Honors & Awards

2005 The ASLA Community Service Award Recipient
Kevin Shanley, ASLA


Click here to view the Community Service Award Video

Kevin Shanley, ASLA
President, SWA Group

WASHINGTON, DC, August 8, 2005—The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has announced that Kevin Shanley, ASLA, president of The SWA Group, will receive the Society’s 2005 Community Service Award, to be presented during its Annual Meeting, October 7- 10 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

For more than a decade, Kevin Shanley has devoted his time, skill, and passion to protecting and restoring Houston’s bayous, the 4,000-mile web of rivers, streams, and creeks that permeate the city. He first worked on the 1992 landmark plan for Sims Bayou, and has served as a board member, president, and chairman of the Bayou Preservation Association (BPA), a citizens’ advocacy group.

Under Shanley’s leadership, the BPA has grown into a visible and effective organization focused on public education and collaborative projects that advance policy and practice. The BPA’s website illustrates the myriad programs underway ranging from habitat restoration to water quality monitoring to public policy reform in a city that has sustained nine major floods since 1929 and represents the nation's third highest concentration of flood insurance claims.

“Kevin Shanley’s service will benefit the Houston region for generations to come,” said Nancy C. Somerville, executive vice president of ASLA. “His efforts to effect change through design and policy reform represent the finest tradition of the landscape architect as land steward and social reformer.”

The SWA Group will also be honored with the 2005 Landmark Award for Golden Gate National Recreation Area (North Portion) and the 2005 ASLA Landscape Architecture Firm Award during the ASLA Annual Meeting.

Founded in 1899, ASLA is the national professional association for landscape architects representing more than 15,000 members. Landscape architecture is a comprehensive discipline of land analysis, planning, design, management, preservation, and rehabilitation. ASLA promotes the landscape architecture profession and advances the practice through advocacy, education, communication, and fellowship. Learn more about landscape architecture online at www.asla.org.


The Sims Bayou Master Plan represents a strong land planning idea that could resolve two major issues. The proposal to excavate bodies of water on this frequently flooded residential land could solve a recurring flooding problem while also increase land values. The excavated soil could be graded so that finished floor elevations of new development would be above the 100-year flood plain and therefore create valuable waterfront development (photo: Tom Fox, SWA Group).

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been approaching flood management along rivers and streams in the same way for over 40 years. By channelizing the corridor, the floodwater is moved more quickly. But the obvious downside of such an approach is the destruction of any native habitat and the creation of a sterile corridor that is reduced to nothing more than a storm drain (photo: Tom Fox, SWA Group).

Shanley worked in a pro bono capacity with the Corps on Sims Bayou and convinced them that a trapezoidal shaped channel lined with concrete was not the only successful approach to flood conveyance. Here, the Corps is installing articulated concrete mat within the bayou flood channel to protect it from scouring during flood events. In addition, the channel has been widened and graded into an alignment characteristic of a natural channel, per Shanley’s recommendations (photo: Tom Fox, SWA Group).

As a result of Shanley’s efforts, Sims Bayou not only appears more natural, it has reestablished native habitat and is home to fish, birds, and other riparian animals. It also serves as recreational open space because people are drawn to it. None of the flood control requirements were compromised…a fact that was tested in June 2001 when Tropical Storm Alison caused extensive flooding throughout Houston. The rebuilt portions of Sims Bayou did not flood (photo: Tom Fox, SWA Group).

A large part of Shanley’s efforts have been to educate both the public at large as well as some of Houston’s decision makers about watersheds and flooding. He has prepared a series of simple but effective drawings to define the magnitude of Harris County’s watershed system…

…describe the components of a natural bayou system and how they work…

…inform how people and development can negatively affect the natural system and can begin to create problems…

…and how the resulting flooding has traditionally been addressed by trying to “control” the bayou. These kinds of simple graphic tools have been incorporated into presentations and publications that Shanley has prepared either for BPA or for independent pro bono work.

Shanley has utilized the principles of fluvial geomorphology and bio-engineering to champion a new approach to flood management. By acknowledging the dynamics of a natural river, a channel can be realigned to a more natural, sinuous form. And by expanding the flood channel width, additional capacity can be attained that will allow trees to be planted within the channel, thus creating both a functional as well as appealing bayou. His mantra has been and continues to be “Hydrology, Nature, and People”.

Shanley continues to positively impact the City of Houston. Once sound watershed policy is in place there, he plans to move on to the 31 other municipalities within the area’s watersheds (photo: Tom Fox, SWA Group).


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