This Biodegradable Paper Donut Could Let Us Reforest The Planet: “Called the Cocoon, this simple invention protects seedlings from harsh arid climates and reduces the amount of water they need to thrive–and boosts their survival rate by as much as 80%.”

A Green Infrastructure Guidebook for City Planners: “This new online resource developed by the Nature Conservancy, in partnership with the American Planning Association, American Society of Civil Engineers, National Association of Counties, and the Association of State Floodplain Managers showcases how communities across the country have successfully mitigated the effects of extreme weather by relying on green infrastructure.”

My Garden Answers: Ever asked, “I wonder which plant this is?” With over 1,250,000+ Users and counting, Garden Answers App is the most trusted gardening app available for the iOS / Android and will help identification, help with pest problems, and offer expert advice in growing and tending plants.

L.A.’s Tap Water Is Officially As Clean As Bottled Water: “Save your money. Your water coming out of your tap is just as good or if not, better” than bottled water or water treated with various devices. What’s more, at half a cent per gallon, it’s a whole lot cheaper, too.

To Build a Great Public Space, You Need More Than Good Design: “A pitfall is thinking that design can solve all the problems. As architects and planners, we like to think that our skills cover a lot of different disciplines, and that’s true. But design alone is never going to be enough.”

Photo by Katherine Montgomery

Several months ago, exhilarated by the Women’s March, a friend and I exclaimed, “We should do this every weekend!”  Since then, my anger towards President Trump has developed from a vague dread to specific fears as his policies have rolled out: Will immigrants be forever persecuted?  Will women have access to safe health care?

When House bill H.R. 861 to abolish the EPA was introduced in February, my fear sharpened to a point.  The stakes have never been higher for our planet’s health, and this bill is an arrogant deterrent to progress.

The mistrust of facts in the recent years has been well documented, and the attack on science – preventing scientists from publishing work without White House review, withdrawing research funding, gag orders related to climate change, etc. – is the continuation of this propaganda.  The administration’s attack on science has a direct impact on all of our lives.  From compromising our natural resources, to over-valuing outdated energy sources, their goals do not support the earth and are in direct opposition to the values of landscape architecture.

Download a free “March for Science Poster” for April 22, 2017, Earth Day and The March for Science!

The heart of this profession is in the service of the earth: restoration, habitat support, preserving open space, improving the earth one (rooftop) garden at a time. As the ASLA states, “[The] EPA’s role, protecting human health and the environment, intersects with ASLA’s work in leading the design and stewardship of land and communities…”

I used to advise science students on Ph.D. fellowship applications, and I’ve read more National Science Foundation applications than an art major ever should. I grasped only a small percentage of the technical details, but it was a good test for the students: if they could explain quasi-conformally homogenous Reiman surfaces or quantum computing in a way that I could understand, then they could be better scientists.

In my years advising, I learned the importance of the scientific method, and the concept of ‘good science’.  This term is heavy with meaning, but includes values like “fact over opinion”, following the scientific method, empiricism, and peer review.  I would argue that good science is the basis for all good design, and the parallel processes both include inquiry, research, concept development, trial and error, continual questioning, analyzing, and sharing results.

If science is being denounced, the scaffolding for our culture is compromised.  I urge you to join me in supporting science by marching this Saturday, April 22, in Downtown LA and over 500 other cities around the world.  The March for Science is part of a ‘global movement to defend the vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies, and governments.’ Come be part of the movement!

Village Of Yorkville Park; Photo by Duncan Rawlinson (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Situated in one of the wealthiest retail districts in Toronto is Village of Yorkville Park, an urban open space just over an acre in size. This small neighbourhood park lends itself as the front door plaza to high-end retail, capping the Bloor Subway line, and directly abutting a parking garage. Because of its location, Yorkville Park experiences a high volume of traffic. This park brings up questions about the role of landscape architects in making nature more accessible for urban environments, the impact of post-modernism and contemporary design ideals in landscape design, and the need of a designer ecology.

