LANDbytes: Perusing Past Design Award-Winning Projects

By Rebecca Wahlstrom

With the days passing at an ever-quickening rate, the date of the 2013 Design Awards will soon be upon us.  Curious readers might be asking who will submit their projects and what kind of work will represent the Oregon ASLA. The hope of the executive committee is that the upcoming Design Awards Soiree on November 1 will truly be a celebration of design in Oregon, and that firms from each of the sections consider an entry.

In thinking about the upcoming awards, it is natural to start wondering about the projects that have won Oregon Chapter awards in the past – beyond a two year time frame. Please take a moment to look at some former award-winning projects. It is interesting to see that some years it was all about dealing with water, other years it was about denser and more urban projects. Times and tastes change, as do the needs of the clients. The firm names are not included in this article; if you are interested but have no spare time, please Google the project and explore more details. Better yet, if you find yourself near one of these projects, make sure you explore and draw your own conclusions about how the designs have stood the test of time. This was not meant to be an exhaustive list of award winners, but more a retrospective of trends and projects. In the midst of preparing for the future, enjoy this look back in time. The Oregon Chapter of the ASLA has high hopes for the next award winning projects – see you November 1!

Honor Awards
1988 – Mt. Hood Community Re-Entry Program
1998 – Water Pollution Control Lab
2000 – South Waterfront Park
2004 – Oregon Convention Center Expansion
2006 – Santi-ya Outdoor Sculpture Galleries
2010 – Hotel Modera
2011 – Steel Bridge Skatepark

Honor and Sustainability Award
1994 – Gabriel Park Stream Rehabilitation Project

Merit Awards
2002 – Holladay Park
2006 – Tanner Springs Park
2006 – 10th @ Hoyt Courtyard
2008 – Rivers East Center
2010 – 10th Street Green Street

Award of Excellence
2004 – Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade
2008 – Wildhorse Ranch

Presidents Award
1990 – NEC Corporate Campus
1994 – Port of Seattle, Pier 69 Administration Headquarters

Presidents Award for Community Service
2008 – Friends of Ross Island
To find out more about the upcoming design awards soiree, explore the following link;

Detailed Info for the Design Awards Soiree!

LANDbytes: Fear of Failure

By Rebecca Wahlstrom

Who doesn’t want to be a winner? Winners get contracts, bonuses, and the admiration of all who flock to their door.  People like to hang around winners; the sun is shining and life is good (possibly on the verge of being great) and they want some of that sunshine and good life to rub off on them.  People immediately want to mimic whatever the frontrunner does to win so that they, too, may be winners. What about the people who didn’t win that contract, award, or job?

“I have marveled often at the thin line that divides success from failure.” – Ernest Shackleton

No one wants to experience losing, as it rarely brings a happy outcome. Not winning a project might mean furloughed or laid off employees. Hundreds of applicants who fail to land a particular job will need to bolster their morale and tighten their belts. Failure is not a welcome guest in any home; when failure makes a short stay, people bring casseroles-but when the stay is protracted, people tend to not visit anymore.

You’ve heard the term, ‘failure is not an option’, but I believe that failure is always an option. We all know it is something we desperately want to avoid, but are there any good aspects of failure? ‘National Geographic’ (NG) had a writer look at the different failures in exploration and when it is because failure is an option that people are spurred onto even greater heights. As landscape architects, we aren’t planning a massive trip to Antarctica or Nepal, but we can still learn from our failures. As climber, Pete Athans, said in the NG article, “Failure gives you a chance to refine your approach. You’re taking risks more and more intelligently.” The author adds that sometimes too much success can lead to failure, as in the 1996 climbing season on Everest. People had started to think of the mountain as a bit of a cakewalk and no big deal…they were proven wrong when 12 climbers died in one horrific season. As NG writes, “Failure keeps you on your toes.”

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

During a walk through the Portland Japanese Garden with the garden curator, it was explained that sometimes success comes slowly. He said that the Sand and Stone garden was not designed in a traditional manner; that it broke the rules that had previously dictated this style of design. One wouldn’t say that the garden was a failure, but for years, when Japanese garden masters would visit, they would shake their heads and comment on the deviation. 50 years later, visitors are travelling to the garden to see this ‘new’ style, and our Japanese garden enjoys the honor of pushing boundaries and being the frontrunner in this approach. In design, fear of failure can be a death knell for creativity and inspiring new ideas.

