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Member Profiles 2012: Children’s Outdoor Environments

This article is the first in a series profiling members of ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs), based on responses to the 2012 Annual PPN Survey. The members of this PPN work on a variety of projects that put children first. Here are some highlights of their work.  

Kent Watson, FASLA, is the principal/owner at Kent Watson & Associates in Missoula, Montana. A recent high point was preparing the detailed sketches for the Lewis and Clark Elementary School in Missoula to turn part of an old asphalt play area into a 23,500 square foot “natural playground” complete with a mound, large turf areas, trees, a meandering pathway, indigenous boulders, and up-to-date age-appropriate play structures and equipment. In the late 1990s, Watson worked closely with the students to help them create an 8,500 square foot schoolyard habitat that featured plants that had been “discovered” during the Lewis & Clark Expedition when it came through the Montana region in 1805-06.

John Carlton, ASLA, is the owner of Carlton Design in Montclair, New Jersey. An important project for him was to design and implement an outdoor play area/classroom for a new elementary school in Montclair. His design included places for children of all abilities, social inclinations, and motor skill levels, as well as habitat, and historic and vegetable gardens. In addition, it was built over a geothermal field that provides energy for the school. The project was particularly special because Montclair is Carlton’s home town where he had served as president of the Board of Education. The school district and parent volunteers partnered to implement the project despite economic challenges.

Michelle Kelly, ASLA, is a principal at Upland Design Ltd. in Plainfield, Illinois. Her firm created a master development plan for the Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Garden in Palos Heights, Illinois, this past year. Many of the spaces are geared towards children and families to encourage them to experience nature and Illinois ecosystems. The final plan inspired the firm to find more ways to encourage kids to go outside and explore their environment. Expanding play for adults and children to create new public spaces where exploration can occur is worthy of attention, he says.

Chad Bostick, ASLA, is the founder of Bostick Landscape Architects in Huntsville, Alabama. Recently, he participated in a campaign in Huntsville called “Serving the City.” He donated design time to several schools to help create a more pleasing experience for the students. The project transformed various portions of the school campuses that allowed the students to experience garden spaces that used to be overgrown.

Amy Segal, ASLA, is an associate for Terrence J. DeWan & Associates in Yarmouth, Maine. Late in 2011, she posted a topic to the PPN’s LinkedIn Group that the city of Portland was considering applying National Safety Standards not only to play structures (as they were intended to do) but also to natural play areas. The local landscape architects and individuals involved in a school ground greening initiative are concerned that the standards may be inappropriate for these areas. They are trying to help the staff in the city government understand the need for a holistic approach to design, safety, and maintenance to ensure the best developmental play spaces for our kids. Segal really appreciated the thoughtful and helpful comments and information that individuals offered in response to her post.

Douglas Gotham, ASLA, is a senior landscape architect at Christopher B. Burke Engineering Ltd. in Rosemont, Illinois. He had the opportunity to design a children’s play area that is within a 10-year flood plain. The client agreed to use synthetic turf as the safety surface, and silica sand instead of the usual granular rubber infill for the turf.

Jena Ponti Jauchius, ASLA, is a landscape architect/artist at Bruce Boody Landscape Architect, Inc. in Whitefish, Montana. Ponti Jauchius, who is a co-chair of the Children’s Outdoor Environments PPN, has found the increased involvement by PPN members in the leadership of the network particularly rewarding. The new ideas and the energy of these individuals are making the PPN a better network and more valuable to the membership.

Ilsa Goldman, ASLA, is a landscape architect who currently teaches at the New School of Architecture and Design in San Diego. She is also on the working board of the San Diego chapter of the Children and Nature Collaborative. A rewarding experience for Goldman was attending the National Children and Nature Network Grassroots Gathering in September 2011. There she saw firsthand the need for more designer involvement in the children and nature movement. She was one of only three landscape architects at the conference of more than 200 people.

Kathleen Trejo, ASLA, is a landscape architect at Garmann Miller in Minster, Ohio. A recent highlight was volunteering to design an accessible public playground that was built completely through donated funds and time.

Lynn Mason, ASLA, is a landscape architect at Parkitects Inc. in Hamburg, New York. An activity she found really rewarding during the past year was helping to design a playground that was then built by the community.

Matt Wilkens, ASLA, is a landscape architect at Damon Farber Associates in Minneapolis. One of his current projects is converting an existing wetland to an outdoor classroom at the Montessori Training Center of Minnesota. Dead trees from the wetland clean-up will be used in designs for some of the play features for the site.

Chad Kennedy, ASLA, is a landscape architect at O’Dell Engineering in Modesto, California. He enjoyed working with the Cordova Recreation and Park District on its White Rock Park and Interactive Sprayground project. The grand opening was in October 2011, and hundreds of the local residents who helped with the project attended. The park project can be seen on a YouTube video.

Barbara Brem, ASLA, is a project landscape architect at Caye Cook and Associates in Dallas. In November 2011, she passed her CPSI exam to become a Certified Playground Safety Inspector through the National Recreation and Park Association. She plans to use her playground design experience and certification to promote safe, interesting, inclusive natural play areas, and learning landscapes.

Maureen Colaizzi, ASLA, is a parks project coordinator for the city of Shoreline, Washington. A significant highlight was taking sole responsible for updating the city’s Parks, Recreation and Open Space strategic 20-year plan.

Lisa Horne, Associate ASLA, is an associate at Terra Design Group in San Antonio. A memorable experience was speaking at the 2011 Texas ASLA conference about research on nature playgrounds in Germany. This speaking opportunity gave her a deeper appreciation of the passion that landscape architects have for children’s outdoor environments. The session was well attended, and the questions after the session and throughout the rest of the day showed that people from both the public and private sectors are interested in the design and funding for these spaces. The next steps forward will be to include more built examples and guidance on liability and safety concerns. It is an exciting time to be involved in this comparatively new area of landscape architecture.

Kari Anderson, Associate ASLA, is an associate at Human Nature in Cincinnati. A great project last year was working on the construction documents for a $1 million-plus custom playground at Washington Park in the heart of Cincinnati. This was one of her first construction documents as a professional, and she can't wait to see the completed project this spring.

Visit the Children’s Outdoor Environments PPN webpage for more information about this group. To learn more about ASLA's other PPNs, go to the PPN homepage or contact Rachel Shaw, ASLA's manager of Professional Practice, at

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