greg reflects on a year of learning in his role of president of ASLA
Serving as ASLA President in 2018 was an amazing experience. Seeing the reach and impact of the profession of landscape architecture, witnessing the passion that landscape architects across the country have for their work, and working to build collaborative relationships has had a profound impact on my life.
These are exciting times for landscape architecture. We are increasingly sought out for our expertise in solving complex issues with simple solutions. We’re recognized as connectors, leading teams through projects that have a wide range of challenges. We are valued for our ability to bring communities together to identify shared goals, create pathways to accomplish those goals, and develop solutions that impact people’s lives. That’s powerful. It also creates opportunities to amplify our influence and to take on new projects that may have previously seemed out of our reach.
There are also challenges that we all recognize. Climate change, strained natural resources, aging infrastructure, economic uncertainty, and social discord are real and require wise solutions. Changing practice models, threats to licensure, and lack of public awareness of the work of landscape architects requires us to remain diligent in our collective efforts as a society to promote the profession.
On Wisdom and Landscape Architecture
Over the past year of visiting chapters, schools, and allied organizations, I developed a theory of what builds wisdom. Seeing what is being accomplished across the spectrum of landscape architecture, I realized that we’re defined by our wisdom, and that is what has put us in a position to take the profession to new heights.
So what do I mean by wisdom? I have defined five building blocks that when combined are greater than the sum of their parts and in landscape architecture lead to wise solutions – solutions that make the complex seem simple and evoke what feels like the perfect solution.
The first building block is knowledge. Left-brain analytical knowledge combines with right-brain artistic knowledge to create fluid thinking. Knowledge is the easy part, as information is constantly at our fingertips.
Experience comes from practicing, trying, failing, succeeding, learning and teaching. We learn from our own work and the collective work of our colleagues.
The next building block is perspective. Perspective is built by our own knowledge and experiences, making it unique to each of us. In order to maximize perspective, we need to be diverse and inclusive as a profession. We need to challenge ourselves to understand the perspectives of others. Our own perspective changes when we know what is meaningful to others. For example, to experience the passion that drove someone to chisel out the word “savage” and replace it with “resilient” on this Santa Fe Plaza monument helps us understand the ways that we are evolving a collective respect for one another.
The next block is foresight. That’s the ability to look ahead, to know what will become of our work, and to promote the best solutions, even when they are initially unpopular. For example, we can look at a dangerous street and know what will be required to make it complete, staying persistent when the process of transformation is difficult, and then observing what becomes of change.
The pinnacle of wisdom is judgment. The culmination of knowledge, experience, perspective and foresight provides the basis for making sound decisions. Understanding the nuances and context of the site, users, and natural systems is critical to developing sound and meaningful solutions. Developing seemingly simple solutions that resolve all the challenges of a site is a daunting task. Our success has made it seem easy, which makes it imperative that we continue to tell our story, and raise public awareness of the critical work being done by landscape architects.
When it all comes together, the results of our wisdom are beautiful and special. This is our ultimate value as a profession and defines our role in uniting and shaping our communities. We have a profound ability to manage natural resources in ways that positively affect people. We can preserve the spirit of the place while creating spaces that are meaningful to all users. We can teach new generations the value of holistic planning and design and amplify our role as stewards of the land.
Through our actions we can make people’s lives better. Through our actions, we can protect our lands. Through our actions, we can craft a better world. I’m thankful for the opportunity to serve ASLA and the profession and look forward to new ways to continue supporting, promoting, and advocating for landscape architecture.