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Innovation Invitational
With more entries that exhibit fresh perspectives of traditional landscape issues, this year’s student awards were marked by increased originality and groundbreaking challenges to the profession’s status quo.
By Jennifer Dowdell

It was another record-breaking year for the 2003 ASLA student awards competition. Once again the number of entries received this year surpassed past years—up 44 percent from last year. This year’s 210 entries came from 43 schools in the United States and Canada. The University of Guelph sent the most entries, with 30 total, but California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, had a record 22 entries, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, sent 11. Six schools—including Harvard Graduate School of Design; the University of California, Davis; Auburn University; and the State University of New York at Syracuse—sent entries for the first time this year.

In "Active Discovery Education," Shawn Balon, Patrick Kelly, Mark Stuermann, and Laura Voetz created an entry made up of nine puzzle pieces. The jurors had o assemble the pieces to learn about the project and its underlying design philosophies.

The increased competition allowed this year’s jurors to be more demanding in their judgments. Forty-four awards were given for what juror Laura Miller described as “condensation, creativity, and courage” in innovative research and design. As juror and current ASLA president Paul Morris, FASLA, explained, the winners showed “a lot of attention to multi-objective problem solving, and integrating social, environmental, and urban development issues.”

Use of digital media also increased this year. Fifteen entries relied totally on digitally animated or PowerPoint presentations in both the research and design categories, and three won awards of commendation. For the most part, the jurors felt that many digital entries looked as if the students got caught up in the complexities of the technology and lost sight of the basic tenets of the research and design formats. For example, in several projects, whole boards had simply been scanned to fit the computer screen, resulting in text that was so small it was barely visible. Morris explained that the use of digital technology was successful only in those instances where the media was the best way to present the material.

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