LANDbytes: Continued Inspiration

By Rebecca Wahlstrom

More surprises as we continue our look at sources of inspiration in a landscape architect’s life. During the last month I asked fourteen people across the State of Oregon to respond to the question: “How do you keep yourself inspired to investigate less-traveled ground, to keep relevant and ready for new challenges?” Only one person responded.

After I finished stomping around, I started thinking about the reason behind the silence. It is difficult to stay inspired. Long hours, keeping bosses/employees happy, complying with the intricacies of clients/permits/codes, and tight budgets start to dull the once shiny gleam of school. Demands of life begin to take precedence over finding inspiration and people settle into a sort of trudge or sprint to survive each day.

How does one cram creative motivation in amongst all the daily demands? I suspect everyone’s answer will be as varied as their schedules. The ASLA Executive Committee is working hard to provide opportunities for growth and inspiration in 2014. The Hood River Section’s Urban Green and the EP planning teams have worked to offer stimulating and interesting events throughout the past year. The Willamette Valley Section held regularly scheduled luncheons where practitioners can connect and learn during the work day. The High Desert Section has held two charrettes; both events were led by Bend-area landscape architects and promoted community regeneration and pride. Keep alert for upcoming offerings from Oregon ASLA in the new year.

How will you stay inspired during the upcoming year? If you can carve out two hours a week for nine weeks, a ceramics class could encourage a whole new approach on how you shape space. Painting, drawing, or photography classes might open new ways to frame views and look at color. Writing classes have the potential of improving how you organize your thoughts and ideas. If the demands of home/work life are too complex to take a class or attend an event, inspiration might be found by shaking up the everyday by trying something new in small doses. Investigate new pursuits and dust off old talents; but the main point is to be curious. Keep enriching your life with new experiences. As Calvin said to Hobbes in the venerated comic strip, ‘Calvin and Hobbes’; “It’s a magical world. Hobbes, ol’ buddy…let’s go exploring!”

Next month we are looking at the following question; who do you inspire (how and what will you pass on to the next generation of designers). Get ready for more surprises!


LANDbytes: Inspiring Others

By Rebecca Wahlstrom

There is a danger in asking questions as the answer may not be the one you expected. Such was the case in this article. The start of the school year also heralds the beginning of many new designers journey through formal schooling; I became interested in how the designers and landscape architects associated with the ASLA executive committee became inspired to be landscape architects and who has helped form their career. The assumption was that there would be many responses about professors, books, and structured course-work, but instead responses were filled with experiences that were mostly driven by life and people. People got inspiration from exploring and being in learning situations. Leaps were made when people saw a spark in another and reached out to encourage them to take a challenging new path. As these stories show, one does not simply drop from the heavens a fully formed landscape architect/designer; life’s path is full of people and experiences that help shape us into designers.

“My best friend is Brenda Lam, a long-time leading landscape architect in Hawai’i. We were the first all-women landscape architecture and planning firm in Hawai’i. Brenda is also a landscape contractor and an active builder with Habitat for Humanity. She has been involved with the Hawai’i State Agricultural Leadership Program as an orchid farmer and organizer for Kona Outdoor Circle’s Hawai’i Native Plants conferences. She has been a huge inspiration to me as she was the one who encouraged me to attend an accredited graduate program in landscape architecture. We were both mentored by Beatrice Krauss of Lyon Arboretum, the foremost ethnobotanist in Hawai’i, and hiked many mountains and valleys in search of Hawai’i’s native plants. Our years of playing on Hawai’i’s first women’s soccer teams together were valuable in terms of appreciating well-designed sports venues and discussing our future roles in shaping and improving outdoor recreational spaces. Not everyone has a best friend who is also a landscape architect, so I have been lucky from the very beginning.” –Robin Lee Gyorgyfalvy

“I have to credit my mom for my direction into Landscape Architecture. On the brink of dropping out of Engineering at University of Florida, I told my parents that I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew It wasn’t Engineering. My mom told me to check out the Landscape Architecture department. I thought it was random but worth a shot. When I went to visit one of the department heads to see what it would take to transfer, I was asked if I had a pulse and some creativity. I knew I had at least one of those criteria, but at the time wasn’t sure which. To this day, I am humbled by the intellectual challenges and creativity that is required of us as Landscape Architects, and I could not have imagined doing anything else. Thanks mom!”-Ben Johnson

“The basis of who I am as a landscape architect comes from both my mom and my sister. We went camping and hiking all the time as a young family, and my sister was my co-explorer. From the most minute details in a mushroom, agate, or shell to the way water flowed through our suburban open-drainage ditch, we admired it all! We climbed trees, made forts, and ate every edible thing nature could provide. Back at home, my mom always had a vegetable garden and we canned and preserved food every year. The lessons were in the doing, and there was an agricultural aesthetic mixed in with color theory and planning.” -Arica Duhrkoop-Galas

“Paul Morris, FASLA (former ASLA Oregon and ASLA National President) has been an important mentor, shaping who I am as a landscape architect. In our work together at PB PlaceMaking, he was always positive, a great communicator, engaging and flexible. He remains an inspiration to this day as he leads the Atlanta Beltline project and I undertake a challenging new role with Belt Collins International in Singapore.” –James Hencke

“I am a landscape architect in part because I loved talking architecture with my architect uncle – Uncle Randy. But I became a landscape architect after the Peace Corps when I wanted to stay in a design field but felt that public space, open space and fusion of outside and inside was really much more interesting. People living in villages in Africa understand the importance of landscape architecture even without knowing what it is.” –Rachel Hill