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.” – Bill Cosby

It seems a delicate balance; a healthy fear of failure will keep you on your toes, but too much fear and one just stays frozen in place and ends up not doing anything new. One thing that encourages people to branch out into new territory is to feel that they are equipped with the right education and support to make the gamble work. Autumn is approaching and with it comes ASLA Oregon elections and a new chapter president. What do you hope to see happen here in Oregon and how can you be a part of a successful upcoming year? How can ASLA become an even greater champion for landscape architecture? It might mean connecting emerging professionals for LARE study groups or it might be promoting opportunities for professionals to gain meaningful PDHs; make your voice heard and be willing to be part of the solution.

“Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.” – Marilyn Monroe

The 2013 Design Awards is another event that is fast approaching, a time when a jury will decide what projects showcase the best Oregon has to offer and when we celebrate the Oregon design community. ASLA Oregon wants to see the courageous, new work of the membership – consider entering the project(s) that express how you are making Oregon a great place to live, work, and play. Be on the lookout for more event details coming soon, but in the meantime, get ready to show people what you can do. Be bold.

LANDbytes: Bend’s Byway Visitor Center

By Robin Lee Gyorgyfalvy, FASLA

A long envisioned dream for a new Visitor Center at the entrance to the Deschutes National Forest is quickly becoming a reality. This new portal to public lands will be located on the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway west of Bend, Oregon, which is home to 80,000 people. The Byway is a magical pathway that flows through a volcanic landscape full of sparkling alpine lakes. Visitors can easily access many outdoor adventures such as sightseeing, biking, hiking, skiing, kayaking, birdwatching, and wildlife viewing. Bend’s new Byway Visitor Center is scheduled to open its doors and outdoor interpretive features in time for the summer season of 2014.

Currently, Central Oregon communities and the Deschutes National Forest have been very fortunate to receive funding from the Federal Highways Administration for several projects. This is primarily due to having a comprehensive master planning approach and strong community support as demonstrated by the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway’sCorridor Management and Interpretive Plan. The sustainability and credibility of this plan are due to its grassroots origins and tremendous efforts to continually involve the community through open houses, partnerships, and cultural tourism events.
Working closely with the Deschutes National Forest Scenic Byways Program is a Scenic Byway Community Group that provides innovative ideas for partnerships, marketing, funding, visibility, and education. Also, a great deal of credit must be given to the extraordinary on-the-ground expertise of the Bend/Fort Rock District Interdisciplinary Byway Planning Team. A unique and critical feature of the entire planning process has been to incorporate the Bend 2030 Community Vision and Action Plan with the Corridor Management and Interpretive Plan.

The Bend 2030 Community Vision and Action Plan is the result of a City of Bend planning process which began in 2006. One in seven citizens contributed opinions and ideas in order to create a road map and picture of how their community should look and feel in the year 2030. Several Bend 2030 Action Plan items incorporated into the Byway Plan include multi-modal connectivity, stewardship and conservation education through partnerships and dialogue-based collaborative processes, and cultural tourism events with community partners.

Recent accomplishments on the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway that support the Community Vision and Action Plan items incorporated with the Corridor Management Plan goals and strategies are the following:

1. In August 2012, the Transportation Research Board held its Landscape and Environmental Design Committee’s Mid-Year Meeting “Multi-Modal Transportation and Community Connections” on the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway and Deschutes National Forest with many transportation leaders throughout the country and Pacific Northwest coming together to collaborate on cutting edge efforts for multi-modal transportation.

2. Stewardship and conservation education are the focus of new outdoor interpretive panels along an accessible entry walkway to be installed soon at the new Visitor Center with learning through the visual arts, tactile sculpture, and creative writing. With an interpretive theme based on hydrology and “Following the Water,” the storylines are based on sub-themes on climate change, culture, geology, volcanoes, ethnobotany, wildlife, vegetation, fisheries, and history.

