Life Grows Here: Diving into landscape architecture

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Updated May 6, 2020
Photo: ASLA InstagramPhoto: ASLA Instagram

All throughout the month of April, landscape architects came together to celebrate World Landscape Architecture Month (WLAM).

Across social media platforms, by newsletters and through word of mouth, the message for the month spread far and wide: Life Grows Here.

All month long, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) encouraged folks to take pictures of green spaces in their area and post them to social media with the Life Grows Here emblem present in the photo. But the message wasn’t solely focussed on the word “life,” as many took the opportunity to showcase that attributes such as leadership, resilience, family and equality grew in their spaces.

“The Life Grows Here campaign has been a great success and even better than I imagined,” says Wendy Miller, FASLA, president of ASLA. “It carries a message that really resonates during our current crisis. To see so many people – members, students, firms, partner organizations – coming together, telling their stories, stitching together a narrative of what we do and why we do it, has been incredible. I’m so honored to be a part of it and part of this truly noble landscape architecture profession.”

Getting the word outTlc Part One Of Three

As one of the co-creators of the Life Grows Here campaign, Andrew Wickham, ASLA, project designer at LPA, Inc. in Sacramento, California, says this year’s campaign has truly skyrocketed with the popularity and growth of social media.

Overall, Wickham says Life Grows Here is about why landscape architecture is important to people and less about what it actually is.

“We’ve been trying to bridge that knowledge gap with those campaigns, as well as celebrate our membership and the work that the members do,” says Wickham. “We went in asking, what compels someone who doesn’t know what landscape architecture is to care about it? Why would someone care about what we do? Life Grows Here is a celebration of what goes on in the spaces we create and less about the actual space we create.”

Photo: ASLA InstagramPhoto: ASLA Instagram

The goal for the campaign was to show the world that landscape architects are the designers and planners behind the parks people see and the walking trails they frequent, as well as to connect those experiences with the work landscape architects do.

Wickham says people typically don’t realize that areas like parks and walking trails are designed, whereas everyone understands that a building is designed. That disconnect was one of the driving forces behind the campaign, and Wickham says he’s seen posts from all around the world celebrating Life Grows Here.

Michael Radner, ASLA, principal at Radner Design Associates, Inc. in Framingham, Massachusetts, serves as the public awareness leader for the Boston Society of Landscape Architects (BSLA) and says he has been promoting the campaign on his social media accounts.

“I think it’s effective when you get everybody on the same page during a period of time,” says Radner. “I think with any marketing campaign, you raise the profile when everybody raises their voice together. When we all speak up together, it amplifies the voice and we have a bigger megaphone.”

Maria Bellalta, ASLA, dean of the school of landscape architecture at the Boston Architectural College (BAC), chairs ASLA’s education committee and says she was proud to see her students actively engaged in spreading the word about Life Grows Here.

Bellalta says landscape architecture is a complex discipline that relies on a wide spectrum of fields in order to properly tackle the scope of the work they do. To her, Life Grows Here is about showing people that something positive is being cultivated in these spaces, and something good is growing and taking place.

She agrees that landscape architecture could even be considered the melting pot of all careers due to the fact that it encompasses numerous facets, such as science, art, music, math, psychology and more.

Bellalta says this field thrives on welcoming people from all walks of life and with diverse skillsets because each person will bring something different to the table.

“We need a rich combination of thinkers to cultivate this life that we’re talking about,” says Bellalta. “I think that’s where the tag Life Grows Here is very interesting in that all of us bring this life here. That’s a pretty exciting proposition.” 

Community impact

Photo: ASLA InstagramPhoto: ASLA Instagram

“That’s the essence of the profession, whether you’re working in a public forum or even a private development, your work is so visual and out in the open,” says Radner. “We’re not like interior designers where only a small fraction of the people can see the results of our work; everybody can see the results of our work.”

While every company hopes the work it does ultimately impacts the surrounding community positively, Radner says over the past 20 years, he’s noticed an uptick in community input and engagement in the process of planning and designing public spaces.

“What I see now is that there’s a continuum of public engagement, where people in the community are coming together and influencing the way a playground is built,” says Radner. “It really becomes the community having a sense of ownership for these projects, and while we provide the creative juices and the technical expertise, they’re driving the bus in terms of programs and what they want in their community. I think that’s hugely impactful.”

Radner says in the past, a designer would sequester himself/herself and come up with whatever he/she felt was the best solution, and that idea would be presented and would be built. Today, he says that is no longer the case and that involvement is helping the public become more aware of how important their outdoor spaces are.

“An incredibly rare thing called life grows in our works,” says Miller. “Life Grows Here really got that message across. It helped launch a national conversation about the vital role parks and public spaces of all kinds play in strengthening and healing communities everywhere.”

Check back tomorrow for part two, where we’ll find out how these firms and the university are holding up during COVID-19. 

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