-- Three weeks ago, landscape architect Rodney Swink of Raleigh, N.C., was in Washington, D.C., at the national office of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), going over plans and policies in preparation to take office Sept. 24 as the new ASLA President. One week later he was on a conference call with his fellow ASLA officers, making what he called "the single most difficult decision I have ever had to make on behalf of ASLA during all of my years as a member." Swink and the other officers voted unanimously to cancel the ASLA Annual Meeting that would have occurred last weekend in Montreal, Canada. With that decision, Swink cancelled his own gala presidential installation.
Instead, Swink will be sworn in at a much smaller ceremony at the ASLA national office, Friday, Sept. 28, with a few colleagues and outgoing President Len Hopper of New York City. Hopper witnessed the assault and collapse of the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11 from his office. "While still struggling with the enormity of this event, the reality struck that ASLA's upcoming meeting in Montreal needed to be addressed," Hopper said. "As the days went by, it became increasingly clear that things were not going to return to normal as quickly as thought. Speakers and presenters began to cancel. Others members had no desire to travel. The meeting quickly became fractured beyond repair."
Despite the difficult beginnings, Swink is looking forward to his year as ASLA president. "This recent tragedy has reinforced the important role landscape architects have in shaping this country," he said. "All of us have seen the people gathering in the great parks of New York City and in open spaces across the nation during this crisis, coming together for vigils, to set up emergency centers, leaving memorials to people lost in the attacks. Landscape architects are directly responsible for creating these places that are both versatile and enduring."
Swink is the director of the North Carolina Main Street Program in the state's Department of Commerce. He is responsible for leading downtown revitalization and development efforts statewide. His award-winning work has resulted in over $600 million of new investment in Main Street community downtowns since 1984 when he became director. In 1998 Preservation North Carolina presented Swink with the prestigious Robert E. Stipe Professional Award stating, "perhaps no other individual in this state has been called upon by so many communities with an urgent cry for help to assist in saving that community's historic fabric."
Swink has a long history of community involvement including serving as chair of the Raleigh (North Carolina) Appearance Commission when it tackled billboard regulation, initiated its citywide landscape ordinance and improved its street tree program. He is a founding member of the board of Scenic North Carolina and he has served on several other advisory boards including Preservation North Carolina and the North Carolina Downtown Development Association.
He has recently served as president of North Carolina Partners of the Americas, a non-profit organization working with Cochabamba, Bolivia. He has lectured at the Universidad Mayor de San Simón in Cochabamba, led workshops with local government planners and citizen groups on strategic planning and development, and natural resource protection and facilitated the exchange of cultural and technical resources.
A registered landscape architect, Swink has been active in ASLA for over 20 years. He has held several North Carolina chapter offices, including President and Trustee, and served as ASLA Vice President for Policy in 1993-95.
Upon graduation with a Masters Degree in Landscape Architecture, Swink worked at the N.C. Division of Forest Resources where he helped create the state's urban forestry program. Recently, Swink has served as a visiting lecturer in the landscape architecture program at North Carolina State University's School of Design and a guest lecturer at other universities. Swink also serves on the Landscape Architecture Advisory Board for both his alma mater North Carolina State University and for North Carolina A&T State University.
Founded in 1899, the American Society of Landscape Architects is the professional association representing landscape architects nationwide. Beginning with 11 original members, ASLA has grown to more than 13,500 members and 48 chapters, in all 50 states, the U.S. territories and 42 countries around the world. ASLA promotes the landscape architecture profession and advances the practice through advocacy, education, communication and networking.