3. Cultural tourism events being planned this September 2013 by award-winning writers Kathy Bowman and Susan Whitney will be the fourth in a series of “Haiku Highway Writing Workshops” which began in 2010. This year will feature partnerships with the Forest Service’s Asian and Pacific Islander American Employee Association and the Haiku Society of America.

Scenic Byway Partners such as Central Oregon Visitors Association, Visit Bend, all the Central Oregon Chambers of Commerce, to name just a few, are actively engaged in supporting and marketing the Cascade Lakes and creating stewardship opportunities to protect the Byway’s intrinsic values for both residents and visitors. One of the most effective ways to accomplish this has been through the creation and widespread distribution of the colorful and enticing Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway Brochure. Featuring whimsical artwork by local artist Dennis McGregor and a special “Tour of Interpretive Sites,” this light-hearted brochure invites Byway travelers, especially families and children, to see and hear what nature has to offer, a scenic feast for the senses.

Local Bend firms involved in the design for the site and building are Eileen Obermiller, ASLA of Dappled Earth Landscape Architects, BBT Architects, and HWA Engineers.
Stay tuned for a ribbon-cutting event for Bend’s Byway Visitor Center coming soon in 2014!!!

For information, please contact Robin Gyorgyfalvy, Deschutes National Forest Scenic Byways Program Leader

LANDbytes: Trail Blazing

By Jason King

When I moved to Oregon in 1997, I made a point of taking road trips and long weekends to explore all of the diversity of natural and cultural wonders the state has to offer. Over the last 16 years have had the opportunity to visit most of the far corners of our lovely state, spotting Bald Eagles in the Klamath, hiking the Timberline Trail around Mt. Hood, rafting the Deschutes and the Umpqua, bird watching in Malheur and then soaking in the Alvord Hot Springs while watching a storm dissipate over Steens Mountain.

Oregon is more than just the sum of our natural beauty and resources, with a rich cultural heritage of agricultural production, progressive land use politics and transportation policies that contribute to quality of life. We’ve seen the distinct transition from urban to rural at the Urban Growth Boundary, and enjoyed clean drinking water in our glasses, fresh food on our plates, and clean air in our lungs.  The shared legacy of this work is interwoven in the professional practice and history of landscape architecture in Oregon.


As part of the second anniversary festivities for the ASLA Oregon LANDbytes column, I decided to focus on another anniversary that celebrates this heritage. Statewide advocacy group 1000 Friends of Oregon recently announced The Land Use Trail to highlight some of the amazing places that have benefited from the ethos of ‘common good’ that makes Oregon special. This recently launched program encompasses the work of 1000 Friends around the state, as shown on their website for the Trail:

“To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the program in 2013, we’re launching this Land Use Trail. Not so much a single route as a compilation of 40 of our most treasured places. With each of Oregon’s 36 counties represented, this Trail is a way to appreciate just how vital land use planning and policy is to the state that we love.”

The categories of sites include Signature Natural Places, Great Communities, Thriving Working Landscapes, Land Use Roots, and Threats Defeated, and run the gamut from Smith Rock to Nye Beach, the Hood River Valley to Crater Lake. Think of it as a long trail – on with a number of legs and spanning years. The site is filled with information on sites, broken into these five categories, around the state, so find something close to where you live and practice, or take a long weekend to check out something you might have yet to uncover.


What does this mean to Landscape Architecture?
The relevance to landscape architecture is obvious, but it is something worth exploring to remember the inspiration that the natural and cultural landscape of our bioregion injects into our daily practice. As a discipline driven by context and the genius of place, we strive to use all of the available materials at our disposal to shape our plans. This doesn’t necessarily mean to ‘copy’ the natural world, but to learn from the ecology, to be inspired by the biodiversity, and to understand the unique life style and life cycle of all of our species (humans included).

The inspiration of nature has been evident throughout the decades of work throughout the state: regionally inspired architecture of timber and stone; the metaphorical mountains and creeks of Halprin’s Fountains in Downtown Portland or the true natural creations in parks and open spaces statewide; the natural systems inspired ‘biomimicry’ evident in our approach to stormwater management in urban areas; the weaving together of the productive and the beautiful for our delight and sustenance is at the heart of our profession.


