Ground 12 – Winter 2010 – Learning From Landscapes

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Learning from Landscapes Landscape Architect Quarterly 08/

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Round Table Learning to Play, Playing to Learn Features Places of Learning Pushing the Boundaries Showing and Telling

Publication # 40026106

Winter 2010 Issue 12



Letters

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Letter to the Editor

President’s Message

I just discovered Ground and I must say it’s a great addition to the Canadian magazine landscape. As an outsider to the profession, I wasn’t aware how much landscape design has advanced from a purely ornamental pursuit to one that is really at the forefront of so many important issues in our lives: city design, water conservation and recycling, playground and park use and safety, traffic (cars vs. bikes vs. pedestrians), and so many aspects of environmental stewardship. The magazine really fills the lay reader in on what’s going on in this exciting and creative profession. I loved reading the extended dialogue among OALA members about how they chose the winners of the CSLA Regional Awards. And the big piece I read on irrigation solutions was fascinating: I’m going to go down and check out Sherbourne Park for myself after reading that. You could open this magazine up more to general readers like myself if you focused more space on individual properties and solutions to various front and backyard problems, such as the vexed question of grass vs. stone paving. Before and after pictures are always great in this context. Congratulations on a really interesting, important, and well-written magazine.

Our two recent member surveys were highly successful, with an astounding participation rate: approximately 44 percent of our 1,470 members responded. Council is using this data to assist with the creation of a new Strategic Plan. Council is listening to what you said and is acting on those issues.

BRONWYN DRAINIE EDITOR, LITERARY REVIEW OF CANADA (LRC)

As President, I have started to reach out to students at the University of Guelph and the University of Toronto; I have met with them to discuss membership in the OALA and to tell them what we stand for. Our meetings focused on the L.A.R.E. process/exams and were very informative sessions, with Aina Budrevics (OALA Coordinator) and members Rich McAvan and Stephanie Snow describing in detail the L.A.R.E. exams and the tutorial process. By now, you will see that the OALA is communicating more often through e-blasts and the OALA News. It is Council’s intention to provide you with information of interest more often. I have had meetings with members in Ottawa through the Landscape Architecture Ottawa chapter. The membership is very strong in Ottawa and represents a vibrant, very social group. We are continuing to promote the profession and meet with allied professionals. Our Continuing Education program will be strengthened in 2011 and you will see a range of excellent programs offered to the membership. Our Continuing Education Committee (C.E.C.) is working on delivering programs of excellence that you have told us you want. Council is reviewing and discussing the merits of mandatory continuing education. This is an issue we are examining carefully and we will report back to you in early 2011. Our annual conference and AGM, as requested, will be held in March 2011 in Toronto. The results of the AGM survey and the strategic planning survey will provide Council with the guidance required to strengthen the organization and move us forward. GLENN A. O’CONNOR, OALA PRESIDENT@OALA.CA


Up Front

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There are approximately 3.5 million trees in the City of Toronto’s parks and natural areas such as ravines.

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City of Toronto

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Up Front: Information on the Ground

TREES

counting the resource It’s difficult to manage something you know little about. When it comes to urban forests, often the most basic information is lacking. When cities set goals for increasing their tree canopy coverage—as Toronto has, for example, with a target of increasing tree canopy cover from the current 17-20 percent to between 30-40 percent over the next fifty years—this baseline information gap becomes more problematic. In an effort to develop a “portrait” of Toronto’s urban forest, the City collaborated

with the USDA Forest Service and Spatial Analysis Laboratory at the University of Vermont to do sophisticated modeling and remote sensing, and the results of this data collection are now available in a report called Every Tree Counts. According to Arthur Beauregard, manager in Urban Forestry at the City of Toronto, “The study is fundamentally a tool so that we can manage this very valuable resource. By understanding in detail what the asset is (age, species, location, etc.) and the attributes of different locations, we can plan to manage that asset in the most efficient and effective way.”


Up Front

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Some of the key findings of the study include: Toronto’s estimated 20 percent tree canopy coverage decreased slightly between 1999 and 2005; half a million trees were planted by the City and its partners between 2004 and 2009; there are 119 different tree species in the City, though maple species account for approximately one-third of the total leaf area of the urban forest. The data on tree locations will be useful in terms of setting the City’s planting priorities, according to Beauregard: “We know with certainty now that 60 percent of all trees in the City are growing on private property. We absolutely need to be working with all types of private landowners to get to our goal; we can’t just achieve it on public land.” Where trees are not can be as important as where they are. For example, less than five percent of the trees in the City are found in industrial areas. “This leads to a question,” says Beauregard. “Can we get more trees in industrial areas, and how can we do that?”

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At least one statistic in the report will no doubt be used to bolster the argument that the urban forest is economically valuable. According to the report, Toronto’s urban forest provides the equivalent of more than 60 million dollars in ecological services each year. Beauregard suggests that this information could be particularly useful to landscape architects: “Landscape architects may find it interesting to see how Toronto’s tree canopy is valued economically. They may be able to use that with clients.”

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Spring tree canopy

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Rike Burkhardt

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Trees completely change the streetscape, as seen here on Palmerston Boulevard in Toronto, from 1908 to 1920.

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Soil volume is key to street tree health.

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City of Toronto

TEXT BY LORRAINE JOHNSON, EDITOR OF GROUND.

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Dare to Share

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DARE TO SHARE In the spirit of learning from our mistakes, Ground put out the call for confessions and full disclosure of mistakes made in the course of work, so we could all benefit from the painful lessons. Many thanks to those who fearlessly contributed

From Morteza Behrooz, OALA: I worked with a team, and the drawing mark-ups had notes like “don’t show these lines” and “client doesn’t want this,” and the draftsperson had actually put them on the drawings! Lesson learned: Let no submission go without your final review. From Real Eguchi, OALA: Setting fees for the design of landscapes has been a long “learning” process. Not specifying the maximum number of meetings in all phases of work were huge omissions that I quickly learned from. Not excluding, or including, the many sub-consultants we are responsible for was not quite so easily learned. Since all projects are different in their scope, the variety of subs needed seems to require a bit of forethought that I initially lacked. Then there are all the different municipalities and their varying requirements depending on the types of project and the phases of work. And as we all eventually learn, carefully documenting deliverables and reimburseables also seems crucial to survival. When I feel completely bewildered about setting a fee for a project, I often call a dear OALA colleague with much more experience. He often says, “it’s kind of a crapshoot.” I’m not sure if that means we both don’t know, or if we’re both chronic gamblers. From Vivien Lee, OALA: Early in my landscape architecture career I was given the responsibility of preparing a set of panels for a very important presentation to the client, the agencies, and local residents. The client’s name was on the bottom right corner in small letters on the boards. I had mistakenly spelled the client’s name incorrectly, and no one caught the spelling error. I’ve learned to review everything with a fine-toothed comb and to always read what you type at least twice no matter how much of a rush you are in. Also early in my career, I had the opportunity to design a metal shade structure at the entrance seating area of a prestigious hospital in Ontario. During construction, the contractor requested specification for the paint colour of the structure. I recommended something I thought would be appropriate for the metal structure, cleared it with the principals of the firm and the architect. However, it did not occur to me that I should also confirm the colour with the client. During the painting process, the client notified us that they wanted something that would relate to the colour of their brand. This was a costly mistake for the firm.


