To mark African American History Month, the American Society of Landscape Architects is spotlighting several of its members who, in the words of ASLA’s news release, “are designing outdoor spaces and related green infrastructure – including parks, plazas, campuses, playgrounds, streetscapes and residential properties – that make our communities great places to live.”
Six of the seven men and women work for a variety of different firms; one is assistant landscape architect for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.
ASLA President Chad D. Danos says the society has every reason to be focused on “raising the diversity profile of the profession.” ASLA’s 2015 survey of landscape architecture graduates showed just 1 percent were African American.
“We need to foster more landscape architects who reflect their communities and understand their needs,” said Danos. “ASLA’s goal is to help K-12 students and their parents learn what landscape architects do and show them that landscape architecture is a great career choice.”
A couple of years ago, ASLA launched a program calling for annual multicultural summits focusing on landscape architects from a range of different practice types. The July 2015 summit included the African American landscape architects introduced below:
Kona A. Gray
Kona Gray is a principal at EDSA, a planning, landscape architecture and urban design firm with offices in Baltimore, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Beijing and Shanghai, as well as New York.
Much of his work, ranging from large-scale planning to detailed site design, has focused on hospitality and campus projects (as seen in the photo below), in addition to planning and urban design.
Named to serve as chair of the 2016 ASLA Professional Awards, Gray has this to say on a section of EDSA’s website:
“No matter what the project size, scale or scope, we must always challenge the status quo. It is our responsibility to have the knowledge necessary to offer solutions that positively impact the environment and continue the advancement of our industry.”
He earned his degree in landscape architecture from the University of Georgia.
Courtney Hinson Cason
With more than eight years of experience in the land development industry, Cason works as a planner with Langvardt Design Group, according to ASLA’s news release. LDG is a small land planning and landscape architecture in Salt Lake City.
Her previous experience includes working as a planner and landscape architect for other civil engineering, surveying and land-planning firms.
She received her master’s degree in landscape architecture from North Carolina State University in 2007.
Angelica Rockquemore is a planner and landscape designer for HHF Planners. Her ethnographic research and writing have contributed toward historic preservation projects for the state of Hawaii and in Auckland, New Zealand.
Rockquemore draws from her life experiences in Hawaii, education in cultural anthropology and training in landscape architecture as part of her focus on design work involving culturally based projects. Rockquemore received her master’s degree in landscape architecture from the University of Washington and a bachelor’s degree in cultural anthropology, international studies and Japanese from Pacific University Oregon.
Aaron Ruffin, is a senior urban planner with Jacobs, a global company with engineering, architecture, planning and other specialties serving a wide variety of clients.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture and a master’s degree in public policy and administration from Mississippi State University.
Christopher L. Sanders
As associate member of ASLA, Christopher Sanders is a designer with SWT Design whose career focus is environmental stewardship and innovation. He had previously been a conservation specialist with the Big Bend Groundwater Management District in Stafford, Kansas. He earned his master’s degree in landscape architecture from Kansas State University in 2012.
At SWT, Sanders is part of a firm that undertakes a wide variety of projects, including Forest Park Forever (pictured above) in St. Louis.
Lindsey D. Smith
Lindsey Smith is a designer and landscape management supervisor for Favrot & Shane Companies AIA.
ASLA says his career has emphasized design, multifamily development, community engagement, project management and communications skills.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from Mississippi State University in 2004 and is currently studying for a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the University of New Orleans.
Mercedes Ward is assistant landscape architect for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.
Her focus is updating and redesigning neighborhood parks and playgrounds in Brooklyn, as well as contract and construction management for these sites. Ward had previously worked on residential environmental and economic sustainability initiatives for New York City.
She received a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from Penn State University.