We are also, as a profession, in a paradox. On one hand we are driven by the economics of client work and the desires to build places for people, industry and commerce in the name of progress and economic development. On the other, we are uniquely tasked while protecting the natural and cultural heritage that we live in as part of our mandate. How we balance the two is the measure of our success. To protect a natural treasure in a distant wildland while plowing up farmland for subdivisions in our home places is what we have always fought to avoid. The Land Use Trail offers many lessons on our successes that can bolster our resolve.

In traveling the state to work on projects over the years, it is our natural tendency to investigate what is the essence of a particular locale and see how that informs our approach. One case in point is Southern Oregon, where it is natural to be immediately swept away by the amazing ecosystem diversity present in the Siskiyou Mountains (image below). The convergence Cascade and Coastal species in a tapestry of vegetation is unique to the Rogue River valley, and continually offers guidance on unique plant associations, indigenous materials, regional forms, patterns and assemblages that are reflected in our designs. This phenomenon is multiplied wherever you work – the urban cores, the coasts, the high deserts, and the eastern flatlands.


On a totally different scale and context, when I arrived in Portland in 1997, the Pearl District was a mere grain of sand in the Oyster north of Burnside. The Henry Weinhard Brewery was still producing in full force, and the long stretch between Powell’s Books and the Bridgeport Brewery, was a lonely grouping of old warehouses and gritty industry, as seen in this aerial shot from the late 1980s.


That’s changed dramatically in the past decade and a half, with near constant development of urban infill and density in a community of high rise mixed use buildings, parks, and office spaces woven into the post-industrial fabric. It’s hard to see the old gritty side of the Pearl, and it is by no means a perfect neighborhood, but this area has proven a laboratory for innovative urban density, including many LEED buildings, green roofs, and unique sustainable urban site strategies. While contextually connected to the Pearl, these experiments have informed a range of urban landscape projects around the state, and through outsourcing of our experiences, around the globe.


Finally, as I surf through the 1000 Friends site, I came to the category of ‘Threats Defeated’. This is the most present of the ‘what if’ scenarios, (along with Measure 37), which could have altered the history of land use in our state. One I’ve continually found most fascinating is defeat of the Robert Moses proposed Mt. Hood Freeway through Portland (image below), which aimed to construct a massive interconnected system of highways that would have left the fabric of the community in tatters.


I see the old maps and think of how different this place would be, with interchanges and fly-overs cutting through neighborhoods and severing walkability, comfort, and beauty? The pathway of these major highways seems outrageous today in the context of our bustling walkable commercial corridors with mixed use buildings adjacent to residential areas. The human scale of these places define Portland as a city of unique, highly livable neighborhoods. But there are still traces, such as Piccolo Park (an open space that marks the former site of two homes destroyed for the freeway’s construction), or some of the ‘off-ramps’ to nowhere that exist through SE Portland.


I perused the list of places on the Land Use Trail and experienced what many of you will also feel. Memories of places that you’ve seen, wonder about places you haven’t. Or more viscerally, imagining what would exist today in the absence of the advocacy and land use planning work of the many over the years throughout the state of Oregon, like what would be the aftermath of the Mount Hood Freeway, as discussed above. The importance is that we have a visible remembrance of the battles fought and won, but also, that we know the fight isn’t over.

So, go to the website and read through the list of 40 places around the state that are captured on the Land Use Trail. Better yet, go visit a couple in person.  And feel free use the comments box below to offer some ideas on the following questions.

  • What are some of your memories of these places, and how they influence the way you practice?
  • What are the endangered places we need to remain vigilant to protect and restore?
  • What will we as landscape architects do in the next 40 years to protect and create more of these spaces.

Plan on visiting The Oregon Land Use Trail?
Share your experiences ‘on the trail’ by emailing, post on their Facebook page, or if you are posting images to social media, use the hashtag #landusetrail.

LANDbytes: Environmental Stewardship: My Hidden Agenda

By Renee Wilkinson

Those cold, drizzly days of winter seem like a distant memory as we soak up summertime in Oregon. I am so much in love with this blissful time of year that I refuse to leave the state between the months of July through September. Instead, summertime is a chance to show off our great state to family and friends visiting from afar.


