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Landscape Performance in Design Education: LAF Takes the LPS to the Academy

The Landscape Architecture Foundation is known for its scholarships and support of education that multiplies the effectiveness of landscape architects. Now LAF is helping to introduce landscape performance into design education. This fall marks LAF’s first coordinated effort to bring the concept of landscape performance into the classroom as we work with faculty at the University of Washington and the University of Virginia to educate landscape architecture students on the importance of quantifying landscape’s ecological, economic, and social benefits.

In today’s climate of downsizing, budget reductions and program cuts, providing proof of performance to the decision-makers who impact policies, programs, investments, and land development must be a critical part of design education. Students need the skills and knowledge to quantify and communicate objective data in order for landscape solutions to compete in this burgeoning evidence-based market. 

That is why LAF has teamed with Associate Professor and Director of the Green Futures Research and Design Lab Nancy Rottle at the University of Washington, and Associate Professor Kristina Hill, Ph.D. at the University of Virginia to pilot methods to integrate landscape performance in university curricula.

UW’s Sustainable Urban Landscapes: Landscape Performance graduate seminar incorporates a classroom-based pilot of LAF’s Case Study Investigation (CSI) initiative. With the assistance of two Summer CSI Research Assistants, Pam Emerson and Delia Lacson, students in the course will work with local firms to develop methods to quantify benefits and document high performing landscape projects to produce LPS Case Study Briefs. Potential projects include Hubbard Homestead, North 40 at Brightwater, Washington State University LID Center, Tacoma Chinese Reconciliation Park, Red Ribbon Park, and Magnuson Park. Watch for these case studies and more later this year.

At the University of Virginia, Professor Hill teaches that landscape performance is crucial to pursuing and evaluating successful design. In her Sites and Systems course, students will use the LPS this fall to review metrics that can be used to predict and/or determine levels of performance in designed public spaces. Students will also evaluate and propose other metrics based on their ability to measure diverse variables, such as aesthetic experience or walkability. Watch for new tools and calculators in the Benefits Toolkit in December.

LAF shares a vision with these talented professors of enhancing landscape design education, and ultimately leading the profession to routinely set and design for specific performance objectives, collect performance data, and document work. We thank Nancy and Kristina for taking the lead in this important movement, and for joining us in helping to prepare students to adapt to the future environment.

Contact LAF if you are interested in working with us to integrate landscape performance into your coursework. For more on this topic, look for LAF, Nancy Rottle, Kristina Hill and other CSI Fellows at the LAF Benefit, October 30 in San Diego, and the CELA Conference, March 28-31 at the University of Illinois.

LAF is grateful to the many individuals and organizations that provide financial support towards fulfilling our mission to support the preservation, improvement, and enhancement of the environment.

Much of what LAF is able to accomplish would not be possible without the thought leadership and financial investment of our major supporters, including ASLA, which provides over $125,000 of in-kind support annually.