“Designer ecology, while valid and desirable in urban contexts for many reasons, is not operational ecology; it does not program, facilitate, or ultimately permit the emergence and evolution of self-organizing, resilient ecological systems—a basic requirement for long-term sustainability.” – Nina-Marie Lister


The design we see today is the result of a 1994 Design Competition won by a team of Landscape Architecture Stars. Conceptually, the park is a Victorian keepsake box of Canada’s pristine nature. This nature reserve is realized with a highly designed selection of some of Canada’s natural features: a birch grove, a pine forest, a wild meadow, and of course, a massive rock plucked from the Canadian shield.

Photos by Clarence Lacy

Yorkville Park’s designer ecology, 2006; “Sustainable Large Parks: Ecological Design or Designer Ecology?” by Nina-Marie Lister

To find some answers I turned to Nina-Marie Lister – graduate program director and associate professor in the School of Urban and Regional Planning. Lister’s academic piece, “Sustainable Large Parks : Ecological Design or Designer Ecology?” examines designing natural systems and landscape around existing ecologies in large park design. Lister also explains how a highly designed “clean” version of natural ecology – “designer ecology” – may be more appropriate for smaller and more fragmented landscapes.

Lister’s wrote that piece back in 2006, the height of the landscape urbanism movement. Landscape architects were searching for ways to validate designs extending ecologies into cities. Assisted by very sexy and evocative images, ranging from the infamous minimal lone coyote collage, to illegible “complexity” diagrams, the landscape architect took more time explaining and researching ecology than actually designing them.

Small spaces do not have the capacity to host 180 species of migratory birds, 3 wolf species, and 18 threatened plant species, so maybe Yorkville Park makes sense. I don’t have the answers, and I’m sure Kanye would reiterate that point if I ever got the chance to interview him. (I hope you all got that reference).

My personal critique of Yorkville Park and this era of early contemporary landscape design is how clean and selective it is. I really would have loved if the birch grove had a supporting understory, and if the wildflower meadow actually appeared more than a collection of urban weeds (maybe some small woody species interspersed?).

I was charged as a student to create a critique video formulating a critical look of designer ecology intended as a melange of components intended to form something larger, but a solution missing a few key ingredients – and a proper reparation in response. The video uses jump cuts and free associative symbolism, reinforcing the discontinuous and referential nature of this type of design within the urban landscape.

Warning the video is slightly gross and mildy graphic.

I hope no one is offended. Yorkville Park is a great space, a great example of this notion of designer ecology.

Life threw me another curveball recently. A casual walk one afternoon turned badly when I tripped, landing into a few weeks of back and knee pain. The whole experience made me appreciate the physical activity I took for granted before. It also gave me insight into how people with disabilities experience public spaces.

Coincidentally, two work associates are also dealing with physical injuries much worse than my own. Although I did not depend on a mobility aid to get around, my colleagues have been using crutches, a knee-walker, or cane. As we struggled with our individual physical limitations, our sudden connection with the disabilities community was transformative, leaving us much more aware of the design of public spaces.

All photos by Linda Daley

Urban streets in major cities like Los Angeles are often challenging even for the able-bodied. We became acutely cognizant of uneven sidewalk surfaces along the streets we traveled. In one occurrence, I was forced to walk along the side of a busy road to avoid a raised sidewalk that I could not manage. I have a new appreciation for curb ramps at street crossings, now wishing them everywhere. The slightest pitch in the path of travel could result in exhaustion by the end, while a shady seat to rest is a rare helpful sighting across urban streets.

A quiet moment captured at the South Park Streetscape project in Downtown L.A.

My injured colleagues and I also lamented over the only set of elevators at the Metro rail station nearest our office. When you are using crutches or a scooter, escalators are not an option. They are crowded, fast moving, and just plain scary. The elevators at our local station are unfortunately located furthest away from our office building. Imagine the emotional and physical toll when faced with another two blocks downhill through crowded downtown sidewalks while relying on crutches — and then upslope at the end of the day.