Dare to Share

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While working for a large firm in the GTA, I was the landscape architect and project manager for a new neighbourhood park. The park included a splash pad, play structures, and seating area. The park was constructed without too many issues. When it opened, the splash pad appeared to operate normally, but a few months later the parks operation department complained that the backflow preventer was not installed. I had not personally reviewed the chamber to check the inventories during construction. I now attend all site review meetings with the consultants to answer any questions and make sure that all items are constructed as per specifications and drawings. From Martin Wade, OALA: A private residential client for whom we had done a lot of work over a period of several years (properties in the GTA and in cottage country) had just had an extensive garden installation completed for their home in Thornhill. The installing contractor had finished its obligations and the maintenance firm (with whom the homeowners had not worked previously, but who was recommended by a neighbour) was just taking over. The homeowners left for a three-week holiday and came back to find that all of the nearly 2,000 perennials and groundcovers had been removed. The maintenance company thought they were all “weeds” and therefore yanked them out. (Admittedly, this was in late fall when some of these plants could arguably be deemed “dormant.”) The homeowners were obviously distressed but managed to maintain their composure. In fact, they handled the situation with considerable grace and actually laughed about the utter absurdity of it. Needless to say, the maintenance firm was promptly discharged of their duties. The lesson I learned is never to leave anything to chance, even when a job is “finished.” Follow-up during the “transition” period is just as important as being on site regularly during construction. When possible, we now write into our contracts that we will be involved in the post-construction phase of the planting portions of our projects. This incident actually prompted me to start a small horticultural maintenance division within our company. I am fortunate to remain in close touch with some of our residential clients and, in the case of this one, whenever we get together for dinner or a weekend at their cottage, we often end up laughing once again about that day in November 1987 when the plants went missing. From Richard Bogaert, OALA: I was working on a gateway feature to what would be a revitalized streetscape project in a small town. In the design we had a planted median separating the traffic going into the downtown area. The client had an existing flagpole on an adjacent property that they wanted salvaged and moved to the median. No big deal, right? I looked at the flagpole and noticed they were flying a very large flag. I inquired about the height of the flagpole and the DPW person (a longtime city employee) indicated that it was about 30-feet to 35-

feet tall (above ground). He had no idea how deep the footing was or how much of the pole was actually in the footing and had no other info regarding the flagpole. From experience, I know that the size of the pole, height of pole above ground, average wind speeds in the region, type and size of flag being flown would all dictate the depth and size of the footing. We detailed the footing depth to accommodate the size of flag and the height of the pole as provided by the city employee. The contractor installed the footing and the pole on a Saturday when there was the least amount of vehicular traffic. I got a call on Monday morning from the city manager asking why an additional 18 inches of flagpole was now exposed (it was previously covered in the footing). Well, I was a little concerned. It turned out that the flagpole was actually closer to 50-feet-high above the ground, which meant that it had a 5-foot-deep footing and we designed a footing 3-feet 6-inches deep, hence the 18 inches of exposed flagpole previously buried. Can you say liability? Lesson learned: Attach a 100-foot tape measure to the flag clip, run it up the pole, and record the height to the ground. Do not always rely on someone else’s guess. And one more thing: When estimating heights, everything always appears closer to the ground than what it really is. From Jim Vafiades, OALA: Never assume anything! Several years ago we were hired to prepare a landscape plan for an existing residence which included a new driveway that would be constructed of granite sett blocks. We asked the architectural designer and client for a copy of the survey. Unfortunately, as this was a century-old house, there was no recent survey of the property. The designer, however, had prepared a site plan from on-site measurements and documents obtained from the client. We were given this drawing to prepare our plan (this was before AutoCAD). A site visit was conducted (by a third party) to verify existing trees and species types. A design was prepared and accepted. Working drawings were then drawn up and tenders were solicited. A contractor was chosen and a construction start date was established. Site work began on the driveway and the granite setts arrived on site. The contractor began to lay out the driveway and it became quite apparent that the quantity of granite was not going to be enough. The problem? The driveway was 15 feet longer than what was shown on the drawing. Everyone involved with this project had missed this error. The result was an extra cost in the range of $7,000. Fingers were pointed and compromises were made and eventually the matter was settled without too much bloodshed. The lesson here? Ensure that you have an up to date survey/topo that has been prepared by a qualified individual. If this is not possible, verify the data you have been given and double check the information through a thorough site visit. You may recall that one of the first design lessons we were taught in “Design 101” was to “conduct a proper Inventory and Analysis.”


Round Table

Learning to Play, Playing to Learn How outdoor environments for kids can spark creativity, encourage development, foster problem-solving, and provide a great place for fun MODERATED BY ERIC GORDON, OALA, AND NETAMI STUART, OALA

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CAM COLLYER IS PROGRAM DIRECTOR AT EVERGREEN, A NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION THAT BRINGS NATURE TO CITIES. BRUCE DAY WORKS FOR THE TORONTO DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD (TDSB) AS A GROUNDS SUPERVISOR, WITH A FOCUS ON RAISING THE PROFILE OF TREES, SHADE, AND OTHER GREEN OPPORTUNITIES TO IMPROVE THE ENVIRONMENTAL BALANCE AND LEARNING POTENTIAL ON THE TDSB’S SCHOOL PROPERTIES. ERIC GORDON, OALA, WORKS FOR BROOK MCILROY INC. AND IS A MEMBER OF THE GROUND EDITORIAL BOARD. CHRISTIE PEARSON PRACTISES PLAYFUL PROVOCATIONS IN PARKS, PLAYGROUNDS, POOLS, AND PUBLIC SPACES. SHE IS AN ARCHITECT AT LEVITT GOODMAN ARCHITECTS IN TORONTO. NETAMI STUART, OALA, WORKS FOR THE CITY OF TORONTO PARKS DEPARTMENT AND IS A MEMBER OF THE GROUND EDITORIAL BOARD. JOHN ZANDARIN, OWNER OF PLAYSCAPE INSPECTION AND CONSULTING INC., HAS AN EXTENSIVE BACKGROUND IN SENIOR MANAGEMENT OF MUNICIPAL PARKS AND RECREATION.

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Netami Stuart (NS): We’d like to focus on how playgrounds and playscapes promote or facilitate learning. Ten years ago, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) removed 172 structures from their school grounds due to liability concerns. How has the thinking about playgrounds in Ontario changed since then? Bruce Day (BD): The Toronto District School Board began a program called the PLE program, Playground Learning Environments. The Board wanted more learning done in the outside environment of the schools. We have a terrific inventory of property, but the outsides of schools are not used very well. In partnership with Evergreen, the TDSB has taken a different look at possibilities for that land—specifically, incorporating greening and learning possibilities. John Zandarin (JZ): The TDSB’s removal of play structures ten years ago brought into sharp relief the need for parks departments, municipalities, and anyone with a public play space to perform regular rigorous

inspections ensuring that the playgrounds were being maintained on a regular basis. There was a huge move towards the installation of protective surfacing. There wasn’t much emphasis on things like protective surfacing or inspection prior to that. BD: There’s a whole new set of standards which I think people are really aware of now. I think that has changed. NS: When I work with communities to put in new playgrounds, we are restricted to prefab play structures because those are the ones that are already safety certified, in general. You could ignore your child in the playground for the afternoon and nothing would happen. Can’t we have some structures that don’t necessarily meet these guidelines that are so strict? JZ: First of all, they are not guidelines. They are standards. The CSA Standard for Children’s Playspaces and Equipment is a voluntary standard that has been adopted nationally. Subsequent to that adoption in 1990, playgrounds started being inspected with set criteria, and that’s what led to the acceleration of better equipment, better surfacing, etc. Can you provide playgrounds that are outside that standard? Absolutely. The CSA Standard is a minimum standard of care. NS: But there’s no way a large institution or municipality would install a playground that wasn’t CSA certified because it would put itself at risk of liability. Is there anything that landscape architects can do in terms of installing playable features that might not come from a playground manufacturer and that aren’t necessarily certifiable? Christie Pearson (CP): My firm just finished a pretty successful example of that with the Native Child and Family Services project in Toronto. The play area is on a roof garden, four storeys up in the air, and we have no play equipment, no certified play equipment. The idea of the design for that roof garden was that it could be used by all ages and it could be used as an active


Round Table

play zone for very small children. Someone could be talking to their counselor while their child was playing. The area is stimulating but kids playing there don’t require constant supervision. We incorporated natural materials without the overhead elements. You keep everything low. If you’re falling from a foot or a foot and half above the ground, it’s a little bit easier. I think the natural playgrounds movement is an interesting response to that question you ask about certified equipment. Cam Collyer (CC): I’d like to return to the first question. There are a couple of changes I’ve observed in the past five or ten years. One change in particular is that in the past five years there’s been a backlash against overprotecting children, the sterilized society, the prescribed play environment, and the loss of freedom, of free play in childhood. These issues all have implications for playgrounds right now. NS: What kind of things could you design and install that would provide the kind of stimulation kids need and give them the opportunity to learn, to be by themselves and take risks? CP: There have been movements in the history of playground design which we can go back to and look at again. Maybe we can reclaim some of those adventure playground ideas; the model of the adventure playground with a monitor, which is the original adventure playground idea, so there’s an adult there. There’s a new playground in New York— the South Seaport— that I was fortunate enough to visit a couple of weeks ago, and it picks up on some of those ideas. There are objects that you can move around. There are elements of the playground that you can change. There’s a water area that’s just like a shallow puddle where you can get into mischief without hurting yourself. But you get a little bit wet. It’s an interactive environment. JZ: There’s a lot of value in sometimes not over-designing a space.

