December 12, 2016 | by Jen


  •  The ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.
  • The capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress. 

This November, I attended the 2014 American Society of Landscape Architects Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado.  Each year a theme is chosen to guide topics for educational sessions. This year the theme was “Resilience”.  In the words of ASLA president Mark Focht:

“Resiliency is inherent to how landscape architects are wired. It is who we are and what we do. We work with the land and nature, not against it.”

This resiliency in our field was addressed in each education session; many of which referred to natural disasters in areas of the United States. Some solutions presented were: a wetland buffer and “sponge park” idea in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy, large-scale planting and re-forestation areas designed to withstand periods of drought in Texas, and the uses of bio-retention and rain gardens in response to the 2013 floods in the Front Range of Colorado. See images below for details on these projects.

These sessions affected my view of landscape architecture and its role in a much bigger picture. I believe that our field is faced with addressing the following global issues:

  • Natural disasters have become more prevalent. We have seen several mega-events recently that have impacted large populations; events which are projected to increase in frequency and severity. How can we help plan ahead as landscape architects and design for such extremes?
  • How do we convince our clients and governments to address vulnerabilities proactively, rather than re-actively after a disaster?
  • Using the flooding on the Colorado Front Range as a close-to-home example, how have we learned from these events? How can we apply what we know from them to plan and design our communities?
  • In a world where we are accustomed to immediate results and instant gratification, how can we start thinking about our work as a 20, 40, 50 or even 100 year process?

It is an exciting time to be a Landscape Architect. My belief in the resiliency of landscape architecture has been reconfirmed. We have an important role to play in shaping the future of the world around us.
Click HERE to watch a video about the City of Boulder’s recovery efforts after the September 2013 flood.