2017 National Grant Competition for Emerging
Professionals in Landscape Architecture

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GRANT WINNER

Profile Alex Strader
CARBO Landscape Architecture | Baton Rouge, LA
Louisiana State University


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Q&A

What made you become interested in Landscape Architecture?
A general education course at Louisiana State University during my freshman year. I was undecided on a major, and took an Intro to Landscape Architecture course led by Professor Max Conrad. He really opened my eyes to the wide range of possibilities within the field. Working across many scales, on a variety of project typologies, while combining creative pursuits with science and engineering really excited me.

What one thing inspires you and your designs?
Context. Designs that are informed not only by the site’s immediate context, but also more broad and conceptual ideas. I am currently practicing in Louisiana and other southern states, where there is a rich culture and unique ecology to inform and inspire the design of built landscapes.

What do you think is the biggest challenge Landscape Architects face today?
Awareness of our capabilities and potential role in shaping the overall built environment. Through education and practice, landscape architects have developed the unique ability to understand and facilitate the objectives of many other disciplines. With this knowledge we are capable of expanding our role in improving environmental and social systems, but are rarely put in positions to lead such comprehensive projects.

What is the most important lesson you have learned so far in your career?
The balance of technical, budgetary, and practical concerns, with concept, theory, and design ambitions. It is very easy to get trapped in one way of thinking – by either letting the practical concerns limit your creativity, or letting your ambitions distract you from meeting expectations on a project.

Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
Leading a diverse range of projects and actively participating in dialogue about the profession. Our field is going to be very different in twenty years – how will driverless cars, denser cities and suburbs, altered climate conditions, and increased understanding of the environment change the type and size of projects we work on? How will new technologies change the way we design and construct landscapes?

WINNING ENTRY

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

Summary
With the ability to understand and facilitate many disciplines, landscape architects are ready to combat climate change's local impacts.

Description
Through education and practice, landscape architects have developed the unique ability to understand and facilitate the objectives of many other disciplines. Projects today require the landscape architect to engage a wide range of consultants, listen to the motivations and recommendations of each, and integrate many systems into a design solution. Through this experience we develop an understanding of many fields - architecture, engineering, planning, natural sciences, agriculture, transportation - that collectively guide the way we build our cities, produce food and energy, and support Earth’s natural systems.

With this knowledge we are capable of expanding our role in improving environmental and social systems. And in a period of increasing local impacts from global climate change, it is time for landscape architects to assert themselves as leaders of the fight against and adaptation to climate change by utilizing their skill as facilitators, guiding nontraditional teams of many disciplines with the consistent goal of improving local environmental and social conditions.

Landscape architects in Louisiana are already playing a role in the fight to save our state’s coast. South Louisiana is one of our country’s most significant local battlegrounds in the fight against global climate change. Wetland fragmentation by the oil and gas industry, water and sediment diversions by heavy-handed flood protection infrastructure, and rising sea levels have caused 2,000 square miles of land loss - primarily valuable wetlands - since the 1930’s, with up to 2,250 additional square miles anticipated in the next 50 years; all in one of America’s most ecologically and economically productive ecosystems. And landscape architects have stepped to the forefront of Louisiana’s fight.

Many landscape architects have prominent roles in private, governmental, and non-profit agencies guiding the planning and implementation of coastal restoration and climate adaptation projects here. Landscape architects lead a non-profit planning firm that provides community development toolkits to make vulnerable coastal communities more resilient. Louisiana’s government agency charged with coastal protection and restoration is represented by a number of landscape architects that help guide and communicate plans for coastal projects. Many landscape architects lead or work for private firms specializing in environmental planning, working to assess conditions and protect natural resources. A landscape architecture firm recently planned the relocation of “America’s first climate refugees” - a small coastal Louisiana town forced to relocate inland due to coastal erosion.

Landscape architects’ skills in facilitation and communication make us natural leaders of the response to climate change. Modern technology and engineering have provided our world with the potential to counter the effects of climate change, and we can only hope that our leaders devote enough resources to put plans into action. But it is the landscape architect that can make these interventions beautiful, understandable, and livable by truly considering the human and social relationships to infrastructure-building, considering at once both large-scale environmental implications and human-scale experiences. It is up to us, now, to assert ourselves into this dialogue and bring the field of landscape architecture to the forefront of this monumental endeavor.

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