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Eric Gordon (EG): It’s an interesting problem. We now understand the value of unstructured play. How do you build a structure that supports that, essentially? CC: You’ve encapsulated the problem. Play isn’t about a structure. The trend in the past thirty years is that play is about structure. The playground is the piece of equipment. This is fundamentally wrong. It’s a complete misconception about play, and it’s been extrapolated into design. A great example of an alternative approach is the design of Teardrop Park, in New York, designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh. A close colleague of mine, Robin Moore, played a role as a consultant on that project. In an interview about the park, Van Valkenburgh ended up talking about the play value. He said the big moment for him came when Robin said: Don’t think of the playground, think of the play value of the entire space. Think about the social value, and where the parents go, can they leave the kids, and what are the sight lines, and where is the seating, and where would you eat, and all these things. It’s all thought of together. MATERIALS AND ASSUMPTIONS CC: Things that kids can manipulate are essential. Loose parts have a lot of play value. Play and learning are very closely mixed for children. And so you want to create a diverse environment where they are learning about a lot of things. Where they are playing with a lot of mixed materials and a lot of natural materials as part of that mix. Natural materials have all sorts of qualities that are so important in learning for children, from how things react to sunlight, to how they react to water, to how they decompose, to the wonderful diversity of all the different shapes and types of leaves on trees. This is all learning, and you don’t get that with a box of foam. NS: In Toronto parks, what we have as loose parts are basically pieces of plastic toy garbage. They already exist in playgrounds all over, and kids make excellent use of them and they actually don’t really care whether something is broken or not.

CC: There are a couple of basic assumptions about playgrounds. One is that play sites will not be supervised; that there’s no adult involvement. Another is that there should be no maintenance. These are very powerful assumptions. They’re very, very different in different places in the world. Change one of those assumptions and the landscape changes and what you can do changes. I spent a fair amount of time in Europe looking into this, and you see supervision. Light supervision, but supervision. And you get a whole different range of opportunities. There’s a cost there, but it speaks to an investment in children’s environments. JZ: There are an awful lot of assumptions made; sometimes good, sometimes bad. Often, I’ll be in a playspace and see children running around barefoot in a sandbox. You couldn’t maintain sandboxes enough to make sure that they’re 100 percent safe and pristine 100 percent of the time in a public playspace. It’s incredible to see the faith that people have with these areas. In some cases, they let their children play almost completely unsupervised. CP: I think those are really important points, but whose role that maintenance is, is questionable. There are certain areas that I feel we’re over-policing, and there are other places where I think we could do more. Frankly, it’s income related, too. If I go to a park in an area that’s not wealthy, there’s more trash in the sandbox. I could have a full-time job raking out the sand in the park near me! Why doesn’t Parks and Recreation take responsibility for all the parks evenly? In the City of Toronto, there are groups of people who speak and there are groups of people who don’t speak. And the people who speak get things done and their parks are more interesting and things happen in their neighbourhood. Citizens have so much power. But the city still has the responsibility to maintain things. NS: I think that a lot of the time the Parks Department is reactive. It takes a lot more planning and time, staff time and resources, to be able to get ahead of everything in


Round Table

order to plan and decide what we are going to do. Those are resources, and everybody’s under-resourced…

areas. We’re taking areas of the school and we’re not mowing the turf any more. CP: Does that work well?

BD: I’ve been with the board for 26 years and during those 26 years we have removed a lot of asphalt from schools that were basically paved from the wall of the school to the fence. We have turned those areas into running tracks, sports fields, tree planting areas, playgrounds, etc. But the staff levels haven’t changed at all. We have nine full-time grounds staff for 180 schools. A lot of people don’t realize that the numbers are not what they should be. To take care of an asphalt yard, you patch a few holes now and then, but when you put in tennis courts, play structures, running tracks, sports fields, and trees, the staff levels need to increase. NS: We under-invest in children’s environments, in children’s learning environments, in Canada. We don’t necessarily spend a lot of time and energy thinking about the outside of the building a lot of the time. EG: If you could make one change in the way that playgrounds are designed in Ontario, what would it be? BD: When we work on the Playground Learning Environment program, which I mentioned at the beginning, schools are given a certain amount of funding to replace the old structures that were taken out. What we are seeing is that in some cases schools are choosing not to replace the structures with a playground but to head off in a little different direction. Instead of putting in a $70,000 or $80,000 playground, they say, let’s do something for $50,000 and put the other $20,000 or $30,000 into other features. Those could be trails, for example. Hills are a huge problem at the Board. We cannot protect the trees on them and keep the soil from eroding. What we’ve done at a few schools is just supply piles of mulch. Kids will make their own little hills, or low hills, and you never have to resod these or reseed them or work on them. Kids dig in them. They shape them. They use them for bicycles, moguls. We’ve also done a number of what we originally called no-mow

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BD: Yes. We’ve renamed them nature study areas because no-mow has the connotation of no maintenance. After five years, some really exciting things are happening in schools where we haven’t cut the grass. Hundreds and hundreds of free trees come up in these areas. And wildflowers and bugs. So instead of putting your child on a bus and sending them to an outdoor education centre, you know that some of these schools have terrific sources of learning right in their backyard. NS: It’s amazing how much you can do, and what you can do, with just trees, rocks, and mulch. Even when you’re really, really restricted with your palette of things to work with as a landscape architect… CP: If I could make one change to playgrounds, what I would do is: more wildness. I mean wildness in a lot of different dimensions. There’s the wildness at the edges of your abilities, your physical abilities. There’s wildness at the edges of your imagination, the sort of frontiers of what you’re thinking about. Play has the ability to take you, in a pleasant way, to the edge of what you can do. There’s also the wildness that’s in the material world. A whole fascinating universe opens up in those wonderful no-mow areas. JZ: If I could change one thing, I would emphasize education. Not in the traditional sense of a sign stuck on a post telling people what to do; rather in forms of education that take place as part of the exploration of a playground. The playground should become almost intuitive to the needs of the user. A trail leads you to the next thing and the next bend provides you with the next vista and it encourages you to explore for fossils and limestone deposits, or something like that. We’re blessed, absolutely blessed, in this province with a plethora of opportunities in environments. So I think we should really get our heads out of the sandbox…

CC: I think it’s important for designers to think about using whole materials as much as they can. For example, if you can put in a whole stone rather than a cut stone, put that in. If you can put in a log, even if you have to debark it, leave its surface. The child is then closer to a sense of wildness, to their sense of exploring something in its own form, something unmanipulated by human hands. One of the things that defines our kids these days is that they don’t roam like we did. They go to the end of the block and that’s it, whereas we went miles to unknown wild areas, fringe areas, where we had that encounter with wildness. So we need to think about wildness in a childhood that’s much more cultivated. We need to present that wildness closer at hand. It’s tough, but we’ve got to look for it wherever we can. Vegetation ties into this idea of diversifying a site, too. Create a richdimensioned landscape with vegetation as the base structure. BD: I can think of a very good example of that. We had an old forested area of sugar maple, birch, oak, beech, basswood, but it was in decline. And so we just said that we weren’t going to cut the area any more. We have thousands of trees coming up now. The forest floor is alive with insects and birds. There are wildflowers growing. There are walnut trees in there as well, even though there weren’t any walnut trees on the property originally. So there’s a huge learning opportunity for the children: where did the walnuts come from? Were they imported by squirrels? CP: It’s important to remember that you can’t just put a rock and a log in a park beside the play area. You actually have to make it interesting. You have to use all of your design expertise to think about routes through, and think about creative spaces, and how those plants relate to the play structure. BD: Isn’t it ironic that we spend all this time and energy trying to recreate what already exists? When I grew up, we used to have a park that was completely manicured. The only wild things were the trees. When we wanted something different, we’d go to the ravine. So I think part of this is about creating


