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.

LANDbytes: Jumpstart Spring with Early Flowering Trees

By Nancy Buley, Hon. ASLA, Comm. Director, J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co.

The crescendo of crocus and dawning of daffodils signal that our local landscapes will soon light up with the bright blooms of spring flowering trees and shrubs. We are blessed in the Pacific Northwest with a mild climate, favorable growing conditions and diverse nurseries that give us many choices for spring flowering landscape trees. From a plant palette bursting with flowering plums, cherries, magnolias, dogwoods, crabapples and more – how does one choose? Several are relatively unusual early bloomers jumpstart spring, all are proven performers and worthy additions to your planting lists for the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

cornelian cherry dogwood thumb_edited Cornelian Cherry Dogwood (Cornus mas) leads the spring color parade by flowering even earlier than forsythia. Blooming now in a neighborhood near you, the winter-bare branches of this rounded tree sprout masses of small, sulfur yellow flowers in early March. Bright red edible fruits appearing in late summer are a handsome complement to the glossy, dark green, pest and disease-free foliage. A cultivar, Golden Glory Cornelian Cherry (Cornus mas ‘Golden Glory’), sports golden yellow fruits. Both are tough, versatile performers that thrive on the rainy side of the Cascades, and are hardy enough to grow in high desert landscapes, too. Fruits are high in Vitamin C and antioxidants and can be made into tasty juices and preserves.
jack pear thumb_edited Jack® Pear (Pyrus calleryana ‘Jaczam’) is a pint-sized addition to the flowering pear family. This unique dwarf form grows to less than half the size typical of the species, reaching about 16 feet in height with a spread of about 10 feet at maturity. Ideal for planting along narrow streets and beneath utility wires, this tree combines branch density with upright growth habit to give the unusual combination of a formal appearance in a low maintenance tree. Like the better-known and widely planted cultivars including Aristocrat® and Autumn Blaze®, Jack® Pear greets spring with clouds of fragrant white blooms. Though short in stature, it matches the flower power of its larger relatives, as has glossy green foliage and bright fall color.
spring flurry thumb_edited Spring Flurry® Serviceberry, (Amelanchier laevis ‘JFS-Arb’) bears fragrant, fluffy clouds of white flowers in mid-spring. Blooms give way to clusters of small, tasty blue fruits that can be made into pies or preserves – if you can pick them before they are devoured by birds. Its straight trunk and strong central leader, open branch angles and more upright growth habit recommend it for street tree use. Spring Flurry® Serviceberry is an overall top performer. Its handsome, medium green foliage is relatively free of rust and other foliage diseases that disfigure most of the North American serviceberry species grown in our wet spring climate. Fall color is rich orange-red.
pink flair thumb_edited Pink Flair® Cherry (Prunus sargentii ‘JFS-KW58’) has proven itself over time to be the best pink flowering cherry for maritime Pacific Northwest landscapes. Remarkable for its clean, dark green, disease-resistant foliage, its bold, orange-red fall color is consistently bright. Extraordinary cold hardiness and heat and drought tolerance also recommend it for planting in non-irrigated streetscapes and east of the Cascades. Frost damage to the blooms is avoided because they appear later than is typical of the species. Pink Flair® Cherry bears big clusters of bright pink, single flowers in spring. Its upright symmetry and smooth, reddish-brown, lenticel-studded bark give winter appeal. Narrow and upright in form, this flowering cherry is well suited for urban landscapes. In the two decades since its introduction, it has proven it to be the most cold tolerant of the pink flowering cherries, earning a Zone 3b hardiness rating.

NLAM: Healthy Living Through Design


National Landscape Architecture Month:
Healthy Living Through Design 2013

Landscape architects will join across the country during the month of April to educate the public as to how their profession promotes Healthy Living Through Design. They’ll hold public events showcasing just what can be done through hands-on work with the public, speaking engagements, and design charrettes. See what has already been planned on the 2013 Activities page.

With the theme of Healthy Living Through Design, National Landscape Architecture Month (NLAM) 2013 will spur a country-wide discussion about the profession’s role in the most important issues facing our country, such as reducing childhood obesity, cleaning the air, greening the streets, and urging people to get out and take advantage of the great parks and landscapes available to them. Many of the projects taken on by landscape architects, including those featured on the ASLA Year of Public Service blog, address one of these four issues.

