Product News by Forms + Surfaces, DuMor, Victor Stanley, and Green Roofs for Healthy Cities

Product News by Forms + Surfaces, DuMor, Victor Stanley, and Green Roofs for Healthy Cities


President-Elect Candidate Speech, 2017, as Delivered by Shawn T. Kelly, FASLA

The following address was delivered to the ASLA Board of Trustees and the Chapter Presidents Council at their Midyear meetings. Visit the election site here.

Today we are challenged to survive as both a profession and as a population on planet earth. “To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men,” is a quote from Abraham Lincoln that I find myself reminded of frequently. Now is the time to ask yourself what makes you get out of bed in the morning. Why do we do what we do, and with so very little rest? I believe that when you drill down into your core beliefs you will discover those truths that propelled you through a challenging degree, into the profession, and to the point where you now find yourself making an important difference on a daily basis. The reality of us all is that we believe we have some of the answers to those challenging questions about ecology, economy, and the culture that are affected by our work. Whether you teach, practice in government, private practice, or any of the many ways to practice you are tied to the core belief that we can, and do, make a positive difference with each project we accept. Every project must be better than the last. Every day we work on the answers to greater questions than the immediate. We practice on a great canvas that matures as it develops: You must grow a landscape.

As the demands on our planet change, so must we change to make this place suitable for life. And not just for today. Our projects must have the legs to take them into the next generation. We are the hope for our planet. Ecology, culture, and economy must be successful for the definition of sustainability to apply.

Our profession is a wonderful dance of art and science. To deny either in your solutions makes the answer less than it should be. In fact, less than it must be. Our projects are measured by many litmus tests to determine their quality. Success is more than a deposit in your account. Success includes a vision of a future we wish for our children and their children on this earth. It can be a wonderful vision if we only keep our practices focused and important. While we provide for the health, safety, and welfare of the public, we do it with elegance, and perhaps, a little grace. The end result must work in a changing environment. No one ever said it would be easy. If so, then anyone could do it. This is part ow what makes our work a profession. The importance of our scope and reach is measured by how many lives we touch, both directly and indirectly, both today and beyond.

There is an undeniable truth that within crisis there exists both danger and opportunity. As practitioners, we deal with opportunities and constraints every day, every project, every decision. As leaders in environmental design we must also keep one eye on the constraints and their possible outcomes. We cannot ignore the opportunities that lie within. As a practitioner, I am challenged to stay ahead of work, and keep the practice viable and active, at the cutting edge. As Landscape Architects we are forged, much like steel, in the hot fires of practice. The hotter the fire, the stronger the steel. These are the times that define our mettle / metal. I also have the privilege of teaching. I see excellence. I demand excellence on a daily basis. These students are our hope for a better future.

One core principle of my work as educator and practitioner is that the world is running out of potable water. Our profession holds the key to effective solutions to water harvesting, reuse, improvement, and restoration. We must be on every design team to speak our voice.

I am currently serving as ASLA Representative to the International Federation of Landscape Architects. In conversations last year with practitioners from fifty-two countries there was immediate consensus with the need to provide potable water for human needs. The discussions were also about infrastructure for sustainable cities; biofuel production integrated into design; complete streets; new communities for refugees and the homeless; and food security. And all these practitioners regard ASLA as a leader among organizations to represent our work.

This past year I was the ASLA Representative to the United Nations’ Habitat III. This is a meeting held every twenty years to determine the direction of cities around the world and to examine development demands and responses. “The New Urban Agenda” was approved in general session, and this document projects the forms of cities to become increasingly dense. These cities will require a focus on integrated resource management as key to infrastructure development. The trend is toward resilience and sustainability. As this meeting, I spoke about water and food security, and city infrastructure. All agreed that the world needs our professional expertise. Every city needs more green space in critical places. Every city is water and food challenged- whether they acknowledge that reality or not. Our profession is the logical voice for this work.
Landscape Architecture is the connection between development and environmental justice. We do plans for the use of limited resources in creative applications, and are often faced with the even application of benefits and costs. We must embrace this responsibility. Those with no power require a voice and support in the design world. We are that voice. Our profession set its roots in the very demands for environmental justice that you her in today’s news. Our work with multi-modal transportation, inclusive planning, and integrated design principles can guide the direction of the developing world, and the United States. We can do this. Now is our time to shine. Our voice needs to be confident and spoken often.

Our core values will lead us through challenging times. With this focus we can engage the current markets with appropriate language and delivery of our central truths through the practice of Landscape Architecture. We preserve the health, safety, and welfare of the public while also keeping our eyes on the bigger picture of where humankind lies in Nature. This profession is a calling.

There is that something that keeps us in studio, or classroom, or office, late, from our days as students to firm owners. We make our professional responsibility important and meaningful on every project. We rightly believe that we can positively affect change in our environment. During challenging times we find solus in knowing we make a credible difference. This is how we persevere. This is what we must do now. As a profession, we shall come together to speak our truths. It is time for our title to be visible and appreciated for the good work that we accomplish on a daily basis. I am with you on this effort. We must each endeavor to speak about opportunities, even in the shadow of constraint. We are systems thinkers. We are, after all, Landscape Architects.

The American Society of Landscape Architects has amassed a history of success. Our advocacy has been effectively engaged in supporting and inspiring topical legislation nationally. Title and Practice Acts in all fifty states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico is an incredible achievement. Our Society was behind every legislative action. Our members and our State Chapters are the reasons we have these laws that provide work for the profession along with oversight for the health, safety, and welfare for the public. Challenges to our licenses are increasing. Thirteen states currently face the threat of deregulation. It is time to involve more practitioners in this effort. We must also achieve a greater response rate to our Advocacy Alerts and network. Our new Center for Landscape Architecture in Washington, D.C. must become an active showcase for our successes and the profession in general. Members are our voice. We need to raise that voice.

Our emerging professional members are challenged to remain part of ASLA. The work is being done to help students transition to practice, and new graduates to find a professional home in ASLA. Committee membership is more available now, and dues structures are being considered to make this professional society appealing to an evolving practitioner base. It must remain important and topical for the next generation of leaders. These new practitioners are the hope of our profession.

Our University programs are challenged to grow. ASLA has reached out to students, and the recent publication of “Your Land” will attract new interest in this art and science we know as Landscape Architecture. I believe STEM designation will help in the solution of multiple areas of need for our profession, from attracting minority students to helping our researchers, from quelling some licensure threats to greater general visibility.
Our annual meetings continue to perform extremely well, both as a financial benefit to our Society and to the community of our membership. There is a positive wave of energy that continues through the autumns of our meetings. And it is growing. The education opportunities must remain topical and at the leading edge, with fresh presentations that capture the state of our art.

Now is the time for our voices to speak our great truths every chance we get to every listening ear. Our messages need to include the benefits we bring in ecological, economic, and social arenas. We will position ourselves for success by speaking cogently to those who can help us move our agendas forward. I propose to be that vocal lead, and to inspire those around me to also speak our peace, often, and with great conviction. We can do this. I am proud to be considered for this position.

I would like to thank the Nominating Committee for this chance, and the Executive Committee for approving my name on this ballot. I have the pleasure of thanking my wife, Barbara, for her support and inspiration during difficult times: I could not be doing this but for you. Thanks, also, to my children: Alison, Evan, and Parker. I appreciate all of your personal sacrifices to bring me here, at this point in time, at this place. And, I would like to thank you, the Membership, for your work, your support of our profession, and for your consideration.

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