Round Table

spaces, but also maybe about maintaining and preserving what’s already there. NS: Along with wildness, it’s important to think about richness as well—all the different kinds of experiences. BD: One thing you have to be very careful about is that there are so many different needs and wants at the schools. You’ve got the phys-ed teacher who says you cannot do this because I need that for football or soccer. And then you’ve got the eco-schools squad. It’s very important to get a balance of things and so it’s not just an asphalt skirting and a sodded playing field. We have that richness and balance in the natural world… NS: I’d like to talk about older kids and teenagers who, in my experience, are the most maligned park users and school users. How can we provide an outdoor experience that’s educational for them as well, and what kinds of things would be helpful? BD: For the older kids, we did something at Humberside Collegiate [in the west end of Toronto] where we set a double row of armour stones into a hill. The older kids used that for music, drama, presentations, and those sort of things. It’s well used when they go out there and sit in the shade for lunch or for socializing. Places to sit are really important and trees are definitely a big part of that. CC: I would really echo that. My first thought regarding the youth category was around the social aspect and creating social environments that really work for them. There’s a tremendous opportunity to engage them in the process. The best projects I’ve seen at a dozen high schools all had this level of engagement and it really opened up career thinking for the kids. It can be one of their first big moments of community engagement that has meaning, where their eyes really open to the power of being involved in something and that real sense of ownership. In elementary school you’re designing for the kids. There’s engagement that you can do there, but at a high school it’s different. It’s always a club at a high school; it’s not a class. But that

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club, you can really do something neat with them in the school environment and that extends actually to the park environment as well. OPPORTUNITIES CC: What are we doing well? I tie that back to the first question, which is what’s changed in the last ten years. I often say to people, name me a good children’s landscape designer in Canada… I don’t think the design community has a lot of experience here in Canada or in Ontario with good playgrounds, either at schools or in the public realm. I think that it’s starting to change. We’re starting to see people who are getting some work under their belt, who are staying abreast with what’s going on internationally. The sophistication of the discussion is growing. NS: I asked someone who has twenty years of experience hiring and overseeing the design of playgrounds and parks for his opinion about why we, in Ontario, have playscapes that are less rich and less imaginative than in many other places. He said that we don’t spend enough money. We don’t pay enough money for good play. We don’t pay enough money for the structures. We don’t pay enough money for the designers to design everything else. We don’t spend enough time thinking about how we do it. We don’t spend enough time maintaining what we have. You want better structures, spend more money. JZ: There’s also a reluctance for people to take that next step, to make play a little more adventurous, a little more interesting. Unfortunately, many people have been brainwashed to think that playgrounds are just play structures. Most traditional play structures make it difficult for adults to play with their children. The structures are designed for youth, from 1.5 to 12 years of age. They weren’t designed for both adults and children. That makes it difficult for a parent or caregiver to accompany a child and help the child learn how to play. Traditionally, the caregiver or parent just stands at the bottom of the slide, watching their children at play.

BD: These are investments in the future. It’s a long-term investment in the future. And the TDSB is no different than the parks. The green components are the ones that are out of money. Quite often it’s that component that we’re trying to promote. We’ve got the money for the play structure but we don’t have the money for the greening. Those are the soft, inquisitive, exploratory pieces that we can never seem to get enough of. CC: I think the design community needs to be challenged to do this well. What are the building blocks of a good designer of a school ground? My list has four things: knowledge of outdoor education, outdoor learning; knowledge of child development, different things for the different ages, what they do, their size, their abilities, their sensory interests, and all that other stuff; knowledge of design; and knowledge of nature. I think we’ve got a lot of designers out there with not enough knowledge of nature. NS: It would be great if the landscape architecture schools encouraged their students to think and learn more about these issues. I attended the University of Toronto and I don’t think I designed a playground the whole time I was there, for three years. And I didn’t learn much about childhood education. I didn’t learn much about outdoor education. It would have been very interesting, very helpful. CC: What we need to remember—and it bears repeating—is that the domain of a child has changed a lot. It’s extremely small compared to what it was for every single designer, for sure. Schoolgrounds and playgrounds are much, much more important in the lives of children now than they were in our lives. I mean, my local school ground and my local park were just a fragment of my childhood outdoor spaces. But for my two sons, these places are a big part of their outdoor lives. They don’t play in the ravine, like we did as kids. They don’t wander wildly like we all did. MANY THANKS TO VAN THI DIEP FOR TRANSCRIBING THIS ROUND TABLE DISCUSSION.


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The Real Dirt on Playgrounds Who better to critique the design of playgrounds and play structures than the children who spend their time swinging, climbing, running, and generally making use of these places and objects? The following critiques are from three experts—Louis (six years old), Kate (four years old), and Wilson (two years old)—who visited four Toronto parks and provided frank commentary on the diverse amenities of each McCleary Playground (a natural playground) Louis: I love the slide because I can throw my shoes off the top. It’s fun. I like the big rope. It’s hard to balance on. Kate: I like climbing up the slide. The climbing rocks are a bit scratchy.

Sir Casimir Gzowski Park (a park with new landscape structures and equipment for both junior and senior children) Louis: I love the twisting turning thing. Kate: I like the dolphin sculpture. I can climb on it. I love climbing on everything. Wilson loves everything that wobbles.

Wilson loves the sand pit. Jimmie Simpson Park (a park with relatively old but solid equipment for both junior and senior children) Louis: There is so much stuff! I like the zip line. It’s the best. The fireman’s pole is cool, too. I found a Tech Deck! Kate: I like sitting under stuff. It’s like being in a house. I like the swings. I can swing on my belly. Wilson loves the zip line and peeking through the perforated sides of the platforms.

Withrow Park (a park with old-school equipment and play structures, lots of discarded plastic toys, and clear signs of community involvement) Louis: Everything here is the best! It’s so big and the stuff is so different. I really like the extra high fireman’s pole. Kate: I love everything! My favourite things are all the kitchens in the sandbox (abandoned plastic kitchens). There are sooo many! I also like the mini monkey bars a lot. Wilson loves the abandoned plastic cars and trucks that he can ride in, in the empty splash pad, even if most of them have broken wheels. MANY THANKS TO AMY TURNER, LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURAL INTERN, AND HER FAMILY.

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Places of Learning

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George Dark in conversation with Alissa North about the design of university campuses— the strategies and challenges of implementing new ideas

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Alissa North (AN): Thomas Gaines, in The Campus as a Work of Art, suggests that a campus with less than stellar buildings can still be successful if the urban open spaces are successful, but that the reverse doesn’t work. Poorly designed spaces bound by excellent buildings do not make a good campus. What, from your perspective, does make a successful campus? George Dark (GD): If you said that to any provost at a Canadian university or even a fairly good American university, they would just laugh. Most universities beyond the very old schools and the Ivy League are not that strong, in terms of physical design, despite some being very strong academically. A campus in the city uses the city, which is richer than any campus could ever create on its own. We are doing a master plan for the University of Toronto at Scarborough. Part of the master plan is about the campus, and part of the master plan is about using the rest of the land to bring the city to it, to actually make the richness of the urban experience a big part of the university: to bring in shopping, to bring in office space, to bring in housing, to bring in a hotel, to put the Pan American Games on it.

ALISSA NORTH IS AN ASSISTANT PROFESSOR IN THE LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE PROGRAM AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO AND A PARTNER IN NORTH DESIGN OFFICE. GEORGE DARK, OALA, IS A PARTNER IN URBAN STRATEGIES, A TORONTO-BASED PLANNING AND URBAN DESIGN FIRM.

There are campuses that care very much about their landscape. The trees at the Harvard Yard, for example, have their own endowment—I think it’s 5 million dollars just to make the trees happy. Stanford is stunning. Part of it is because the planning group at Stanford consists of many landscape architects.

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AN: With those trees, you feel smart just walking through the Harvard Yard! At the University of Virginia, you have a clear image of the lawn; at Oxford, it’s the pristine courtyards where the stripes of the mow are always evident. These places have a strong international reputation for what is happening inside the buildings, but they have a really strong visual cohesion, too. I suspect it has a lot to do with their very well-designed landscapes. While at Hargreaves Associates I worked on the University of Cincinnati master plan. Hargreaves’ approach is very much about a guiding master plan and then also procurring the detailed design work and taking the projects through to construction. There was also an interesting synergy with

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AN: You set the overall vision for it. What’s the exact mechanism, particularly on campuses, that allows the vision to come to fruition?

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their campus architect, who was on board with the open space vision, along with their financial advisor. The three got a lot done in a short period of time.

GD: I think the thing that’s important at a university is: First you have to get them into the business, because in a lot of cases you’ll find that that kind of work is largely being controlled by people who do maintenance and operations so, in general, they are not attached to the idea of making it better through design. They have a lot of issues that need to be dealt with first, like deferred maintenance and parking.