Working with landscape architects, communities can promote health and well-being by encouraging the development of environments that offer rich social, economic, and environmental benefits. Healthy, livable communities improve the welfare and well-being of people by expanding the range of affordable transportation, employment, and housing choices through “Live, Work, Play” developments; incorporating physical activity into components of daily life; preserving and enhancing valuable natural resources; providing access to affordable, nutritious, and locally produced foods distributed for less cost; and creating a unique sense of community and place.

To find out how you can celebrate the upcoming NLAM, contact your local chapter. Want to start your own event but don’t know where to start? Email Phil Stamper.

LANDbytes: Connect

By Rebecca Wahlstrom

Sometimes I find that networking is much like those ‘connect the dots’ sheets you would get as a kid. The sheet would be full of seemingly random dots that they promised would become a picture, but only you could figure out the common thread that connected the dots. If you were successful (hey presto!) you finally saw the completed picture. Networking is much like connecting those dots, you need to find a common thread or pattern, or else it will simply be a pleasant, but fruitless round of meeting people and you will not see the whole picture. You need a strategy. If you are a recent graduate, take a moment to step back and see where you want to go with your career and set about meeting people who can actually help that happen. People who are already in their career path also need to continue broadening their network. As the quotes that follow show, when life takes a turn and layoffs happen, having a solid professional network is essential to staying connected to potential job openings. You will read in the following how the ASLA has been critical in providing a framework for connecting those dots throughout their professional life.

“Relocating for a new job is an exciting as well as anxiety producing experience, as taking this sort of leap will require both professional and personal adaptation. In addition to learning the ropes at a new position, being in an unfamiliar city can initially lead to a feeling of isolation or lack of community. While still in school I became involved with the Oregon Chapter ASLA, and through this participation was able to preemptively learn about the design industry in Portland, as well as meet new friends. The people I met at ASLA events became my first points of contact while job hunting, these informal introductions often leading to informational interviews and firm visits. Now that I’ve been working here for six months, I can look back and recognize how important ASLA has been in terms of meeting my peers and deepening my understanding of the field.” – Claudia Sims, ASLA

“Finding work is hard, finding work in a down economy is considerably more difficult. This is where networking becomes imperative. Increasing your connectedness to the local landscape architectural community will significantly increase your odds of not only landing a job, but finding a job that will actually suit your skills and personality.

Realize that not every available job is going to be advertised in a saturated market. Employers currently sit in the catbird seat and have a tremendous selection of candidates to choose from even without posting on Craigslist or ASLA sites. The more connected a job seeker is to the market the more likely they are to hear about openings and be at the front of the line. Staying associated with your peers and possible employers through ASLA and other professional organizations is one of the easiest ways of achieving this. I have personally found that LinkedIn is a very robust platform for networking. Keep in contact with people either by phone calls, occasional coffees, or lunches, or by attending professional events as much as your time and budget allow. “ – Michael O’Brien

“When I moved to Portland in 1999, it seemed like, to my benefit, if you had a pulse and a landscape architecture degree there were plenty of opportunities to create your own destiny. Over the last 14 years since then, with the recession and lure of the northwest culture, the job market has become saturated with talented professionals. I was a casualty of The Great Recession in a somber week in the middle of September 2011. I spent three days calling everyone I knew and stayed up two nights straight putting my résumé and portfolio together. Within a week, I was offered a position at a firm that I interviewed with 10 years earlier.

When I tell people my recession story most people ask, disbelieving, how i did it in a weeks time since it is so hard to find work. I think it had a lot to do with connections that I made early on in the local community, participating in ASLA activities and other community based projects, volunteer work, but also a general interest in the profession.” -Ben Johnson

“Professional success is based on relationships – whether you are looking for the next big project or the next step in your career. Participation in ASLA connects you to hundreds of like-minded professionals who may be your next teaming partner, employer, or source of needed information.” – James Hencke, ASLA, LEED AP

Job market reports regularly show improvement one month and a decline the next, keeping everyone on the edge of their seats. With this uneasy climate, employers would rather hire someone whose skills are not only proven, but someone who they know isn’t going to drive them round the bend within the first week of hiring. Knowing people makes a difference and the ASLA can help you in this process, but it takes action on your part. Show up at events, volunteer – be a part of the awesome design community here in Oregon and connect those dots.

To find out more about joining the ASLA, explore the following link;

Visit the ASLA Membership Page!