“My design paradigm completed shifted when a pair of Russian architects came to town to rally support for a Takoma pedestrian bridge (unrealized) and they exhibited some artifacts and prints at the Portland Art Museum. They are collectively known as Brodsky and Utkin and their influence has continually pushed me to strive for work that is more meaningful and poetic.” –Jeff Schnabel

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There is power in knowing that there are many people and experiences who have helped build a strong foundation of design and exploration in your career. It calls to mind the old Verizon commercial, where the guy is standing there with all the people who make the whole thing work standing right behind him, ready to help. Reading the essays of the contributing designers, other questions develop – who will you inspire? How do you keep yourself inspired to investigate less-traveled ground, to keep relevant and ready for new challenges? Stay tuned in the coming months to hear how some of the landscape architects throughout Oregon answer these questions. You might be surprised with the answers.


LANDbytes: The Grass is Always Greener

By Ben Johnson

In the middle of summer, when my lawn is turning brown, I look forward to my after work ritual of walking to the nearby park. I am fortunate that this happens to be Columbia Park, one of Portland’s vintage open spaces, embodying the quintessential Pacific Northwest park. While meandering along the half-mile looped path, I’m instantly calmed by the shade of the century old trees and an abundance of lush green grass. But my peace is soon interrupted by an internal debate: is green grass better than brown?

I allow my lawn to turn brown and crunchy every year, while the park down the street fulfills my aesthetic need for green grass. In the age of pursuing sustainable practices, I understand that irrigating with fresh, clean water to keep my neighborhood park green isn’t the best use of resources, but honestly, I’m not too excited about the prospect of having to give up all the lush green. My internal debate on sustainable practices versus the aesthetics of a vibrant, lush lawn has prompted me to see if I’m the only one who struggles with this conflict of values.

To learn more about Portland Parks and Recreation’s perspective on this issue and gain a more in depth look at their work on sustainable practices, I met up with Emily Roth, a planner for Portland Parks and Recreation, who is leading the committee to develop the Ecological Sustainable Landscapes Park’s initiative. Below is a synopsis of our conversation:

Ben: What is a sustainable park and what is Portland Parks and Recreation doing to create a sustainable park system?
Emily: Right now we are in the planning and development stages and have put together a “White Paper” that defines, sets goals and strategies for our Sustainable Parks Initiative that looks at a number of elements within our parks system to make them more ecologically sustainable landscapes. We will also be looking at additional initiatives including green fleet and energy efficiency to name a few. From an ecological perspective, we are looking at continued water reduction, reduction in herbicides, seasonal versus weekly mowing to reduce gas consumption, establishing plant biodiversity, and increase soil health. These would be for passive open areas that are difficult to mow or maintain versus programmed sports fields. Sports just have a different level of service needs that you can’t put the same restrictions onto.

We originally focused on providing more nature into parks, but now it’s more about looking at ways to continue to reduce irrigation and other inputs. We will do outreach to learn peoples perspective change in the landscape at the park. We will continue to keep passive open passes green. We also use computerized central controls that precisely monitor the weather and help so that we irrigate when it’s absolutely necessary. We’re looking at using different lawn seed mixes and discussing with maintenance personnel about tall grass mowing and reducing herbicides. We want to increase biodiversity by connecting parks to nearby natural areas. All these things are being looked at system wide so we can institutionalize these sustainable practices.

Ben: Are there any examples of an extreme sustainable park within system?
Emily: Kelly Point Park is a good example. There is a mix of natural and passive areas that are lower maintenance than your average neighborhood park with open lawns. There is no irrigation and a palette of all native plants. For an urban example, we are starting to look at making the Park Blocks more sustainable by adding shrub beds and making the soil healthier.

Ben: From a pure maintenance perspective, what’s better – lawn or a native plant bed?
Emily: In the beginning it’s more expensive to install native plant beds versus lawn. Maintenance is becoming more involved in the planning phases, so our planting designs will be more maintenance friendly. We’re also looking at plant density and phasing planting areas. Wider plant spacing is less expensive, easier to maintain, and allows for an initial understory to prevent erosion and give plants more room to grow. Once the plants are established, then we would infill in a subsequent phase. The verdict is still out on the costs and we hope to track costs as we make changes.

Ben: In an area where water (Bull Run) is plentiful, does it really consume a lot of energy and resources to irrigate lawns or are we swayed by more national thinking that water is scarce?
Is it primarily cost of water driving the need to reduce irrigation use?

Emily: Parks pay the same water rates as any landowner and they are increasing. This, budget cuts, and the desire to be a sustainable park system made our irrigation practices evolve.

Ben: Do you personally own a house, and if so, do you have a lawn that is irrigated?
Emily: I do have a house and yard, but I don’t have any lawn. Our front lawn is certified habitat, and our backyard is all edibles and cut flowers. I have one tiny 5’x5’ patch of grass that I let brown under the clothesline. This year I removed all turf from the driveway strip and planted native plants which are thriving, and I have not watered since the hot weather in May.

Ben: What do you say to change people’s minds when they value green grass more than the sustainable practice of water conservation?
Emily: You have to involve the public in the decision making process and explain why you are doing what you are doing. We have to let them know, if we turn off the water, maybe the lawn will be a little brown, and have some weeds in it, but that’s ok. The grass will turn green again soon.


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 atrgyorgyfalvy@fs.fed.us.


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 craig@friends.org, 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.

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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.”

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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.

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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;  http://www.aslaoregon.org/updates/articles/landbytes.

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