Black Lives Matter

an open letter from ASLA Adapt

Black Lives Matter

To the landscape architecture academic and professional community:

We are a group of landscape architecture students and professionals who are deeply concerned about the historic inaction and complicity of our profession in the face of violence perpetrated by the state against Black and Brown people. This is only one symptom of the structural violence that is embedded in this country’s foundation and, as such, embedded within the design fields.*

Black lives matter. As a member of our profession, your voice and your ability to uphold and amplify Black voices matters. It is crucial that we do not sit on the sidelines; we must come out in clear solidarity with those standing up to injustice; we must hold our profession accountable and take transformative and actionable steps to uphold and amplify agendas within the Black Lives Matter movement. 

This is why we are calling on firm, academic, and professional leadership to take the following immediate and long-term actions:


Publicly support the movement for Black lives

  • ASLA
    • Acknowledge the damage and pain caused by your initial public message to the landscape architecture community regarding the murder of George Floyd and acts of violence against the Black community.
    • Affirm not only the profession’s past transgressions but our present complicity in creating the conditions for inequity, disenfranchisement, and racial violence.
    • Make this position evident across all of your public channels of communication.
  • Firm Leadership, Professional Organizations, and Academic Program Deans and Chairs
    • Publicly voice support for the protests in reaction to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and the most recent victims of centuries of police violence. Failure to do so furthers the complicity of the profession in White supremacy.
  • Academic Program Deans and Chairs
    • Affirm a commitment to individual action by faculty, staff, and students as well as collective action by departments. This includes committing to non-retaliation by leadership against faculty, staff, and students who voice their support for or engage in direct action or offer critiques of prevailingly White- and Euro-centric pedagogies.

Solidify equal pay for equal work

  • Firm Leadership
    • Commit to paying equal salaries and offering equal benefits to Black employees. 
  • ASLA
    • Collect and publish data from firms regarding equal compensation to ensure that salaries are equivalent. Data must be gathered in a transparent manner and shared publicly.
  • Academic Program Deans and Chairs
    • Make equitable hiring goals public and ensure equal compensation and opportunities for advancement for Black staff and faculty members.

Financially support Black communities

  • Firm Leadership
    • Commit to matching employee donations to funds supporting Black communities and protesters. During profitable years, funds typically earmarked for executive bonuses should instead be committed to this matching program.
  • Firm Leadership and Professional Organizations
    • Use your platforms to encourage and share information and resources for your members/staff/employees/team to make donations and take action. 

Increase Black representation in landscape architecture

Black student enrollment in BLA programs is 4.4% and just 2.7% in MLA programs.** Black landscape architects make up only 3% of practitioners.*** These numbers are unacceptable. We must collectively examine the systemic issues that perpetuate the disproportionate representation of White people in design schools and the profession at large. Further, we must emphasize and celebrate the multiracial, multiethnic, multicultural history of landscape architecture while acknowledging the damage that discriminatory practices have wrought, such that we reveal the power of design to positively (or when done unjustly, negatively) impact communities. 

  • Academic Program Deans and Chairs
    • Representation matters. You must actively recruit Black faculty, staff, and guest lecturers. Faculty hires should be for tenure-track positions.
    • Allocate funding and staffing to increase outreach for the active recruitment of Black and other underrepresented students at all educational levels, from middle school to undergraduate. This includes hiring dedicated outreach staff as well as supporting faculty to take on these additional roles.
    • Design and make public robust and transparent plans to financially support Black students. Beyond tuition support, this must include living stipends and research and teaching assistantship opportunities.
    • Rethink studio culture and the structure of design pedagogy to create a welcoming and supportive environment for a more diverse collection of students. This includes reversing tendencies toward the norms of White culture and reducing expectations for time and financial expenditure that can lead to systemic inequities in student representation and existing cohorts.
    • Overhaul curricula and resources to highlight and amplify the work that has already been done and is being done by Black landscape architects. 
    • Restructure history coursework to equip students to critically examine the features of design work that have signaled or contributed to the exclusion, displacement, and unsanctioned surveillance of marginalized groups.**** 
    • All of these measures must be taken by way of transparent processes that require publicly sharing goals, efforts, and outcomes and include frameworks for regular communication and review between decision-makers and their respective academic and professional communities.
  • Firm Leadership
    • Create strategies to diversify by hiring, consulting with, and engaging Black practitioners, academics, and artists. Make these action plans public to create a system of accountability within existing governance structures.
    • Allocate funding and staffing hours to the active outreach and education of Black and other underrepresented students at all educational levels, from grade school to graduate students.
    • Overhaul hiring strategies to actively pursue BIPOC candidates for internship positions and full-time positions.
    • Increase transparency in hiring processes by publishing all open positions and publicizing these openings through existing networks of BIPOC students and practitioners, including the Black Landscape Architecture Network. 
    • Create new systems and measures for retaining and investing in the long-term professional development of Black employees in an environment that fosters inclusivity.
    • Fight White supremacy in the workplace through the education of all employees, including, but not limited to, regular, mandatory anti-racist trainings.
    • Check in with and solicit ongoing feedback from Black employees.
  • ASLA and LAF
    • Award and elevate Black landscapes and the work of Black designers.
    • Better instrumentalize national and local chapter outreach initiatives to engage Black and Brown youth in landscape architecture. Knowledge-sharing is key, and existing strategies and resources should be made available to all members of the profession. This includes offering free training sessions to local ASLA chapters and outreach groups, and creating a national network for sharing and promoting best practices.
    • Invest in more scholarships and other forms of financial assistance for Black students and professionals to offset the costs of education required to practice as a landscape architect, from undergraduate school through licensure.
  • LAAB
    • Promote and support the landscape architecture programs at Morgan State University and North Carolina A&T State University through sponsored research opportunities and financial awards for Black students and faculty. Explore and invest in the potential for accredited landscape architecture programs at additional Historically Black Colleges and Universities, particularly those with existing design programs.
    • Establish minimum standards for BIPOC representation on academic faculties as a condition for accreditation.
  • LA CES
    • Provide more Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for anti-racist training, community outreach activities, and Black youth engagement.
    • Increase Black-taught continuing education courses to at least 50% of all ASLA marketed CEUs.