I have to admit that behind this simple desire to spend time with loved ones in landscapes I adore, I have a hidden agenda: to build environmental stewardship. Several times I have tried to explain the merits of an Urban Growth Boundary in protecting agricultural soils or discussed the value of wetlands to native wildlife. But those concepts are complex and difficult for the average person to immediately understand and accept.

My sales pitch for why the UGB is a good thing involves taking a short drive to pick strawberries on a local farm. The out-of-towners make comments like, “Wow, and this place is just 30 minutes outside Portland?” And I can say, “Yes, that’s part of what makes the UGB so great – farmland can stay farmland to grow great food, but still be accessible to city slickers.”


The message doesn’t sink in with everyone. The younger berry-pickers in our party don’t care about the UGB – it’s hard to stand in the way of a one year old and her favorite fruit – but even in that case, this little outing might just make an impact in shaping the way she views open spaces.


How many times have you tried to explain the value of a wetland only to be asked, “But isn’t that just basically a mucky swamp?” When we took friends on an urban hike into Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, the value of a wetland in their minds completely shifted. Birds skated along the water, herons hunted for food and we felt collectively honored to see a slice of nature in the middle of the city.

We are only a few weeks in to another summer in paradise. Our list of visitors grows, as do my plans to convert them all into ambassadors back home of preserving sensitive habitats and protecting agricultural soils.

LANDbytes: Here’s to another great year, LANDbytes!

By Rebecca Wahlstrom

It’s July and that means it’s that time of the season when LANDbytes celebrates another year of being ASLA Oregon’s premier e-publication that showcases articles, briefs, reviews, spotlights and more! A big thank you goes to all those who have contributed to LANDbytes over the past year; Nancy Buley, Renee Wilkinson, Logan Bingle, Eileen Obermiller, and Jason King. Their contributions have helped make the publication more diverse and interesting.  If your memory is foggy on just what LANDbytes has covered, take a look at the past year’s articles;

Here at LANDbytes, we aren’t celebrating our anniversary with a sale, but we are having a promotion. While our selection of writers is great, it would be even more exciting to add more fantastic contributors to the list. That means you! Do you want to talk about site design? Have some opinions on some past or current projects? Want to write about a useful program or book that you have discovered? Any great AutoCAD or SketchUp tips? If it is interesting to you, it most likely is interesting to the rest of the ASLA. If you are a little unsure of your writing skills or haven’t contributed to our publication before, the editors of LANDbytes will help you along the way by reading the article before posting onto the website and making helpful comments where something in the article might be unclear. The articles are due on the 15th of each month so that it can be edited and posted by the end of the month. Length or word count is not specified, but do keep in mind that brevity and clarity are prized; one to two pages should be the maximum length. If you are worried that you will be roped in to a monthly contribution – have no fear. While a monthly article would be wonderful, it is recognized that not everyone wants to feel stuck. So go ahead and be a rabble rouser, a design reviewer, or a mover and shaker – you decide.

What you will get in return for contributing is gaining an audience for your thoughts and ideas, not only in Oregon, but beyond. The LANDbytes articles are pushed out onto Twitter and posted on Facebook and LinkedIn, making the audience even more widespread. The more people talking about landscape architecture and all the wonderful things going on in Oregon, the more our profession will be recognized as being an integral part of the wider design community. Joyeux anniversaire, LANDbytes!! Many happy returns!

If you have any questions about writing for LANDbytes, please contact Christopher Olin.

2013 Symposium and Charrette Recap

By Rebecca Wahlstrom

I recently saw a query on the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) LinkedIn site that stirred up a lot of comment. The question was asking about the social life of an engineer. Our ASCE friends had a variety of answers, but one reply was repeated throughout…the amount of social interaction you experience is dependent on you. Get out and do something! I would agree and would apply that same thought to landscape architects, with a slight twist. Get out and learn something!

I hope you didn’t miss it, but there was just such an opportunity to explore and learn with other landscape architects and associated professions at the 2013 Charrette and Symposium, ‘The Nature of Space’. The event was held on June 14-15 at two sites, PSU and the Left Bank Annex, with around 20 people attending the charrette and about a 100 people coming to the symposium – a lot of people getting out and learning something!

