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American Society of Landscape Architects

 

September 2005 Issue

Inner Strengths
Jurors for the 2005 ASLA Professional Awards find substance beneath flash, treasure beneath tarnish.

By Gary R. Hilderbrand, FASLA, Jury Chair

This year's awards projects demonstrated the rising cultural relevance of—really, the increasing public demand for—responsible planning and good design across the United States and abroad. With remarkably high numbers of contenders in most of the awards categories, the jury recognized that we are long past giving prizes through a kind of connoisseurship of arresting images and clever design strategies.

Not all of the winning projects are visually beautiful, and not all of the beautiful projects made it to the top. Rather, by bringing forward a compelling set of diverse projects, some surprisingly small and several improbably large in impact, this jury showcased some of the successes landscape architects are having with the complex issues that arise for thoughtful design practices today. These include applications of sustainable, economically viable landscape planning measures; a focus on stormwater management practices as design generators or policy drivers at the scale of both the regional watershed and the city street; the articulation of reasoned arguments for preserving or intervening in historic or culturally significant sites; and—perhaps the most demanding criterion—the drive for clarity, expressiveness, rigor, and durability in design.

Two patterns and outcomes are worth noting.

The international character of the submissions. When ASLA recognizes achievement in projects in India, China, Israel, Spain, and Canada, we acknowledge the offshore reach of American practices as well as the growth of the discipline around the globe. The world is smaller, and we are increasingly called to task. It is difficult to judge many of the projects that are exported with relative ease in today's global development economy, but the projects that survived this jury's scrutiny mostly originated in their native lands, sometimes with American involvement in key stages of planning, design, or implementation.

The rise of stormwater management as a basis for community planning and as a generating measure for design. We are fast approaching the day when the path of every drop of water, supply or waste, will be traced for its asset value or its impacts; projects like the factory in Georgia, Brightwater, Gateway Valley, Noisette, Lloyd Crossing, Calumet in Chicago, and the Livingood Residence all build on innovative or systematic applications of surface water conveyance and treatment. Not always pretty or clean, their planning frameworks or physical outcomes were considered by the jury to be emblematic of growing public mandates for sustainable practices. Water counts. It is driving policy and design in these projects.

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