I recall a class I took many years ago as a student of landscape architecture. The course focused on designing for ADA (American Disabilities Act) compliance. For one session, our instructor asked us to meet him at a spot on the college campus. He arrived with a wheelchair and required each of us to take turns using it as the group walked around. He drove home his points about accessibility as we struggled with the smallest slopes and maneuvered through many circulation barriers. Our last task was to find our way from the upper entry of one building to its lower entry without taking an elevator. The final leg of our path of travel took us to an underlit and isolated corridor. I remember feeling if I was alone, I would be in fear for my safety.

The newly opened Stoneview Nature Center in Culver City.

Although ADA regulations have improved since my university days, the lessons of the ADA-oriented session came back to me vividly after my recent fall. I am older now and do not recover from injuries as I once did. Designing to meet minimum federal or local standards is not good enough when you consider your own aging. For our practice, it is ultimately about people, and enhancing the experience of outdoor environments for everyone.


That one word represents our broader responsibility as designers.

Los Angeles State Historic Park Opening
Los Angeles we are finally ready for you! Please join us for the long-awaited Grand Opening of Los Angeles State Historic Park – a day-long celebration of music, performance, family-friendly activities and food trucks. The park is easily accessible by the Chinatown Gold Line Station or by bicycle. Limited parking in the park. More details to follow as the date approaches. Please help us spread the word! Musical Performances by Grammy Award-winning QUETZAL, MILCK (Connie Lim of Washington DC Women’s March), Subsuelo, Shaolin Monks and more…
When: April 22, 2017; Celebrations start at 10am
Where: 1245 N. Spring Street, Los Angeles CA, 90012

March For Science
“March for Science Los Angeles celebrates the crucial roles science plays in driving our economic growth, preserving our environment, and protecting the health of our citizens. We unite as a diverse, nonpartisan group to call for policymakers to champion and fund science that upholds the common good and to advocate for evidence-based policies in the public interest at local, state and national levels.”
When: April 22, 2017; 9AM – 4PM
Where: Pershing Square Park, Los Angeles, CA 90013

Earth Day LA at Grand Park
Join Grand Park, The Music Center and DWP, discover ways you can live clean and go green in L.A. and celebrate Earth Day. There will even be free trees available if you live or own property within the City of Los Angeles (an ID/Driver’s License or LADWP bill is required; first come, first served with a limit of 1 tree per address).
When: April 19, 2017 @ 9:00 am – 2:00 pm
Where: Grand Park, 200 N Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Our National Parks at 100: Confronting Change & Committing to Science
The UCLA/La Kretz Center in collaboration with Pepperdine University is proud to present a free public lecture with U.S. National Park Service leaders
Dr. Ray Sauvajot, Director od Natural Resource Stewardship and Science in conversation with David Szymanski, Superintendent at the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
When: Sunday, April 23, 2017; 4:30 PM – 6:00 PM PDT
Where: Elkins Auditorium Pepperdine University; 24255 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90263

Immersive Landscapes with Andrea Cochran
“Drawing inspiration from early Modernist architects and Minimalist artists, landscape architect Andrea Cochran’s work is distinguished by its careful awareness of site, climate, and qualities of the existing environment. Spare geometry applied to vibrant plant life and a controlled palette of materials results in sharp compositional order, yielding landscapes that convey a heightened sense of texture, light, and movement. She will discuss her process of shaping space in both small gardens and larger landscapes to foster a deeper respect for our natural environment.”
When: Wednesday, April 19, 2017; 7 p.m.
Where: Pacific Design Center, 8687 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood, CA

California Poppy Festival
The 2017 California Poppy Festival™ is scheduled for April 22-23, 2017. The Festival gates open at 10 a.m. both days, and takes place rain or shine! Warm breezes replace the winter chill, jubilant laughter fills the air, and poppies burst into bloom blanketing hillsides in a sea of orange. Join us for two days of music, art, food and fun celebrating the state flower of California and the appearance of poppies in the Antelope Valley!
When: April 22 & 23, 2017. Rain or shine!
Where: Sgt. Steve Owen Memorial Park (formerly Lancaster City Park); 43063 N. 10th Street West, Lancaster, CA 93534