Develop Anti-racist Design Standards

Responsible design requires the acknowledgement of and reckoning with the complex sociopolitical and specifically racial history of any place. The profession must develop standards of ethics that promote the dismantling of design techniques that result in the dehumanization of Black people. We cannot design places and spaces that establish the preconditions of violence or reinforce the carceral state. 

  • Firm Leadership
    • Reject projects that are complicit with the ongoing destruction and erasure of communities of color, including projects that perpetuate economic displacement, criminalize spaces, promote gentrification, and support the prison industrial complex.
  • Academic Program Deans and Chairs 
    • Develop mandatory prerequisite courses that dive deeply into past and present acts of environmental racism. Manifestation within the built environment has tragically impacted the social, economic, ecological, and political fabric of so many Black and Brown communities. The profession needs to understand the political impact of our designs and must critically address the narratives of oppression that are so deeply embedded in our practice.
    • Include anti-racist design tools as fundamental elements of studio instruction.
    • Teach students to engage with community members not through short-sighted participation efforts that only extract time, knowledge, and capital, but rather by forming reciprocal partnerships that extend beyond a semester of studio work and offer tangible benefits to community members.
    • Institute guidelines for rigorous, critical discussions and responsible research methods around race and social history in studio and seminar coursework. This includes inviting members of impacted communities as guest critics throughout the semester, examining embedded biases in sources (mapping, census, statistics), and using sources from BIPOC authors.
    • Expand and highlight the offerings for distributional electives beyond landscape architecture departments and schools to directly address knowledge gaps in existing curricula, including subjects such as racial politics, colonial history, and the social sciences.
  • LAAB
    • Reopen the public commenting on future accreditation standards to allow for further suggestions regarding how landscape architecture education must address racial violence and systemic inequity
    • Affirm that racial, environmental, economic, and social justice will be a pillar of landscape architecture education moving forward.
    • Enable and support academic programs to achieve the demands made in this letter through this year’s revision of accreditation standards.
  • ASLA
    • Embed a commitment to anti-racist practice into ASLA membership by-laws and advocate for a similar commitment to be integral to state licensure.
    • Amend all ASLA statements of values, including the ASLA mission statement, Code of Professional Ethics, and Code of Environmental Ethics, such that members are held accountable for designing anti-racist spaces in accordance with the above demands. This includes a statement insisting that practitioners not contribute to projects that exacerbate inequity and the displacement of Black communities.

Although landscape architects strive to design and produce democratized and equitable public spaces, it is not enough to simply congratulate ourselves for building platforms for protest or improving air quality in cities. Landscape architecture is not an autonomous profession; our work is fundamentally tied to racial and environmental justice as we shape the built environment. Equitable spaces are sustainable spaces. The diversity within the field of landscape architecture does not reflect the places where we do or will practice, and this undermines the profession.

We can no longer address challenging conversations in academic and professional settings with platitudes. We must talk about the predominance of White culture in the profession, the role of landscape architecture in perpetuating inequality, and the erasure of people of color from the field’s historical canon, among other conversations that are so often obscured by vague, positive language. We must do this together, in all facets of our work, with sincerity, conviction, energy, and urgency.

In solidarity,

ASLA Adapt

A National Collective of Landscape Architecture Students and Emerging Professionals

*We additionally acknowledge that the United States is a settler-colonial project and as such has been built on land stolen from indigenous peoples. We have chosen in this letter to address Black lives with the understanding that this conversation is incomplete without acknowledging the ways in which landscape architecture is complicit in the perpetuation of colonialism.

**Data on enrolled students from the Summary of 2019 Annual Reports Submitted to the Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board by Accredited Academic Programs,

***Data found on ASLA’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion website:

****Profound thoughts on the state of design education and practice from BIPOC voices can be found on the Recognize platform, in particular the following article on design school culture:


This letter was drafted by an actively evolving collective of students and young professionals from across the United States over the course of two months from May to July, 2020. The letter, incited by the murder of George Floyd and inspired greatly by Kofi Boone’s 2017 article “Black Landscapes Matter,” is a product of this group’s collaborative work, including the thoughts and words of more than one hundred members and outside voices. It calls on the professional and educational institutions of landscape architecture to address and begin to rectify the institutional racism and anti-Blackness present within the discipline. This letter is only the beginning of an ongoing conversation. 


ASLA Adapt began as a small group of landscape architecture students concerned about the profession’s lack of advocacy and support for political and protest movements around the climate crisis and inspired by Billy Fleming’s 2019 article “Design and the Green New Deal.” The group composed an open letter in the summer of 2019 addressed to the American Association of Landscape Architects (ASLA) with a series of demands for action. 

Through the publishing of that letter, the initial group has grown into an international network of students and emerging professionals. We have no hierarchical structure, and membership is defined by participation. As such we consider everyone involved in any of the activities of the collective, no matter the amount of time or work committed, to be a valued and heard member. Together we aim to take on the most crucial and relevant issues of our times in ways that are genuine and meaningful and that refuse to buy into existing norms and pressures. We are committed to the ideas and ideals shared by the next generation of landscape architecture practitioners.