You are in the business of planning and urban design, but you don’t do detailed construction. I’ve always been very interested in this stance, in that a lot of your projects do get built. GD: We have a real interest in setting the stage for excellence to happen. We don’t even fool ourselves into thinking that we would be capable of executing some of these things from the past.

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I am particularly focused on creating systems where you have to hire a landscape architect to get you to the end. I actually have no desire to do any of the commissions here at Urban Strategies though I have an intense interest in how they get done.

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The Cornell campus master plan by Urban Strategies Inc. has been award winning.

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The aim of Urban Strategies’ University of Toronto at Scarborough campus plan has been to help create a more self-sustaining, comprehensive university and less of a satellite.

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University of Ottawa is a little bit different. They have run out of space. They don’t have anywhere to build anything. They were building into the neighbourhood, which is never a good thing for a university to do. We helped them understand how to turn themselves around and go build into the city, to build up into the downtown. We did many interviews, and discovered that one of the reasons people come to school here is that they actually think they’re going to school in downtown Ottawa. They think it’s urban. So we told the rector, “you’ve got this problem. You’ve been buying land to the west and to the south, when in actual fact you should have started a long time ago to buy land to the north.” We had to actually pick them up and turn them around to head them in another direction. 08

You have to convince somebody–and it’s usually quite high up–that they also have to go at the public realm; that because they act like a city, and because they occupy territory like a city, and they have what are essentially trees and parks and parkways and environmental precincts, they should be behaving the way a city would in organizing all that. Often, they don’t. They don’t understand the complexity of that. They don’t have a high enough environmental standard for the creeks that go through, they don’t create good stormwater management, they do irresponsible planting, they use annuals instead of creating perennial gardens, they don’t look for diversity, they have no interest in nature in the city…none of that stuff is usually there, so you have to coax them into all that. I think that really great universities have somebody whose job it is to take care of those things and to advance those agendas.

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AN: Urban Strategies has done quite a few university campuses. What’s your approach to starting on a master plan? GD: You know, what happens at Urban Strategies is not a standard business model–we start everything from scratch. We don’t pull a drawer open and have an approach. It’s probably a big business failing [laughter], but that’s how we do it. In the case of Cornell, they really wanted to back up and envision everything. And we are continuing to do it now. I think at this point we are looking at the whole many thousands of acres that they own.

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Brock University is a fairly traditional plan. How do we do growth? How do we put new facilities in place? Our new one, which is OUIT in downtown Oshawa, is about helping Oshawa become a big city. It’s about helping OUIT get their campus growing. The U of T Scarborough campus plan, which we’re just finishing now, is aimed at helping them become less of a satellite and more of a self-sustaining, comprehensive university. In most cases we’re putting our fingers on a whole lot of things and drawing them together. We’re pretty comfortable working in all kinds of arenas.


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The suburban universities are trying to get out of the parking business and get themselves closer together. The urban campuses are running out of space. AN: Michael Sorkin says: “The university campus is an ideal form of the city, and campus planning a privileged form of urban planning. Like a city, a campus supports a complete ecology, including an idea about community, an enclosed economy, urban density, clear physical boundaries and set of daily habits that are characteristic of town life.” I think it’s a very interesting point. You were talking a lot about the integration of campuses into the city, and Sorkin makes a strong point about the campus being an entity of its own.

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AN: Campuses really are complex places that have identities of their own but are very much tied into the city and even the infrastructural components of the city. GD: What’s so remarkable about the histories of universities in Ontario is that the government decided we needed post-secondary education and we needed to get it distributed throughout the province, so virtually the same group of people created all of the universities almost all in the same vein. They put a ring road around the outside, they created lots of parking, and they created a very suburban, spatially separated series of individualized buildings, which were largely given to individual groups. They didn’t care about transit because in those days there wasn’t any. The land was free. Overwhelmingly those places are dominated by parking. The double cohort made people panic, and then they realized there is a kind of “post-double cohort” because more people kept coming, so the universities had to start building. There’s a whole wave of people trying to re-plan those suburban places. Along the way they discovered some interesting things. For example, the University of Ottawa asked whether it was a good idea for every individual department to have their own building, and they decided to centralize space that departments could then access. All of a sudden the world got really interested in mashing things together. Innovation started to become very important and suddenly engineering and medicine crashed together. Human ecology was created as a faculty division. That’s changed a lot. The people who are going to university now are older. The need to have several residences has diminished because generally now what happens is people will go to a residence for one or two semesters at the most. Universities have also decided they shouldn’t be in the housing business. Most American universities stopped building housing twenty-five years go. They’ve mostly privatized housing to outside companies.

GD: I agree with that completely. I think it’s abundantly true. I think you could go into cities and describe precinct characteristics, which is a very common thing to do urbanistically: where is downtown, where is centre town, where is midtown? Any time you go to a city that has a university you’ll go study the university campus and start to define it around its own terms. AN: What, ultimately, is the role of the landscape on a campus in terms of higher learning for universities and research institutes? GD: I think it can operate on many different levels. We are trying to get the University of Toronto at Scarborough, which owns a vast piece of valley system, to use that landscape for academic purposes. The original plantations in the gorge at Cornell were initially part of the teaching program. Cornell’s rural use of land as outdoor classrooms comes right into the urban campus. That’s why it broke my heart when they took the barns out of the University of Guelph to build a big box instructional centre. I think that was the worst thing they could have done. I’m a great believer in nature in the city. I think that people have to learn, or re-learn, about the landscape, and universities can play that role, as U of T does, and say we have the generosity of the open space, the nature, the access to sunlight, inside an urban condition and it’s good for our students, and those who are around us, and we should share. AN: Essentially, the campus landscape has a quality that the university can use for research, they can use it for education, and also just pure enjoyment. MANY THANKS TO JENNIFER MAHONEY FOR TRANSCRIBING THIS CONVERSATION.

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St. George Street, which runs through the University of Toronto downtown campus, was revitalized by Brown + Storey Architects in joint venture with Van Nostrand Di Castri Architects in an effort to make the thoroughfare more attractive and pedestrian friendly.

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Pushing the Boundaries

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TEXT BY NANCY CHATER, OALA

Garden festivals thrive on the creative tension between the ancient and recognizable forms of the garden and its constant transformation in the hands of designers who are offered the freedom to experiment, to question, and reframe all the elements that make up a garden—scale, materials, composition of form, experience of the body in space, conceptual ordering principles. In a festival setting, the ephemeral quality of an installation further transforms what is possible to imagine and make of a garden at a particular moment in time. Now in its eleventh year, the International Festival of Gardens at Jardins de Métis, Quebec, focused in 2010 on the theme of “Paradise.” Designers were asked, “what does Paradise look like today?” The original garden of Paradise could be described as a hotbed of anxiety about learning from the garden, and a place in which an appetite for knowledge—eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil—apparently ruined everything, or at least set a whole new world in motion. What better jumpingoff point for thinking about garden festivals as celebrations of the collision between accepted and emergent concepts of the garden?

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Dymaxion Sleep by Jane Hutton and Adrian Blackwell redefines how we move through the garden. The garden stroll or passive garden seat is reconfigured in a stretchy, bouncy horizontal terrain raised over aromatic plantings. In the form of an unfolded icosahedron based on Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion World Map, the ground plane is lifted to become a communal bed, a playful trampoline, a public chaise lounge, brushing against plants below. Soft netting invites sleeping in public, an act of vulnerability and therefore trust. By destabilizing bodies in the space of the garden, Dymaxion Sleep foregrounds its fundamentally social nature. The pleasure of getting horizontal in public offered by the beach or the grassy plain of a park moves to the garden and lifts us, literally, to a new perspective.

Jardin de la Connaissance by Thilo Folkerts and Rodney Latourelle is comprised of 40,000 discarded books that become the walls, benches, and even a carpet in this garden—and then instantly begin to decay. The process of decomposition is highlighted by interplanting eight mushroom species in the pages of moldering books. This garden evokes the role of language, discourse, and knowledge transmission in our understanding of the garden as a cultural form. As a physical embodiment of knowledge and culture, the book is vulnerable to the elements, while as a potent symbol the decaying books remind us that ideas migrate beyond the material bounds of book jackets through human interaction and memory. Decaying books could also signal a sea change in the role of the paper book in our digital age at the onset of e-books. 01/ 03/ 09/ 10/

Tiny Taxonomy by Rosetta Sarah Elkin

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Tiny Taxonomy by Rosetta Sarah Elkin takes the act of observation that the garden invites and refocuses our attention on the small plants of the forest floor. A laboratory of mirrored cylinders of various heights echoes the form of tree trunks through which they are loosely scattered and lifts the plants, like sections pushed out of the ground, up to eye level. This garden shifts the scale of looking to the close-up view and cultivates an appreciation for the delicate “natural” composition of the forest by reframing what is typically overlooked as a “garden.” BIO/ NANCY CHATER, OALA, IS CO-CHAIR OF THE GROUND EDITORIAL BOARD.

