Updates from ASLA


ASLA's 125th: Minnesota Chapter – Origins of a Midwestern Design Hub

Minnesota has an active WxLA chapter, and the WxLA Walk was a popular event at the 2023 Conference on Landscape Architecture / WxLA Minnesota

By Nicole Peterson, ASLA, PLA

In the 1960’s, Minnesota landscape architects formed a consortium of practicing professionals to establish a sense of unity. The group was called the Minnesota Association of Landscape Architects (MALA) and membership began with a handful of individuals, each paying annual member dues of $2. By 1968, membership and interest had grown, and MALA became associated with ASLA to become the Minnesota Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (MASLA, and later ASLA-MN).

Early on, landscape architects in Minnesota were graduates from other states, as there was no local landscape architecture program. This changed in 1966 when Roger B. Martin was hired to lead a new program at the University of Minnesota. A highly regarded graduate of both the University of Minnesota and Harvard, Martin had been awarded the Rome Prize in 1962.

Upon his return on Minnesota, Martin was an early president of the state chapter and was instrumental in gaining accreditation for the Bachelor of Landscape Architecture program (1971), with the Master of Landscape Architecture following shortly behind (1976). These efforts resulted in hundreds of successful graduates, including students who led early efforts in landscape architecture in Alaska, China, and Tasmania. Martin also served as National ASLA president from 1986-1987, bringing his influence to the national stage.

This lasting impact carries on with the creation of the Roger Bond Martin Travel Prize, managed by ASLA-MN, which is awarded annually to an early-career landscape architect with Minnesota ties. The prize funds foreign or domestic travel to further the professional development of the recipient.

1981 ASLA-MN chapter awardsAttendees of the 1981 chapter Awards Gala study the year’s top projects / ASLA-MN collection at the University of Minnesota Northwest Architectural Archives.

Concurrently to Martin’s intense efforts, Don Hess was hard at work as head of the Minnesota chapter’s registration committee, lobbying state legislators to consider landscape architecture a licensed profession. His efforts, which began in 1968, finally came to fruition in 1975. These milestones in the history of Minnesota landscape architecture stimulated incredible growth and interest in the profession, resulting in dozens of firms, new professionals, and increasing influence on the growth and development of Minnesota.

Energized, the Minnesota chapter recruited donations from suppliers for the first time, purchasing a display system for awards submissions that was displayed at locations around the Twin Cities. This simple promotion helped build up the visibility of landscape architecture in Minnesota during those early years.

PARKing DayPARKing Day has been a popular event for ASLA-MN in past years. / ASLA-MN

Through the decades, the chapter has grown and so has its scope, championing the profession, driving sustainable design initiatives, engaging in K-12 STEM outreach, and advocating for diversity and equity in landscape architecture.

Today, ASLA-MN has over 350 members and Minnesota is a Midwestern powerhouse of design and innovation. Minnesota proudly hosted the ASLA National Conference in 1977, 2007, and 2023. First-time visitors to the state left with an increased appreciation of the state’s contributions to the field. ASLA-MN continues to push the profession to new heights and is committed to its practitioners and proponents. Keep an eye on Minnesota – even greater things are on the horizon!

Nicole Peterson, ASLA, PLA, is ASLA-MN Past President 

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