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American Society of Landscape Architects

 

August 2006 Issue

A Year for the Planet
A journey to remote places educated two landscape architects about ecologically sensitive design.

By Cliff and Andrea Lind, ASLA

A Year for the Planet

In September 2003 Cliff and Andrea Lind, both landscape architects, took leaves of absence from their jobs in Denver and struck out on a 10-month journey around the world. Cliff, 34, works for DHM Design designing ski and golf resorts in the Rocky Mountains. When they left on their trip, Andrea, 35, worked for the same firm, designing transit centers, visitor centers, and trails for the National Park Service. She has since moved to the Denver office of EDAW to pursue international projects.

For two years after September 11 we watched many of our friends lose their jobs as the economy worsened. Although our jobs didnít appear to be immediately threatened, we thought this created a rare opportunity to recharge our creativity with a sabbatical. In a profession where sabbaticals are uncommon, it is easy to think of reasons why this canít be done. (ďI canít afford it. Iíll have no job to come back to. It will set back my career.Ē) We also were concerned that the loss of two project managers from the same firm might impede ongoing projects. Fortunately, we worked for different teams, and the remaining managers could handle the recession workload.

With a clear vision about what we wanted to accomplish, we wrote a proposal explaining what we were going to be doing, why we wanted the time off, how long we needed to be away, how our responsibilities would be covered in our absence, and how the sabbatical would benefit the company. We argued that a downturn in the economy was an ideal time to take our leave. We were also at a point in our careers, with almost 10 years of experience under our belts, where seeing international design solutions firsthand could directly influence our work. What better time to be inspired by creative design, sustainable solutions, and unusual materials?

DHM supported our decision and appreciated our drive. In fact, many of the principals expressed a twinge of jealousy that they werenít doing something similar.

As landscape architects, we focused on historical, natural, and contemporary sites that educated and inspired us. The common themes that guided our journey were a fascination with ancient ruins, so Easter Island, Angkor Wat, and Machu Picchu made the list. Next was our desire to travel as adventurously as possibleóhence the 330-foot free rappel into the Waitomo Caves in New Zealand, a walking safari in East Africa, and a four-wheel-drive trip through the Namibian desert. Finally, we are drawn to places of great biodiversity, such as Manu Biosphere Reserve in the Amazon Basin of Peru and the protected tribal lands of the Maasai people in southern Kenya.

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