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President's Letter: April 2024

Dear MD ASLA Community,

 

Happy World Landscape Architecture Month! I am personally taking the month of April to reflect on our profession and to recognize how lucky I feel to call myself a Professional Landscape Architect.

 

I tell students all the time that landscape architects have the best job – we enhance how one experiences a space; we design the journey and craft the narrative that one follows as they move through the landscape. What can be more powerful or poetic than that? We also have a materials palette and a canvas at our fingertips that sets us apart from architects and city and regional planners. A dynamic materials palette comprised of trees, and shrubs, and grasses, and perennials, which grow and change and track the seasons around us. And our canvas is the ground plane, topography, terra firma, etc. Just not a tabula rasa because we know that no site is a blank slate. The layers of the landscape, a palimpsest, is also something that I love – bringing both challenges and opportunities to every project. 

 

Kona Gray’s lecture last week recalled the wide variety of project types that fall under the category of landscape architecture. We are so fortunate to be able to work on plazas, memorials, streetscapes, campuses, rooftops, residential gardens, coastal resilience projects, rain gardens, sculpture gardens, healing gardens, rails to trails, stream restoration, public parks, brownfields, waterfronts, the list goes on and on. We all come to landscape architecture on our own trajectory – every path is different, and every story is unique. Most of us have had some prior experience in the work force, those who choose the profession right away are few but prescient. I didn’t know anything about landscape architecture until I took Reuben Rainey’s History of Landscape Architecture survey course at the University of Virginia. I was an undergraduate studying architectural history and was intrigued. The rest is history and almost thirty years later I find myself teaching the history classes at Morgan State University. And loving it.

 

We need to make a serious effort to introduce our wonderful profession to students – not in graduate school or even college, but in high school and elementary school. We need to capture these young imaginations and creative spirits at an early age to ensure the future of landscape architecture, and therefore, the landscape. I am aware of those out there who disregard the seriousness of climate change, many even who don’t believe in it at all – think it’s some sort of hoax. I clearly would have been a terrible lawyer or debater because I am just incredulous and can’t begin to start to discuss the matter – how does one address this? The only way that I can see to deal with this disparity is to turn to the future generations and hope that we can plant a seed in them. Our graduate landscape architecture students at Morgan State are passing on the word to high school students this spring through activities planned with Cylburn Arboretum and Baltimore Design School. I hope that this will begin strong relationships going forward.

 

Finally, the recent experience of reviewing and jurying another state’s award submissions reminded me of the very high caliber of work coming out of Maryland. This is something that we should be very proud of, something that we should never take for granted, and something to strive to continue. Happy April!

 

Many thanks,






Sarah Trautvetter, ASLA

2024 MDASLA President

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