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Showing and Telling

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Showing and Telling

Ontario’s publicly accessible demonstration gardens and arboreta offer opportunities for close contact with plants

arboreta in Ontario botanical gardens and conservatories ecological demonstration and butterfly habitat gardens


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TEXT AND MAP BY LESLIE MORTON

1. Ottawa Dominion Arboretum and Ornamental Gardens The arboretum displays 1,700 different species and varieties of plants. 2. Toronto Humber Arboretum The arboretum features 250 acres of land and more than 10 kilometres of paths and trails through public gardens, meadows, forests, wetlands, wildlife corridors, and waterways. 3. Guelph The Arboretum, University of Guelph With 1,700 different kinds of trees and shrubs, the 165-hectare arboretum includes 8.2 kilometres of signed trails. 4. Burlington Royal Botanical Gardens This large and renowned botanical garden includes formal collections (irises, lilacs, roses) and extensively trailed natural areas. 5. London Sherwood Fox Arboretum The arboretum encompasses all the planted trees and shrubs on the University of Western Ontario campus (excluding the natural areas) and represents the biodiversity of woody plants hardy in temperate regions. 6. Owen Sound Grey Sauble Conservation Arboretum and Butterfly Garden Sixty different species of trees and shrubs— approximately half of which are native to Ontario—are represented in this arboretum. 7. Sault Ste. Marie Great Lakes Forestry Centre The arboretum currently includes more than one hundred species of trees and shrubs representing thirty-five genera.

8. Toronto The Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat (HBBH) HBBH is an ecological restoration project that provides critical habitat for a variety of native butterfly species, with native wildflowers, shrubs, trees, grasses, sedges, and a variety of physical features known to support butterflies throughout their life cycle. 9. Toronto Toronto Botanical Garden The Toronto Botanical Garden offers an array of 12 award-winning themed gardens spanning nearly four acres. 10. Toronto Allan Gardens Conservatory Allan Gardens Conservatory is more than 100 years old and includes 16,000 square feet of greenhouse area containing tropical plants from all over the world. 11. Toronto Spadina Quay Wetland The Spadina Quay Wetland demonstrates how a brownfield site can be regenerated into a functional wildlife habitat, a biologically diverse area, as well as an attractive public park. 12. Burlington Helen M. Kippax Garden This 0.4-hectare garden, at the Royal Botanical Gardens, demonstrates how, along with their beauty, native plants bring ecological function, biodiversity, and sustainability to gardens. 13. Oshawa Oshawa Valley Botanical Gardens In addition to 1,100 acres of parkland and 10 kilometres of bicycle and walking trails, there is an education centre for horticultural learning programs. 14. Thunder Bay Centennial Botanical Conservatory Exotic flowers, trees, shrubs, and other plants from around the world are featured in a year-round tropical setting.

15. St. Agatha Diversity Gardens Located on a Hydro right of way, this 2-acre organic demonstration gardens was created in 2002 to provide hands-on training in growing ornamentals, vegetables, fruits, and herbs using organic techniques. 16. Halton Hills Willow Park Ecology Centre This 2.1- hectare nature preserve on the banks of the Credit River provides habitat for plants and animals. 17. Niagara Falls Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens School of Horticulture One of the highlights of these beautifully maintained gardens, spread out over 40 hectares, is the world-famous rose garden featuring more than 2,400 roses. 18. Mississauga The Riverwood Conservancy A public garden, park, and nature preserve, Riverwood provides horticultural, stewardship, heritage, and environmental programs and related services, with a particular emphasis upon children and youth. 19. Peterborough Ecology Park Ecology Park has a collection of displays— from the Compost Clinic to the Food Garden—that demonstrate many different approaches to good land stewardship. 20. London London Greenhouse and Civic Garden Complex The City of London has been growing its own high-quality, annual flower displays for nine decades in a greenhouse complex that includes a tropical plant collection.


Professional Practice

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An Eclectic Path

Clara Kwon, OALA, spent two years at the University of Waterloo in the undergraduate Planning Program before pursuing her BLA at the University of Guelph. During her studies at Guelph she spent a summer working at Humber Nurseries in Brampton, Ontario, in an encyclopedic department of more than 3,000 varieties of perennials. Upon graduating, Clara followed her interest in organic farming out to B.C., where she spent five weeks helping out on farms on an island that was completely off the grid.

Following her interests has led Clara Kwon on a journey between city and country TEXT BY ERIC GORDON, OALA

This is the third in a three-part series that explores the variety of options available to students upon graduating with a degree in landscape architecture. This series looks at the choices made by three successful young professionals as they reflect on their first five years of post-graduate work experience. After graduating from the same class at the University of Guelph with their Bachelor of Landscape Architecture degrees in 2005, each has taken a different route towards their current positions, which are in themselves diverse. They have each chosen different geographical and cultural environments in which to work, representing isolated, rural, and urban contexts, as well as public sector, design-build/entrepreneur, and private sector placements, respectively.

This interest in farming led her to a book by Masanobu Fukuoka called The One-Straw Revolution, which explores a philosophy of farming whereby a symbiotic mix of edible plants naturally forms a self-sustaining source of food—requiring minimal human input. This reading prompted her to visit a small farm in Quebec to see first hand how this technique was being implemented. After her agricultural foray, Clara headed back to Toronto to jump into the practice of landscape architecture. As she explains, “I was very fortunate to be hired as a landscape architectural intern at Victor Ford & Associates, a small office in the TrinityBellwoods neighbourhood of Toronto. It was great to work across the street from a wonderful park, close to a lot of galleries, and for a very nurturing employer.” After a year with Victor Ford & Associates, Clara made a big move to an even bigger city—New York. She had landed a job as a landscape architectural intern with Ken Smith, Landscape Architect, one of the most renowned offices in the country.

In this issue, we profile Clara Kwon, OALA, a landscape architect with du Toit Allsopp Hillier, an interdisciplinary firm located in downtown Toronto.

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While working at Ken Smith’s office, Clara found herself involved with exciting projects such as a penthouse terrace facing Central Park, and Manhattan’s East River Waterfront. Her duties ranged from co-managing the penthouse project to conducting research, coordinating consultants, producing drawings, building models, and coordinating with architects, engineers, and fabricators. Clara explains that she learned a lot during her time in New York. In particular, she learned to work efficiently in order to keep up with such a fast-paced environment. She also had to learn how to position presentation materials specifically for the viewer, communicating ideas clearly and precisely—down to the last word. Clara notes how working in the New York context taught her a lot about hard materials, as most of the firm’s projects were built on a deck or platform of some sort, and seldom were they dealing with an undisturbed sub-grade. However, it was in part this hard-edged quality of New York life that prompted her to return home to the Toronto area. As Clara explains: “I love the city, it’s where I feel at home. I love the concentration of people, ideas, food, art, and music. It’s stimulating and inspiring. It can also be exhausting. I really missed seeing trees and front gardens and chirping birds (besides pigeons!) while living in New York, although I did love the opportunity to see some of


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the greatest art in the world with just a swipe of the MetroPass. I really felt disconnected from plants in the city, however, and feel rejuvenated by spending some time in the country.” So that’s exactly what she did. Clara left New York and took up a position with the Kayanase Ecological Restoration Company on the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford, Ontario. There she researched business opportunities towards the goal of expanding the company’s services to include landscape design. During her time there, Clara also explored other interests, such as taking a medicinal herb course, or spending two weeks as an architectural resident with the Banff Centre for the Arts where, with a small group, she explored the theme of the “critical landscape.” After six months with Kayanase Ecological Restoration, Clara headed back to Toronto where she found a placement with du Toit Allsopp Hillier (DTAH) —a highly regarded architectural, urban design, and landscape architectural firm. Clara has been with DTAH for more than a year, and has been working on a variety of projects. She has been doing some contract administration for the new campus at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) in Oshawa, where she says she’s learning how things get built and getting a better taste of the legal side of the practice. Clara also worked on an 80-acre master plan for the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre near St. Catharines in Ontario’s wine country. On this project, she worked with the architectural firm Diamond Schmitt to help elevate the centre into a world-class hub for agricultural research.

