Landscape Architecture and Green Design

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Landscape Architects Play Central Role in Green Design
August 6, 2009

Need to stop flooding or reduce stormwater runoff and sewer overflows? Looking to ease demand on treatment plants and avoid the cost of expansion? Seeking cleaner air or water? Interested in recharging an aquifer, rebuilding a shoreline or remediating a brownfield? Trying to stem highway pollution? Need to rebalance a watershed or ecosystem?

f so, a landscape architect may be in your future. The design professional—until recently derided as little more than a glorified gardener—is on a campaign to reclaim a seat at the environmental cleanup table. Some are even bent on sitting at the head, leading the engineers.
The movement is variously called performance-based, ecological, sustainable or green landscape architecture. Some use the terms “landscape infrastructure” or “landscape urbanism”. A rose by any name would smell as sweet, not only to landscape architects, long suffering from low self-esteem, but to localities seeking economical, less invasive and more beautiful ways to deal with the poisons of development.
This form of landscape architecture harks back to the profession’s roots. In a decade, it has gone from “obscurity to mainstream,” says David Yocca, a principal in the Elmhurst, Ill., office of Conservation Design Forum, a planner, landscape designer and engineer.
This dramatic change signals a comeback for a group that had lost its way in the 1980s and 1990s. During that time, within the profession, there was a “backlash against environmentalism and a view that the environmental movement had shorted esthetic concerns,” says Fritz Steiner, dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Texas, Austin. On the contrary, “environmentalism and esthetics are complementary,” he says.
Even geotechnical engineers, who often work with landscape architects, see the discipline’s renaissance. “We were absolutely not doing [ecological landscape architecture] 10 years ago,” says

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