2017 National Grant Competition for Emerging
Professionals in Landscape Architecture

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Profile Maria Muñoz
New Orleans, LA
Louisiana State University



What made you become interested in Landscape Architecture?
A combination of science, math and art led my interest in Landscape Architecture. I’ve always had a fascination with people and how they imagine and use spaces. It’s amazing to be able to design spaces for a diversity of uses and clients.

What one thing inspires you and your designs?
The link between people and nature! Plants have a way of making a hectic space peaceful – they can define spaces and moods. I’m always inspired by the relationship between people and nature. Besides the fact that we need them to exist, they also inspire creativity and joy in users.

What do you think is the biggest challenge Landscape Architects face today?
Climate Change and all the challenges that come with it! How we respond to climate change will really define the role of Landscape Architects. Climate Change will change how people’s home looks, define where they live and at times remove assets of their culture. We, as Landscape Architects, have a role in all steps: preparation, response, recovery and mitigation.

What is the most important lesson you have learned so far in your career?
People are more than clients they are stakeholders/ citizen experts. If you want to see sustainable actions, they should be involved in every step of the way.

Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
Hopefully working with communities, here in the states and in the Caribbean. I’m originally from Puerto Rico and the change that islands will see in the next 20 years could be detrimental to their economies and cultures. I believe it all starts at the community level - so I hope to be working as a Landscape Architect in community development and climate change adaptation.


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Global climate change is impacting local conditions everywhere – how should Landscape Architects respond?

Landscape Architects can be the leading practitioner in the Disaster Management Cycle, combating the event of global climate change.

Historically communities have used the Disaster Management Cycle in order to reduce hazards, prevent disasters and prepare for emergencies. The United Nations has used the term slow onset disasters in recent decades to help people prepare and lessen suffering. With this said, we can no longer wait for the event to take place in order to proceed with the Disaster Management Cycle. In real time, global climate change is affecting people and the environment in alarming ways. The Earth is getting warmer due to greenhouse gases causing glaciers to melt, stronger storms, and a reshuffling of animals and plants around the world. Globally, rising temperatures on land and sea are increasingly moving species to cooler climates, pushing disease-carrying insects into new areas, creating pests that attack crops and shifting pollinators. We can see this in the droughts affecting various countries like Vietnam, Somalia, Brazil, etc., coffee rust affecting Central America, and sea level rise affecting the coasts of the United States.

Locally, mayors, institutions, businesses and communities are preparing for climate change by focusing on resiliency in order to lead the Disaster Management Cycle of response, recovery, mitigation and preparation. I believe Landscape Architects have a role in all parts of the cycle. According to Landscape Architecture Magazine’s Your Land, “Landscape architecture is dedicated to the design of healthy environments and communities, and protecting the health, safety and welfare of people.” In this theoretical model showing the role of Landscape Architects in the Disaster Management Cycle, climate change is the event and Landscape Architects must respond.

First in response, our job is to work in the reconstruction phase. We are to support immediate assistance and temporary solutions through methods of communication and information resources such as GIS mapping. Second in recovery, we participate in restoring wildlife habitats, wetlands and marshes. The coastal gulf is battling rapid land loss, salt water intrusion, sea level rise and an increase in hurricane intensity. Landscape Architects can help adapt to this rapidly changing and significant environment. The third phase, mitigation, is where Landscape Architects have the largest responsibility. We can participate in development planning such as land use and zoning to ensure effective mitigation of all types of natural hazards - including floods, earthquakes, and wildfires. We are leading in efficient green infrastructure like parks, bio-swales and green roofs. Lastly, preparation enhances capacity building at a local level through public education, promoting other methods of transportation through complete streets and technical strategies such as storm water management.

Landscape Architects have the ability to work with policymakers and other design professionals as catalysts of positive change. Everyone is striving towards a resilient city - but resiliency is not a silo term. Resiliency requires an intersectionality of social, economic, environment, infrastructure and appropriate evaluation pillars. We understand researching the local context and collaborating inter-disciplinary with horticulturalists, engineers, biologists, city planning, etc. to understand how our changes affect habitats and ultimately to create “healthy environments and communities, protecting the health, safety and welfare of people.”

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