The charrette was held Friday at Shattuck Hall, on the PSU campus. Being that it is summer, the students were mostly absent from the halls, but they did leave behind enough of their drawings and models to create an environment of learning and creativity. Delicious breakfast treats and coffee were provided, followed by an engaging talk by Melanie Poe, PLA. All this was enough to jumpstart foggy brains for the task ahead; work in groups to create a ‘Street Seat’ design on a choice of three locations before 4 pm, followed by a presentation to invited guests. Street Seats is a program which is still in its infancy at the City of Portland – many things are still being worked out in policy and implementation. The charrette participants were excited to have the opportunity to get involved and help shape this interesting way to bring people into the street life.

On Saturday, a bright sunny morning dawned and the 2013 symposium began. Vendors, presenters, and attendees all mingled in the main room, eating more delicious breakfast treats and coffee until the morning sessions began. It was difficult to choose among all the interesting presentations. Subjects ranged from including food in urban design to participatory urbanism, looking at access to play in Chicago and the recent development in south waterfront, here in Portland. Participants discussed how the nature of different spaces can affect things so wholly that the same variety of wine can taste drastically different region to region, and then connecting the same thought to include people and design ideas. Designing a park means something different on the east side of Oregon than designing a park on the west. Same label, different regions, different outcome.After all the wonderful vendors and the interesting presentations, people are already looking forward to what next year holds. What subject does Oregon ASLA want to explore and learn? What new ideas would expand your design practice beyond your current ideas? What would make you get out and learn something? Food for thought; please convey any future symposium ideas to the members of the executive board. Many thanks to the organizing committee – long hours and countless emails all culminated in one awesome event.

Find Out More About Portland’s Street Seats Program Here

LANDbytes: Code Red

By Rebecca Wahlstrom

I got lost recently, not a panicky lost, but more like a ‘where does this road go’ kind of lost. Getting lost was my own doing as I sometimes like hop off the well-known route and see something new. On this particular evening the traffic had been kind, so I was whiling away 15 minutes (by driving around some more) before I had to be at a particular place. With each turn from the main arterial the roads narrowed and the trees crept closer, almost protecting the road and me from the bright sunshine. No sidewalks were to be seen and I don’t think there was even a centerline to the road. A child, working with her dad out in the garden, felt I was driving too fast so she held up her hand and told me to slow down in a ‘you shall not pass!’ sort of way. It was delightful.

I’m not advocating that we should throw out building codes, because codes do protect the public from people who don’t care two sticks about creating something safe or good for the neighborhood, but I do believe we have lost some of the charm of place by adhering so devotedly to what is allowed and not allowed. What I enjoyed most on my short exploration of this untamed part of Portland was the feeling that people really cared about their neighborhood. They were making an effort to make it a good place to live and a part of their lives, much like when people build book-share boxes, have a yearly neighborhood parade, or paint art on their road intersections. All this started me thinking, how does one make a neighborhood a community? During design and construction phases, developers and municipalities push and pull between the desire for good profits and following the code, but where does the community-making come into the process? The end result is a neighborhood appearing in a few short months with the regulation open-spaces, setbacks, and sidewalk widths. All it needs after completion is people…  without adding people all one will have built is a parking lot for nice buildings.

People are the key to community. It’s not a total revelation, but one that matters a great deal. If people are sequestered in their buildings, they can’t meet with their neighbors and they will not build a community. In this Year of Public Service, let’s remember the people in our design and figure out how we can both keep them safe through use of code and provide a good framework for community building.

LANDbytes: Story Telling

By Rebecca Wahlstrom

Bill Moyers had Marshall Ganz on his show the other week, talking about generating community involvement and action towards a positive change. Marshall Ganz, besides being a senior lecturer in public policy at Harvard, is most recently known for organizing the grassroots campaign for President Obama in 2008. Before that, he spent his formative years working for change on the civil and farm-worker rights front-all leading to the point that Mr. Ganz knows a thing or two about enabling people to find their voice and make a change. In this Year of Public Service, the ASLA is encouraging landscape architects to make a difference in their region. Public projects can be a wonderful thing for a community, but they can also become an albatross around their necks if not done with thoughtful research.