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and degraded nature and high- and lowbrow culture convene. It’s a quick drive to the Don River and Evergreen Brick Works, a short walk down to Yonge Street for bargain shopping, cheap lunch, psychic readings, and strip clubs, and to Yorkville for designer labels, ladies who lunch, $100 olive oils, and the Royal Ontario Museum. It’s a great cross-section of Toronto.” 05

Currently, Clara is involved in the design of a mixed-use subdivision where, under the direction of John Hillier and Brent Raymond, she is helping to create concept designs and site plan applications. Clara is looking forward to learning about all aspects of the practice, and feels DTAH is a great environment in which to do so, due to their mix of people, skills, and services. It looks as though Clara has returned to the city for the long-term, but how will she manage her clear affinity for plants and nature in an urban context? Clara admits that getting out of the city from time to time is something she feels she needs to do. For instance, she is currently taking an organic farming class that meets once a month near Kingston, Ontario. Urban environments inevitably offer a larger pool of employers to draw from, but for Clara it wasn’t a numbers game—it was always about fit; it was about finding a place that matched her professional goals, as well as her unending curiosity. She is particularly fond of the area near her office: “DTAH is at Bloor and Yonge, Toronto, where restored

Maybe the strongest reason Clara keeps returning to the city is that for her it is home. Clara’s career since finishing her BLA has been all over the map. She has followed her interests wherever they may lead, and has grown personally and professionally as a result. When asked what advice she might have for new graduates, her response is advice that she has clearly followed herself, and with great results: “Be curious and follow your heart.” BIO/ ERIC GORDON, OALA, WORKS AT BROOK MCILROY INC. AND IS A MEMBER OF THE GROUND EDITORIAL BOARD.

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Clara Kwon worked on DTAH’s master plan for the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre.

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During her residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts, Kwon visited the Columbia Icefields and did two installations.

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The installation of pavers on the East River waterfront in NYC

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North Pond at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa (UOIT)

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South Pond at UOIT

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Technical Corner

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Eco Points

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Ontario pilot project tests SITES system

04 TEXT BY NANCY CHATER, OALA

Melanie Sifton, Director of Humber Arboretum and the Centre for Urban Ecology, is enthusiastic about the Arboretum’s participation in the pilot study for Sustainable Landscape Initiative (SITES). [See Ground 11, Technical Corner, for details on SITES.] One of only two Ontario sites participating in the study, the Humber Aboretum has committed to a variety of preservation and restoration goals for a 5-acre area within its 250-acre site. As we tour the Centre for Urban Ecology building and its surrounding landscapes on a beautiful fall day, Sifton points out a number of challenges that exist within the three main landscapes that comprise the focus of the study. A stormwater-fed pond, a remnant Carolinian maple-beech forest, and a vegetated slope built on construction fill that has been taken over by invasive plants will each be subject to interventions to make them more sustainable.

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Sifton is well versed in the guidelines and rating system of SITES. As a graduate student in Cornell University’s Public Garden Leadership Program, she helped to write the initial benchmark guidelines. She advocated for opening up the study to international participants, bringing Canada into the mix. Sifton explains that SITES is new-construction focused but does allow for retrofitting existing sites, such as the Arboretum.

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Technical Corner

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Three Landscapes in Pilot Study Sifton notes a number of key credits within the SITES rating system that she believes the Arboretum can achieve through interventions: manage stormwater on site; engage users and other stakeholders in site design; minimize soil disturbance in design and construction; reduce urban heat island effects; use vegetation to reduce building heating and cooling requirements; promote sustainability awareness and education; reduce light pollution; reuse or recycle vegetation, rocks, and soil displaced during construction.

Humber Aboretum Established in 1977 the Humber Aboretum is a joint venture of Humber College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning, the City of Toronto, and Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. A great place to walk and explore a range

roof and native plantings of river birch and serviceberry. However, as Sifton points out, it is beyond the scope of LEED to address biodiversity or succession planting. In contrast, the SITES rating system does address such temporally based elements of landscape as a living system.

of landscapes, the Arboretum features more than 10 kilometres of trails though public gardens, meadows, forests, wetlands, wildlife corridors, and waterways. As a “tree zoo”—Sifton’s shorthand definition—the Aboretum’s main focus is on woody collections. It offers environmental and horticultural education programs for

The ponds located near the Centre for Urban Ecology were dug in the 1980s on land that was built from construction fill. They primarily capture surface runoff from surrounding soft landscape and a relatively small overflow from the green roof of the Centre for Urban Ecology, a LEED Gold-rated building which also has a 10,000-litre cistern capturing roof water and minimizing runoff. For the SITES pilot study, Sifton and Arboretum staff are removing invasive species such as European alder trees from the pond edge, and creating a 12foot wide riparian native planting buffer. A broken weir in the pond was repaired with recycled concrete, meeting use of recycled content requirements.

groups of all ages, including schools, service groups, and families.

The remnant Carolinian maple-beech forest at the south end of the site will undergo preservation initiatives, primarily through sustainable trail development in the forest. Sifton explains that woodland trails require a special type of landscape design and management. The main issue is to effectively keep people on the trails to reduce compaction and damage to sensitive forest ecologies. Keeping water off the trail is important because a dry trail surface invites use, while a wet trail leads people to seek their own route. The Arboretum takes the trail surface down to mineral soil and removes leaf litter to reduce organic build up, which creates boggy conditions. The trail surfaces are mostly packed earth, without a granular layer. The issue of wheelchair accessibility is also part of the social wellbeing criteria in SITES. Accessibility on woodland trails is a major challenge, especially when wooded slopes typically have timber steps to move through grade changes. The Aboretum will be rethinking trail design with durability and accessibility goals in mind.

A long slope behind the Centre is also part of the SITES initiative. A natural slope above the flood plain of the Humber River, the slope was built up many years ago with construction fill. Its poor quality soil supports plants comprised of about 75 percent invasive species, such as buckthorn and dog strangling vine.

The difference between LEED as an architecturally based green building rating system and the landscape focus of SITES is brought to light in the LEED Gold-rated Centre for Urban Ecology, by Taylor/Hazell Architects Limited and Architects Alliance. The striking landscape design, by Diana Gerrard, OALA, incorporated LEED initiatives such as a green

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The limit of LEED criteria in relation to landscape design and its impact on wildlife has also been foregrounded at the Centre for Urban Ecology. The extent of glass walls, generous windows, and tempered glass guardrails work beautifully to maximize natural light inside the building. However, because the site is located on a major corridor for bird migration routes from the northern boreal forest all the way to South America, the Centre has since recognized the significance of this reflective glass on bird strikes. As a result, they are experimenting with various types of netting on glass guardrails and on some windows during bird migration season to reduce reflectivity and the number of bird strikes. Sifton also notes that while LEED calls for use of native plants, the Arboretum has taken on some replanting around the Centre with the intent to plant, more specifically, material native to the ecoregion, using resources such as the Ministry of Natural Resources “seed zone maps.” Sifton notes the importance of provenance in native planting, and the related need for nurseries to source seeds from local native plants. The Aboretum is now doing organic soil management, using compost tea and peatfree soil amendments. The SITES pilot study wraps up in 2012. It will be fascinating to learn more about the results of the sustainability initiatives at the Humber Arboretum and Centre for Urban Ecology at that time. BIO/ NANCY CHATER, OALA, IS CO-CHAIR OF THE GROUND EDITORIAL BOARD AND TECHNICAL CORNER COLUMNIST.

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The Humber Arboretum is one of two Ontario sites for pilot testing the Sustainable Landscape Initiative (SITES).

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Melanie Sifton Casey Morris Tom Arban Casey Morris


Issues and Debates

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Issues and Debates Is it time for an OALA practice act?

TEXT BY RONDA KELLINGTON

When the Ontario Professional Planners Institute (OPPI) first informed the Ontario Association of Landscape Architects (OALA) of their intention to pursue public legislation establishing self-regulation of the urban and rural planning profession in Ontario, it got the OALA thinking. One immediate question regarded what effect this would have on the landscape architecture profession were OPPI to succeed. Another was the value of OALA pursuing its own practice act. A task force of OALA member-volunteers has met with OPPI. Each profession does similar types of work, and OALA task force members are agreed that OPPI gaining a practice act will negatively impact the ability of landscape architects to earn a living. But there are differing opinions as to the solutions that will prevent any harm towards the landscape architecture profession as a whole—and to individual practitioners. Task force member Kenneth Hoyle, OALA, would like OPPI to add a list of exemptions for non-OPPI members to their proposed legislation, and he’d like to see grandfathering of OALA members who earn a significant portion of their income from rendering planning advice. Hoyle believes that these two elements if included in the legislation would present the best solution. The exemptions would allow future generations of landscape architects to continue doing what they do.


