Are Smart Parks the Parks of the Future?

Among other surprising factors, smart parks conserve water, groom themselves, activate and deactivate, self-heal, and improve public health for their visitors without a negative impact to the environment.

How smart can a park be? The Luskin Center created a toolkit to assist landscape architects and city planners in creating sustainable, useful, and innovative urban parks.

The toolkit:

  • identifies technologies that could be or have been used in parks,
  • presents a rating system for those technologies,
  • provides guidance for park management on implementation, and
  • determines potential partnerships and funding strategies for implementing SMART Parks.


Interested in learning more? Read “Smarter Parks, Smarter Cities” by Kelsey Jessup with the



The rendering above was created by Diana (Dan Liao). Diana graduated from the AAU School of Landscape Architecture in December 2017 with her MA.

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Spring 2018 Landscape Architecture Workshops and Language Labs

Dear All Landscape Architecture Students,

Get the grades you want this semester: attend a workshop!

Workshops are like office hours with instructors:

  1. Arrive any time within the workshop time slot.
  2. Work with the instructor on whatever you need.
  3. Leave when you want.

Students who attend these workshops see improvements in their grades and more confidently complete projects.

Unsure which workshop to attend? Send me an email and I’ll be happy to help.

Sunday dates available this semester! The calendar is attached and more information is available below.


Kathryn M. Baldwin

Academic Administrator

Academy of Art University

Landscape Architecture

2801 Leavenworth [The Cannery]

San Francisco, CA 94133

Phone: 415.618.8265

Instagram and Facebook: @AAULandArch

Landscape Architecture Spring 2018 Workshop Schedule

  1. Digital Graphics and 3D Modeling with Instructor David Vasquez:
    1. Thursday, 1:30-3:30pm: 4/19/18, 04/26/18.
    2. Sunday: 1pm-3pm: 3/11/18, 03/18/18, 4/29/18, 5/6/18, 5/13/18
      1. In room 300-P
    3. Landscape Studio and Graphics with Director Jeff McLane:
      1. Thursday, 3-5pm: 3/8/18, 3/15/18, 4/12/18, 4/14/18, 4/26/18, 5/3/18, 5/10/18
        1. In room 300-C
      2. Site Planning and Natural Factors with Instructor Todd Gilens:
        1. Wednesday, 3-5pm: 3/7/18, 3/14/18, 4/11/18, 4/18/18, 4/25/18, 5/2/18, 5/9/18
          1. In room 300-B
        2. Online: Landscape Graphics Workshop with Online Director Heather Clendenin:
          1. Every Wednesday, 3:30pm-5:30pm February 21st through May 9th.
            1. In Director Heather Clendenin’s Adobe Connect Office Space
  • Reminder: Workshops will not run during school holiday closures.
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From Shanghai to San Francisco, A Tale of Two Degrees

Kaye left her family home in Shanghai about 7 years ago, headed to Santa Barbara, California to pursue a degree in Psychology.

“On my mother’s side, they’re all doctors; on my father’s side they’re all artists.”

Kaye soon realized that medicine wasn’t her calling. After a serious discussion with her Architect father, she packed her bags, enrolling at the Academy of Art University with a new goal to become her family’s first Landscape Architect. Arriving to the San Francisco art scene, Kaye had little experience drawing and like most, had only dabbled in some Photoshop. Five years later, Kaye has her Bachelor of Arts degree in Landscape Architecture and is on track to obtain her Masters in the same field next Fall 2018.

“I chose this challenge to continue after my bachelor’s degree because… I feel like I have more to learn. In China, you have to get a better education if you want to become successful. I really want to design as a park designer, with larger scale master planning projects. I understand residential [is] awesome but I really love those larger scale projects because there is more context for multipurpose use…. There are more problems to solve.”

See Kaye’s Fort Baker renderings, a master plan project she completed in her most recent Design Studio, LAN 610 with Instructor Antonia Bava.

See Kaye’s Fort Baker renderings, a master plan project she completed in her most recent Design Studio, LAN 610 with Instructor Antonia Bava.

See Kaye’s Fort Baker renderings, a master plan project she completed in her most recent Design Studio, LAN 610 with Instructor Antonia Bava. See Kaye’s Fort Baker renderings, a master plan project she completed in her most recent Design Studio, LAN 610 with Instructor Antonia Bava. See Kaye’s Fort Baker renderings, a master plan project she completed in her most recent Design Studio, LAN 610 with Instructor Antonia Bava. See Kaye’s Fort Baker renderings, a master plan project she completed in her most recent Design Studio, LAN 610 with Instructor Antonia Bava. See Kaye’s Fort Baker renderings, a master plan project she completed in her most recent Design Studio, LAN 610 with Instructor Antonia Bava.

