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ASLA Awards: Strategies for Success

An open letter from José Almiñana, FASLA, ASLA Professional Awards Jury Chair

The ASLA 2012 awards call for entries is currently accepting submissions for professionals and students. As a jury member and chair, I’ve seen thousands of entries and would like to offer these strategies for success:

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Commit to a great submission.
A winning submission takes time. If it is put together quickly at the last minute, it probably will not win. Submissions take twice as long as anticipated; for that reason, do not delay, and allow more time than you think it will take. The more time invested is clearly seen by the jurors and sets your project apart. 

Design your presentation.
Treat the submittal like the design of any project. It needs to be clear, concise, and beautiful, yet simple and easy for the jury to digest. Do the drawings and the photographs communicate your concepts and ideas? How do the colors work with the photographs? How do you start the story and how do you end it? The presentation design needs to be as thoughtful as the project. The jury sees many submittals; make sure the jury understands why your submission is worthy of consideration.

Tell your story clearly.
What are the important ideas? Why should this project win? You need to tell the jury clearly through diagrams, narrative, and photographs. Idea and concept drawings are extremely helpful. A concise project description is appreciated. Explain how the goals of the project are resolved through the design. Provide the jury with adequate diagrams to explain your design concept. Locus plans or an overall site aerial view photograph help the jury understand your design concepts immediately.

Hire a professional photographer.
Your work is worthy of great photography. It makes a difference and pays back. Take the time to research and find a good photographer. It is better to have a few great photographs than several insignificant photos. Do not settle for mediocre photographs due to time, money, or ease. Edit the shots, decide which tell the best story, and invest in keeping good images of the work you have spent so much energy to create. If you cannot afford a photographer, make sure your pictures are the highest digital quality.

Get a crit before you submit.
Have a professional peer who is not familiar with the project critique your submittal. Listen carefully to the comments. Is the story clear? Did he or she understand quickly? How would the peer improve the submittal? Take the comments seriously. The jury process is the same as having your peers review the submittal and evaluate your work. Be sure to benefit from a “pre-jury.”

Submit on time.
The most important piece of advice for a successful entry is to submit it on time. The 2012 entry deadlines are:
Entry forms and payment must be received by:

  • Friday, February 3, 2012, for Professional Awards
  • Friday, April 27, 2012, for Student Awards.

Submission binders must be received by:

  • Friday, February 17, 2012, for Professional Awards
  • Friday, May 11, 2012, for Student Awards.

In need of inspiration? View the ASLA 2011 Professional  and Student award-winning projects.

José Almiñana, FASLA
ASLA Professional Awards Jury Chair
Andropogon Associates Ltd.

Comments December 20, 2011 11:05 AM
I'm surprised that no suggestion of the importance of the landscape architect's client(s) is made in the strategies commentary. Award winning projects are generally not possible without an enthusiastic client willing to commit the effort and resources necessary to achieve excellence landscape design. Our clients are our patrons without which we can not survive as a profession. Furthermore, the primary objective of the ASLA awards program should be to enhance the profession not necessarily the stature of any particular professional, that would be a corollary benefit to the winners. These considerations should be factored into the evaluation of award submissions and potential submitters should be aware of this.
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