One way to create relevant spaces is to encourage community members to tell their story during the design phase.  By having the residents tell their story, a part of their lives will become visible in the design, and the project will more likely become part of community as they see themselves represented.  Mr. Ganz outlined three crucial parts to a compelling public story; a story of self, a story of us, and a story of now. As landscape architects, we need to be good story-tellers. Not only do we need to know why we were motivated to pursue landscape architecture and how to explain our profession, we need to know how it all makes a difference to our community (self/us/now). We need to be able to tell other people’s stories and represent them in the landscape.

Not an easy task, to be sure. Like opening Pandora’s Box, one never knows what is going to happen when you begin asking for other people’s tales. By asking well-chosen questions, the stories that emerge from community meetings and conversations can start to shape the new public space. Mr. Ganz was thinking about political activism when he laid out the self/us/now structure, but I think it makes a good fit for landscape architecture. Creating public space is a sort of activism as one is changing so many lives when a new project is completed.  The place and its people will never be quite the same after the designers and construction crews have rolled up their plans and walked away.  It is up to us to represent the design community, to make sure that in the ASLA Year of Public Service we serve the public in a way that makes a lasting and positive change.

LANDbytes: The Big Burn and the Beginnings of the Forest Service

By Rebecca Wahlstrom

History has always been one of my interests and when history is described in a book as a nail-biting action adventure, mixed with political intrigue and personal storylines, it becomes irresistible. The book is “The Big Burn – Teddy Roosevelt & the Fire that Saved America”, Timothy Egan’s 2009 account of a massive 1910 forest fire that burned over 3 million acres of forests, several small towns, and left 85 people dead. If it were simply a story about a forest fire it would be fascinating, but it is also a chance to examine the era when the whole idea of conservation was beginning to take shape and flying directly against the wishes of the big money interests.

All the major early conservation giants become real people in this account; John Muir, Teddy Roosevelt, and Gifford Pinchot, to name a few, who were beginning to comparing ideals and deciding to take action to preserve the remaining U.S. forests. Every good story needs a little conflict, moguls like John Rockefeller and JP Morgan, along with politicians in the Senate and Congress (“Not one cent for scenery!”), who viewed the untapped forests as simply a way to earn more money, tried to block any attempt at preserving major parcels of land. As the power struggle continued, the newly-minted Forest Service suffered, and ended up being under-staffed, under-funded, and lacking public support. As conservation was not widely important to those early westerners who were trying to earn a living, rangers (often recent grads from the Yale Forestry department) were not only ridiculed, but sometimes threatened with death if they stood in the way.

In August of a hot, dry summer in 1910, a series of smaller fires were fanned into one large firestorm by hurricane force winds. More than ever before, the eyes of the nation were on this lonely part of the United States, waiting to see how the story would unfold. The brave rangers fought to save both people and forests, but after years of having been under-funded and under-staffed they simply did not have the resources to tackle the fires in a big, organized effort.

After the fires were out, both Roosevelt and Pinchot realized that they needed to strike while attention was still on the west. They combined a campaign of public speaking engagements across the country and political lobbying to fan the fires of public and political indignation. A turning point was a speech Roosevelt made in Osawatomie, Kansas, when he said that ‘…none which compares in importance with the central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants…”. Author W.A. White wrote many years later that the mood at this speech was “revolutionary”. After a relatively short time, Mr. Roosevelt and Pinchot were successful in getting the forest service more secure funding and greater public support.

The connection between a book about the forest fire that happened in 1910 and landscape architecture may not immediately be apparent, but the ties are there. As landscape architects, one of our primary goals is to be good stewards of the land, even in the face of adversity. F.L. Olmsted is mentioned in the book as “one of the first to insist that it was America’s duty to put aside ‘great public grounds for the free enjoyment of the people”.  In light of the ASLA ‘Year of Public Service’ campaign, it is important to look at how the idea of public service has benefited (or hindered) our country in the past.  To know the history of a movement is the first step to forging a sure path into the future. If readers want to be educated and inspired by these seat-of-the-pants conservationists, take a look at “The Big Burn – Teddy Roosevelt & the Fire That Shaped America”, by Timothy Egan.