Only able to visit her family during the summer, Kaye is sad to be missing out on “Spring Festival” in Shanghai (Chinese New Year) one more year, but she is humbly proud of how far she’s come.

“I remember my first studio class, LAN 250: Landscape Design. Jennifer, [the instructor], enlightened me about presentation skills. I print my drawings and think ‘everything is on the board and I think I’ll just point at it. I don’t know how to explain my thoughts; I don’t have the professional vocabulary to describe the process of what I did.’ After that class, [now] I have outlines to understand which part should go first, second, [and so on]: the process to organize your mind before you do anything. And practice is so important!”

“Why are presentation skills so important?” I ask.

“In the future, our clients are going to be people. Your boss and colleagues are going to be people too. You’ll have to talk to them to work together for the design… and explain with them how it’s going to work!”

As I interview Kay, she gets more comfortable and begins to exude a quiet confidence, allowing her analytical mind to shine through. She has clearly come a long way in the field and her parents must be so proud of her ability to balance art and science in this unique field.

“After all these years, when someone asks what Landscape Architecture is, how do you explain it?”

“This field, to me, is both functional and aesthetic design. We need to have knowledge of plants, weather, human and social factors, water, etc. We combine all those things in our learning process to develop our exterior living space.”

I want to give a huge thank you to Kaye for taking the time between graduate classes to share her experience with me. It was a pleasure getting to know her and I look forward to learning which Bay Area landscape design company hires her first in 2019.


Artist: Xiaohui Yan (Kaye)

Interviewer: Kathryn Baldwin, Administrator, AAU School of Landscape Architecture

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Get Involved with Cultural Landscapes

In the Landscape Architecture community, it is important to stay connected and involved. The Cultural Landscape Foundation provides a platform to do just that.

You might be wondering: What is a “Cultural Landscape”?

Cultural landscapes are landscapes that have been affected, influenced, or shaped by human involvement. A cultural landscape can be associated with a person or event. It can be thousands of acres or a tiny homestead. It can be a grand estate, industrial site, park, garden, cemetery, campus, and more. Collectively, cultural landscapes are works of art, narratives of culture, and expressions of regional identity. There are primarily four types of cultural landscapes, although any given landscape may fall under more than one typology:

These sites attract visitors and diverse attention all around the globe. Learn more about this topic and why Cultural Landscapes are so important by visiting the Foundation’s page. Don’t forget to check out their upcoming events and get involved!


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Water’s Effect on Society

“Water is a precondition for human existence and for the sustainability of the planet.”

Understanding the flow of water is a cornerstone and essential piece of becoming a landscape architect. Water is the source of existence. On an even grander perspective, learn Water Facts from the United Nations to better understand how water infiltrates every aspect of society.

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New San Francisco Planning Department Guidelines Make a Statement About San Franciscans

The San Francisco Planning Department released a revised list of 24 guidelines for site design, architecture, and public spaces. The list (below) is adorned with words that incite egalitarianism and deference. To name a few:

  • “harmonize”
  • “respect”
  • “integrate”
  • “protect”
  • “modulate”
  • sustainable

Is it possible that a city’s planning method, in itself, displays the collective opinion of the group of people living there? Can a city’s design principles create a physical and visual representation of the way its people govern and interact?

Find out for yourself and see how these guidelines are made by attending the 2nd community meeting for the “final draft of the proposed urban design guidelines” HERE on January 3rd at 6pm.

Here is the list of the new guidelines, and feel free to read more about it at 24 New Design Guidelines Hope to Establish Future Look of San Francisco

Establish Relationships and Logic

  • S1. Recognize and respond to urban patterns
  • A1. Express a clear organizing architectural idea
  • P1. Design public open spaces to connect with and complement the streetscape

Respond to Context:

  • S2. Harmonize relationships between buildings, streets, and open spaces
  • A2. Modulate buildings vertically and horizontally
  • P2. Locate and design open spaces to maximize physical comfort and visual access

Enhance Unique Neighborhoods:

  • S3. Recognize and enhance unique conditions
  • A3. Harmonize building designs with neighboring scale and materials
  • P3. Express neighborhood character in open space designs

Engage Larger Viewpoints and Systems:

  • S4. Create, protect, and support view corridors
  • A4. Design buildings from multiple vantage points
  • A5. Shape the roofs of buildings
  • P4. Support public transportation and bicycling

Design the Building Interface with the Public Realm:

  • S5. Create a defined and active streetwall
  • A6. Render building facades with texture and depth
  • A7. Coordinate building elements
  • P5. Design sidewalks to enhance the pedestrian experience

Use Program to Support the Urban Experience

  • S6. Organize uses to complement the public environment
  • A8. Design active building fronts
  • P6. Program public open spaces to encourage social activity, play, and rest

Support Sustainability:

  • S7. Integrate common open space and landscape with architecture
  • S8. Respect and exhibit natural systems and features architecture
  • A9. Employ sustainable principles and practices in building design
  • P7. Integrate sustainable practices into the landscape


Featured Image Courtesy: Travis Tunney


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Humanizing History Through Landscapes

How are race and history represented in landscapes?

