority due to the numerous best management practices we included on the site. These include bio-retention areas, permeable pavers in selected sidewalk locations and within the parking lot, an underground rainwater system that operates the irrigation system, and an above ground rain barrel in the community garden space that captures roof water. LiveWall systems were installed to provide the residents with more growing space, and the planters were also irrigated from the underground system. The plant palette consisted of all native plantings.
I am proud of the Terry Trueblood Recreation Area in Iowa City. We overcame unique challenges and included cool features that turned the park into a community destination.
This is a tough one. Currently, I’m working on a greenway master plan for Lower Fourmile Creek. It stands out the most because of the sheer scale and number of jurisdictions and stakeholders involved. The current plan includes properties located in Polk County, the City of Pleasant Hill, and the City of Des Moines. The system will allow for the implementation of native vegetation re-establishment, stream restoration, and wetland restoration. The Master Plan will address these improvements; as well as, potential recreation and education opportunities along approximately 10-miles of the creek and within its 500-year floodplain. The final plan will also include management strategies and budgetary costs.
Both a unique component and new challenge of this project is the complexity of GIS data and the large scale of the project site. We chose to utilize a new platform to distribute the final master plan. We will use ESRI’s ArcGIS Online Story Map web application to provide an interactive experience that can be updated as the master plan evolves and is developed.
As the world’s resources and open spaces get smaller, Landscape Architects will need to lead more design teams to minimize environmental impacts and create more efficient outdoor improvements. This will lead to more interest in environmental stewardship and more responsibility in project design.
There are so many young, creative minds coming into the profession, and I’m excited to see how they further landscape architecture. Times are changing, and with that, comes new technology and ways to conserve water, protect our streams and rivers, and give communities new ways to get outdoors and experience nature.
Seeing more young people getting involved in the profession. Also, the increased respect from clients, city officials, and other design professionals on what Landscape Architects and their skill set can bring to our built environment.
Get out and explore the world around you to experience the environment first-hand. Visit all of your project sites before you start designing them. Often the natural world will help determine what the best design should be.
Travel as much as you can; walk the cities that you visit and really get to know them. Ask questions—lots of questions. Once you’ve gotten an understanding of how a firm operates, always ask for more work and be willing to step-up to the challenges that come with your projects. See your mistakes as learning experiences, work through them, and understand what went wrong, so you can grow professionally from it.
Lara Guldenpfennig, P.L.A., A.S.L.A.
Go back to school to become an orthodontist. Just kidding! I would have to say that a good understanding of business and communications is important to have as a Landscape Architect.
Keep an open mind when deciding what path you ultimately take in the profession. There are so many avenues to pursue whether public or private sector or staying within the educational field. Find what inspires you and go for it.