We’ve reached out to landscape architecture students, faculty and practitioners to ask the question:
What does the Green New Deal look like for landscape architecture?
To Zane Colvin, BLA 2022 Student at the University of Arkansas:
“The Green New Deal will be the most important piece of legislation to pass in our lifetime, if we can make sure that it is a policy (or collection of policies) that will actually work. That means working with climate scientists and public policy experts and data analysts and- critically- it also means that Landscape Architects have to work to ensure that the Green New Deal is equitable and fair to all the people and ecological systems in this country and around the world. We must be vigilant about creating a vision for the physical, designed world that we will be building for the future. Most of the current Green New Deal proposals haven’t really dealt with the built/designed world, and Landscape Architects must start filling in this gap- by creating our own policies, by creating sustainable design guidelines, but most importantly by creating a vision and showing what the world could be- vibrant, walkable communities, locally grown food, housing for all, wetland restorations and forest preservations across the country, and clean, renewable energy powering it all. That is the vision that we, as Landscape Architects, bring, and it is time we start shouting it from the rooftops.”
To Kari Roynesdal, MLA I AP 2020 Student at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design:
“Climate change pedagogy in landscape architecture can transform the way we learn about ecology. Rather than making distinctions between “native” and “non-native” species, and “desirable” plants in our design projects, why do we not learn about plants through an analysis of their biological and morphological functions which could be valuable in the next hundreds of years in the context of climate change? Is there a future where spontaneous or currently “unpopular” species could inhabit and thrive in urban environments when “natives” no longer can? How does our design pedagogy around ecology shift when viewed through a lens of these changing conditions?”
To Ian Dobbins, BLA 2020 Student at Northeastern University:
“The GND means that landscape architects no longer have to say “yeah municipal projects are great, but we have to do residential projects because they bring in the money.” The GND means that we don’t have to choose between doing the right thing and what keeps the firm profitable. The GND means there would funding for landscape architecture alongside all the public projects proposed, specifically in housing and infrastructure. Most of America is long overdue for mass infrastructure renovations, and those should certainly include landscape architecture within their scope. We won’t have to suffer when we try to go for the green option, and be punished by cost, but instead will be rewarded. The GND would be all about incentivizing the right thing.”
To Felix de Rosen, MLA I 2020 Student at the University of California Berkeley:
“The GND means the end of landscape architecture as we know it. The landscape architecture that we know designs for biodiversity, aesthetics, and the public realm. But it takes so much for granted: carbon extractivism, capitalist relations, the nation-state, the central role of the designer. The new landscape architecture has political consciousness: it understands that “landscape architecture” is powerless by itself. So it co-creates with artists, scientists, and activists to spark democratic political processes. The Green New Deal is landscape architecture’s salvation: it forces us to leave the pleasant cocoon of quaint renderings and embrace the politics of empowering a much needed new world.”
To Charles Waldheim, John E. Irving Professor of Landscape Architecture and Director of the Office of Urbanization at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design:
To Jonathan Kuhr, MLA I 2020 Student at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design:
“The Green New Deal calls for ‘access to nature.’ Nothing feels more in line with the values of landscape architecture. We have a chance to help design what that means, what “nature” means for communities in urban, suburban and rural contexts. We have a chance to create more public landscapes, to build them, conserve them, save them, uplift them, for communities that have historically been denied those spaces and have been overburdened by the degradation of others. We can be empowered to do more and do the work that we value.”
To Zoe Holland, MLA I Student 2020 at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design:
“Creating a federal mitigation and adaptation agency [we cannot rely on FEMA for this]. Here, landscape architects can play a key role planning processes of managed retreat and in designing meaningful spaces in the places we will leave behind.”
To Amy Thornton, MDes Risk and Resilience 2020 Student at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design:
“The Green New Deal looks like radical human perspective shift from nature as other to collaboration with nature as partner.
This requires built spaces for everyday living and working that physically and multisensory reconnect humans to the natural environment, literally removing walls between humans and nature and re-situating education and work into regular and lasting experiences in the outdoors-urban, suburban, rural and wild. It necessitates reimagining built design for living, educating, working that removes the comfortable sheathing of our walls. It requires us to listen and learn from the more than human that keeps us alive.
If we don’t start here, we ground ourselves in the same toxic framework form which our environmental and human health crisis has grown and will be incapable of the collective imagination this crisis demands.
(collective as all of the living: humans, plants, animals, geology, waters).”
To Kira Bre Clingen, MLA I/MDes Risk and Resilience Student 2021 at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design:
“Landscape became increasingly insular throughout the twentieth century in its attempt to gain cultural capital and carve a distinct niche for the discipline. The Green New Deal is an opportunity for landscape to graciously collaborate with scientists, engineers, architects and artists – to act as synthesizers, not generalists – to recognize the world as interconnected, and to move away from designing objects toward systems that recognize and value all things living.”
To Connie, MLA I 2020 Student at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design:
“More collaborative work between landscape architects and other disciplines (social and hard sciences.) More jobs! And taking a more leading role in the project team. Necessary changes to the landscape architecture curriculum to reflect changing values in professional practice.”