A landscape is like a museum in itself. It is an artifact of history and can present questions to invoke critical thinking. In this article, Elizabeth Kryder-Reid, a professor of anthropology and museum studies at IUPUI, shares her knowledge of how California mission landscapes represent race and history, causing polarizing emotions.

Missions can bring up intense connection and fond memories, or they can conjure profound pain. The questions that are presented in these spaces have the ability to steer these emotions. This concept, as you can imagine, is also true in other landscapes.

We’ve all seen fourth grade textbooks, or statues of a priest with an indigenous child, that avoid the oppression and genocide of Native American history.

Yes, historical spaces can paint a specific erroneous picture by “glossing over” particular parts of the story (10 Controversial Statues in California). Still, it is also true that colonizers believed that they were making their own sacrifices to do what God asked them to do. So how can landscapes present history and stories with “truth” without offending one particular group?

Elizabeth argues that the questions being asked/presented in these spaces must include the opinions and voices of both sides and should engage the current visitor to think on their own. The evolution of missions in California present a perfect example of how a landscape can be a catalyst to address social injustice and present-day social issues.  Is removing a statue also removing a piece of history? Can a landscape invoke empathy for both sides of a story? What do you think? How?

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Revealing underground water systems in Urban Spain


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What would a fish do with a swing?

A park can be a picnic, a classroom, a home, a meeting, a workout, a date, a break, a pathway. A park is a location-tool for the person, or group of people, who needs it.

I ask you: what would a fish do with a swing?

How can the designer or builder know what tools something or someone needs without a careful period of empirical observation? Building a public space without anthropological research could be like giving a goldfish a swing set. A tool without a specific purpose is an inanimate object with an arbitrary existence.

So, how can Landscape Architects be Anthropologists?

Image from Gehl Architects

Gehl Architects, a company combining architecture with psychology, works internationally to create cities for people. Gehl recently launched a new survey tool called “Public Space and Public Life”. PSPL is a platform for collecting qualitative data, giving a voice to the public in the process of observation, and helping clients to engage the users of the city  to implement useful, sustainable changes that the public will benefit from. (Read more about this incredible platform and process here.)

Students studying Landscape Architecture at AAU implement their own observation experiments before creating their designs for a space.

As you can see, the LAN 660 (Designing Public Spaces Studio) students engage the community to determine which problems are necessary to solve from the perspective of the people already using the public space in question.

If someone asked you how your home street or front yard pathway could be improved, your experience and unique vantage point would provide you with a relevant, educated, and valid response.

Landscape architecture can build a useful pathway when sociology, anthropology, and psychology are all invited to the park.

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The Long Road to an Eco-Corridor

Bogota, Colombia

Written by:

Katerin LuquettaBFA Student at AAU School of Landscape Architecture

The conservation of biodiversity is now a movement around the world, and even though it still passes unnoticed in some places in the world, it is Colombia, Brazil and Venezuela who wanted to act upon preservation.

As temperatures rise faster than species take to adapt to them, Colombia proposed to its neighboring countries, Venezuela and Brazil, the creation of a green corridor to diminish the effects of climate change.

It was in the works, but as I kept digging I realized this news was as far as they got with this project.

The reason? There was one aspect besides the plant species and the wildlife that the project was not considering fully:

The indigenous groups of these tropical lands did not feel included in the project proposal process.

The corridor plan is not taking into account the illegal mining, deforestation, and hunting in the area, and the indigenous people who have preserved this land for centuries are waiting for these issues to be included. The conquest of the land by Spain and Portugal, (as England did in North America) left behind a careless approach to preservation of habitats in South America. Ultimately, landscape architecture is chosen as a career based on the design of outdoor spaces and landmarks in order to obtain an environmental outcome, but we know society and culture plays an enormous influence in decisions to be made.

Photo from National Geographic

As of 2015, the last update on this project was to continue discussion in order to agree on the final goals for the whole project. Two years have passed since the concept was supposedly presented, but now that there are so many social, political, and economic factors, the ecological factors on the table have taken a back seat.


Photo from National Geographic


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