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But for fellow OALA task force member Eha Naylor, OALA, exemptions and grandfathering are not the answer. “Grandfathering only lasts so long. Future generations will find themselves marginalized,” she points out. Naylor thinks that if OPPI is successful in its bid for selfregulation, planners will become the drivers or owners of those kinds of planning services. “Our profession won’t be considered the one of choice,” she adds. And faced with that, a future graduate will likely choose to become a member of OPPI. There will be no incentive to join the OALA. Naylor would like to see the OALA be aggressive in dealing with OPPI, and believes that the OALA should fight and ensure OPPI doesn’t include anything landscape architects do in their proposed legislation: “This is a wake-up call for our members. We’ve been complacent and haven’t moved the profession forward. We should take this moment and rise up as a professional organization, develop pride in our profession.” Naylor wants the OALA to be more purposeful and strident, or landscape architects will be doing planting plans only: “We see it now with engineers and grading.” The planners “want to be seen as gatekeepers of skills and expertise that are ours,” says Naylor. She considers this threatening. “It sets up a negative hierarchy. Landscape architects should be the ones with the practice act.” If OPPI is successful in gaining a practice act, “they’ll become the regulated professionals, we’ll be a club. We’ll be a small professional organization, not vital, with limited growth.” Other OALA members have suggested an OPPI practice act would mean the end of the Ontario Association of Landscape Architects and the landscape architecture profession. So should OALA pursue a practice act of its own? Hoyle’s concern is that an OALA practice act would stifle creativity. “A practice act gives an exclusive right to practise a narrowly defined scope of service and makes professionals lazy because there is no competition from others outside the profession within this narrow scope.” Hoyle values competition from architects, engineers, and fellow landscape architects. Competition makes him keener. “We should not want to segregate ourselves from other professions because it will mean a smaller definition of landscape architecture practice which will restrict us to planting plans.” Hoyle believes his services, and the services of landscape architects, are unique and valuable and will always be sought out.

Naylor’s concern is that if OPPI succeeds, planners will be up-front, they will be the strategic players doing the high-level, visionary work. She sees a trend towards more regulation, from massage therapists to graphic designers. An OALA practice act would ensure landscape architects are important players in the built environment. Naylor doesn’t see creativity being restricted. Under a practice act, OALA members would still be able to carry out whatever type of work they do now, but as professionals. It would only mean someone has an eye on it being done well. Of course, an OALA practice act must be considered within the context of the Association’s resources, Naylor cautions. OALA would have to evaluate the repercussions, including costs, staffing, and continuing education requirements. Naylor sees the OALA pursuing a practice act as a means to strengthen the profession, but Hoyle questions whether or not an OALA practice act is the only way to accomplish that. Hoyle recently came across a municipality with a policy that states architects must be the prime consultant on a park design project. OALA has to question this sort of policy and show the municipality how it is limiting itself. OALA should make municipalities think about landscape architects as prime consultants so they can get better services. And, he adds, “We should also be talking to school boards. School boards are huge landowners and are generally making bad land use decisions. Landscape architects should be there.” He mentions the Ontario Realty Corporation, another huge landowner that insists on architects or engineers as prime consultants. And Hoyle suggests, “a presentation and meeting with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario would also benefit us as well.” Hoyle doesn’t want to see the OALA spending one nickel on pursuing a practice act. “Landscape architects are in a good place and I don’t want to see us diminished.” Naylor, on the other hand, wants landscape architects to “seize the moment” and pursue self-regulation. Both perspectives are clearly centred on the OALA working to raise the profile of the profession—to build awareness of the value and relevance of landscape architects to the built environment. How do we strengthen the profession in the face of OPPI’s challenge? Is it time for an OALA practice act? BIO/ RONDA KELLINGTON IS THE OALA ADMINISTRATOR.


Notes

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Notes: A Miscellany of News and Events

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The first issue of Soiled & Seeded was recently launched.

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Soiled & Seeded

magazine

conference

Soiled & Seeded, a new on-line zine, launched its inaugural issue recently (www.soiledandseeded.com). The magazine is dedicated to “cultivating a garden culture” and features a rich and eclectic combination of articles that expand conventional thinking around gardens. The first issue includes a piece on cultivating concrete, for example. Full of inventive ideas both practical and philosophical, the zine is available for free, on-line.

The Leading Edge Conference, hosted by the Niagara Escarpment Commission and scheduled for May 26-27, 2011, will explore the cultural heritage and natural ecology of the Niagara Escarpment. Visit www.escarpment.org for details.


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new members The Ontario Association of Landscape Architects is proud to recognize and welcome the following new full members to the association. Mike Barker Robin Campbell * Ray Chong * Sarah Culp * Eric Gordon * Clara Kwon * Lisa McNiven Veronica Schroder * Michael Thistle Asterisk (*) denotes a Full Member not having custody and use of the Association seal. As of November 9, 2010, the following persons are no longer landscape architects nor members of the OALA due to their non-payment of dues. Lise Burcher Robert Packham 02

awards Scott Torrance, OALA, was recently awarded a Cities Alive award for his design of the ESRI Canada green roof in Toronto.

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The award-winning ESRI green roof was constructed with prefabricated, preplanted modular trays laid on top of existing concrete roof pavers.

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Scott Torrance Landscape Architect Inc. and Margaret Mulligan


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parks In a 2009 survey called Vital Signs, conducted by the Community Foundations of Canada, Canadians ranked public greenspaces as the most important factor contributing to their quality of life. A recently released Metcalf Foundation working paper by David Harvey, called Fertile Ground for New Thinking: Improving Toronto’s Parks, explores the state of Toronto’s parks and the challenges and opportunities for enhancing and expanding the city’s parks. To download the report, visit www.metcalffoundation.com.

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brownfields The 11th annual Canadian Urban Institute’s Brownie Awards ceremony was held in November in Toronto. The awards, sponsored by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), demonstrate the commitment to remediation of brownfield projects. Winners in seven categories from across Canada were recognized for their leadership and innovation in brownfield redevelopment. 04

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The Boardwalk is a component of the Prince Arthur's Landing project, an award-winning brownfield redevelopment in Thunder Bay.

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BMI/Pace

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The Marina Park design plan for Prince Arthur's Landing

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BMI/Pace

The CUI Brownie Award for best overall project went to the brownfield remediation and redevelopment component of the Vancouver Convention Centre’s new West building, which is the first and only convention centre in the world to be awarded a LEED platinum certification. Awards were also presented to the Prince Arthur’s Landing project (BMI/Pace) in Thunder Bay, for Best Large Scale Project, and to the John Street Roundhouse and Park project (IBI Group) in Toronto for Excellence in Project Development: Building Scale.

In an effort to increase enrollment in landscape architecture programs,the British Landscape Institute launched, in 2008, a website named I Want To Be a Landscape Architect. The goal of the initiative is to provide information about the landscape architecture profession to high school students considering further education, current university students who are interested in changing direction, and professionals who are planning a career shift. Also included are video interviews with students currently enrolled in landscape architecture programs and professionals in various stages of their careers. According to the Landscape Institute, there has been a 19 percent increase in student enrollment within U.K. programs since the site’s launch, in addition to a heightened profile for the profession. For more information, visit www.iwanttobealandscapearchitect.com or www.landscapeinstitute.org. TEXT BY KATE NELISCHER




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Artifact

Sky-high Fire Incorporating Native ceremonial uses into green roof design

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A rooftop reimagined as Native ceremonial ground could be expected to include a healing circle, plants such as sweetgrass and tobacco, and perhaps even a sweat lodge. One ritual element that might not be expected on a roof is a fire pit. At the Native Child and Family Services building in downtown Toronto, however, the rooftop fire pit is a warming presence—its gas heat source meeting fire code requirements, its flame meeting the cultural requirements of those who gather around its glow.

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The green roof at Native Child and Family Servives was a collaboration between Levitt Goodman Architects and Scott Torrance Landscape Architect.

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Ben Rahn/A-Frame

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