A Year for the Planet
A journey to remote places educated two landscape architects
about ecologically sensitive design.
By Cliff and Andrea Lind, ASLA
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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