To Michael Ahn, MLA I 2020 Student at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design:
“It means landscape architecture needs to step it up, to take leadership in tackling climate issues, creating opportunities and jobs, and being more visible and vocal about the skills the profession can offer. It’s the perfect combination of potential in the future and landscape architecture’s environmentally focused scope.”
To Isaiah Krieger, MLA I 2022 Student at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design:
“Being an agent (one of many needed) of the massive infrastructural overall needed to switch to 100% renewables, to divest entirely from fossil fuels, and to heal the built environment from the wounds of industrialization and capitalism.”
To Max Smith-Holmes, MLA I 2021 Student at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design:
“The Green New Deal means landscape architects must now actively participate in rethinking how people relate to their environment. It also represents new social relevancy for the profession by connecting ecological practices to issues of equality and social justice. It is an exciting challenge for landscape architects to take the Green New Deal seriously. In school, we all are ready for it!”
To Alison Maurer, MLA I 2022 Student at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design:
“A broad, society-wide investment in a future that will help us tackle challenges of climate change while preventing it from worsening. It means a radical shift, accepting that the ways we invest, build, design, is not going to work in our present and future.”
To Supriya Ambwani, MLA I 2022 Student at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design:
“A more equitable, socially environmentally just planet.”
To Kimberly, BLA 2018 Student at Cornell:
“A chance for our profession to expand its horizons in terms of scope. Landscape architecture can be central and instrumental in the GND. All future infrastructure can be designed with climate change and adaptation in mind. Our profession designs infrastructure and therefore should be at the forefront of the movement.”
To Hannah Chako, MLA I 2020 Student at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design:
“Reforming public land management to emphasize building healthy landscapes that sequester carbon, improve soils and water quality, provide wildlife habitat. (and de-emphasize fossil fuel development and other extractive practices.) Landscape architects have a role in this effort. Altered landscapes are good.”
To Jeb Polstein, MLA I/MUP 2023 Student at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design:
“On one level, it would mean lots of spaces and lots of funding for design projects to reform the built environment, from landscape-scale reforestation to community-owned power grids.
More abstractly the Green New Deal gives landscape architects a chance to make good on out disciplinary promise of creating a better future. We can design both micro utopias that blossom in the cracks of our current system and larger frameworks that link projects.
Building out a Green New Deal should be a unifying mission of our generation-among designers, activists, and everyone.”
To Colin Chadderton, MLA I 2020 Student at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design:
“The Green New Deal means a future for landscape architect’s to take the lead in creating the future we need to maintain a livable planet. The Green New Deal will lead to greater investment in landscape projects from the federal government as well as private sectors.”
To Rosetta S. Elkin, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design:
“The Green New Deal will only highlight the failure of landscape Architecture to keep pace with the times. I applaud the students for challenging the norms of our profession, using the Green New Deal as a means to an end, ratcheting up a debate that must underscore their education. Lengthy licensure and prestige professionalism are undercutting our chances of being landscape activists and landscape leaders. If ASLA does not lead, then they will be hard pressed to survive.
The Green New Deal represents business as usual, memorializing mistakes of the past by promoting a monolithic, unified plan predicated on the assumption that our current practices can and will evolve. In reality, landscape architecture is shackled to outdated details, falsified policies and construction techniques that will certainly fail us again. Historically, FDR’s New Deal policies also emerged with crisis: airborne dust billowing, massive migration ensuing, and markets crashing. As a result, the procedures valued single solution plans, solidifying land as a national resource. Less discussed are the environmental costs that mobilized policy to regain control over indigenous claims and privately held farmsteads, introducing aggressive species, curtailing processes, and pacifying waters with public support.
The failure of landscape architecture to address “real world” problems is nested in the embrace of urban neo-liberalism, as so many have stated. This encourages the next generation to repeat the mistakes of the past, from working with a prestigious firm to support construction corruption, to engaging the commercial nursery trade and its affiliation to chemical corporations. While I support the students call to “help define” the Green New Deal, I am more interested to find out how ASLA can be made alive, immediate and relevant to our local, regional and global communities.
The student appeal is real and should not be taken lightly as an opportunity to rethink what we do by supporting systemic change from higher education to professional practice. Anything less and ASLA will also be on the road to extinction.”
To Teresa Gali-Izard, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design:
“When talking about Climate Change we cannot avoid talking about ethics, and the way we want to inhabit the planet.
Is time to build a real critical thinking and time to create the space to speak without fear. Is time to stop fake slogans, dogmatisms, and is time for the common sense and humility.
Is time to sustain an ethical position over time and being consequent to it. Is time to listen, and talk, and be open to evolve and change. It is time for celebrating big contradictions and some sacrifices.
Is time to empower others, which is the power of teamwork, collaboration and democracy.
Is time for a good education, which sacrifices individual over general and time for the privilege people to renounce to their own interest for the general ones.
Is time for honesty, generosity and care.
It is time to evaluate our needs and our wishes
Is time for being aware and ready for the uncertainty.
It is time for being alive.”