LANDbytes: East Lents Floodplain Restoration Project Complete

By Renee Wilkinson

There are exciting things going on along southeast Foster Road, some of which can only be truly appreciated when it’s pouring down rain. I’m talking about the construction completion of the 70-acre East Lents Floodplain Restoration.

stream strumb

As part of the Portland Watershed Management Plan and the Johnson Creek Restoration Plan, this public open space creates more than just a pretty landscape for park-goers. It adds a tremendous amount of flood storage area along the creek, new habitat areas for fish and wildlife, and reduces flooding along Foster Road.

bridge thumb

It was a rush to drive by the park during the last few weeks of construction and see how high the water would get in the new stream channels during heavy rains. In 2012, the project actually delivered on its promise to reduce flooding to the area – the creek rose two feet above flood levels and still did not spill over onto Foster Road.

seedlings thumb

On sunny days, the bridge over the main flood stream channel invites you to park your car or bike and explore the natural area. You can hear birds chirping, already calling the place home, and see flowers emerging from plum trees.

entry thumb

The entry plantings are more formal – your typical stormwater swale plants in a modern arrangement. But venture over that bridge and you will see lots of seedlings staked along the stream edges, Ponderosa Pines towering above the horizon and lots of organic debris ready and waiting to slow down those flood waters. Over 90,000 trees and shrubs have been planted in this new natural area.

plum thumb

Venture out to this corner of southeast Portland rain or shine to enjoy a natural retreat in the city. Feel inspired by the work of dedicated landscape architects, planners, engineers and so many others. It’s the kind of work that makes a difference and makes us proud of our profession.

More information on the project is available from these sources:
East Lents Floodplain Restoration Project Completion Flyer
City of Portland, Bureau of Environmental Services, East Lents Floodplain Restoration Project Page
OregonLive article: “East Lents Floodplain Project wraps up, creates 70-acre natural area in East Portland”

LANDbytes: Find Your Fit With a Landscape Architect

By Eileen D. Obermiller

Landscapes are alive providing functions that sustain us on this planet. Landscapes host plants, soils, bio organisms, insects, wildlife, and people. They influence storm water movement, aquifers, microclimates, air currents, and various chemical, physical, geological, and biological processes. To these systems we add walls, walkways, patios, ponds, mounds, slopes, very big trees, and much, much more. What could go wrong? -flooding, falling walls, dying trees, broken septic systems and much, much, more. So how can you create a beautiful, functional landscape that will thrive well into the future? By having a Landscape Architect develop an appropriate design, you will then be assured of proper installation and long-term care and maintenance into the future.

An appropriate design? Yes, appropriate. An appropriate design will reflect your family’s style and values while working with the natural systems. It will create structures that are properly sized to support your activities and to fit gracefully on your property. Get these right and you are on your way to creating a truly beautiful landscape in which your family will thrive and your property values will rise.

Developing an appropriate design begins with contacting a Landscape Architect for a professional consultation. The consultation is an in depth conversation where you discuss your property and how you envision your family living in this place. You will discuss ideas on how to create comfortable areas for 2 or 20 people to visit, to enjoy views, and to soak up the winter sun. Many questions will arise, such as “how do we create a safe, yet imaginative place for the children to play”? Your designer will address all your concerns finessing the patios, plantings, and other desires in an important well-designed conceptual site plan.

This conceptual site plan is very important to you. It is your chance to determine why things are where they are, if they are large enough, will they fit, will they be safe? You and your Landscape Architect will challenge every item on the plan. New ideas will emerge evolving into a more complete and integrated design.

Next your Landscape Architect will develop the final construction plan which will identify plants and materials supported by construction details, drawings, and plant photographs showing exactly how the design is to be installed. The plan is your quality control instrument for proper installation.

More importantly, your landscape construction plan is your legal contract with the installer. It requires the contractor to install your landscape as directed on the plan. If the contractor makes changes without your approval, doesn’t plant all of the plants on the plan, or substitutes lower quality materials, your plan is the legal document for restitution. You are entitled to what is on the plan without additional cost.

To this point, the designing has been a lot of fun. Now it gets interesting. Ask 3 licensed contractors for bids to install your plan. Listen closely and you’ll learn who the best contractor for your project is: who will address your concerns, who has the necessary skill, and who has proposed a realistic budget. Installation costs can vary. Do this well and what you pay for your Landscape Architect will have already appreciated in value several times over.

Landscapes are living and will change over time. Your Landscape Architect will teach you how to maintain your design, or will work with your landscaping service to assure that they know how to maintain your landscape properly. Do these three phases well, and your investment will grow well into the future.