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President-Elect Candidate Forum – Kona Gray’s Answer to Question 3

Image of Kona Gray, FASLA by EDSA

The annual election for 2024-2025 ASLA President-Elect will be open May 2 through June 2, 2023. All Full, Associate, Student, and International members in good professional standing will be eligible to vote and will receive a paper and/or email ballot to participate. The candidates this year are Haley Blakeman, FASLA, and Kona Gray, FASLA.

Over three issues of LAND, the candidates will respond to questions related to the future of the profession and the Society.

This week’s question is ‘What are the key relationships we need to build over the next few years to help us achieve our vision?’

“The environment is where we all meet; where we all have a mutual interest; it is the one thing all of us share.”
-Lady Bird Johnson, Hon. ASLA

Landscape Architecture binds us together. In partnership with our allies there are so many possibilities to advance the discipline and profession. We need to consider both internal and external partnerships. However, let’s not be naïve, we all know this is not so easy. Intentionality is the key action that will bring us together to provide solutions that benefit humanity and the environment.

Internally, I believe strengthening the bond between the academy and practice will lead us to achieving our vision. We need to build a stronger relationship with CELA and LAF over the next few years. Our foundation in education related to natural systems, culture, and the humanities broadens our perspective and grounds the discipline. Regarding the academy, we have CELA and LAAB providing focused resources for educators as well as students. Then, related to practice, ASLA and CLARB directly promote professional pathways throughout careers. Fortunately, ASLA and our allied organizations including, IFLA, LAF, and TCLF support both the academy and practice. As an example, we need more models like the OLIN Studio at UPENN replicated within our university programs.

Externally, we have symbiotic missions with AIA, ASCE, APA, and ULI. We all can further each other’s complimentary missions through partnerships. One idea could involve elevating Research and STEM designation as two critical factors towards our mutual success. This is an ongoing effort internally that could benefit from simultaneous advocacy with external partners. Imagine if university programs, practices and organizations aligned to promote initiatives together? Also, the Climate Action Plan will be more successful by leveraging external partners utilizing applied research in practice, patents for products as well as innovative solutions supported by science to solve our common Climate Initiatives.

Finally, we have a group that crosses both internal and external partnerships. I am referring to municipal government. Landscape architects are employed by government agencies internally and private practitioners work externally on projects funded with public investment. Seeing our elected representatives as partners would expand our reach and solve problems including deregulation threats. Imagine if we adopted cities and provided guidance on the environmental and social challenges, we all face. Establishing landscape architects as a partner at the table that contributes to improving the quality of life for the constituents of communities across the nation will align us as important strategic allies.

Partnerships work. This is nothing new. It is just easier to make things happen working together. As we continue to convene landscape architects to solve today’s challenges and explore tomorrow’s future, we need to remember to emphasize our fellowship. The discipline of landscape architecture may seem small, but when you add up all the connections internally and externally that support the environment, the small group has power.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” —Margaret Mead

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