The Value of Open Space in the Pandemic: Willie ‘Woo Woo’ Wong Park and Playground

Open recreational space offers many community benefits – environmental, aesthetic, economic, physical, mental, and social. Urban parks and playgrounds provide people with a variety of physical activities, opportunities for social interaction, and connection to nature and beauty. The COVID-19 global pandemic has quickly reminded us just how valuable our local neighborhood parks and open spaces are – as people turn to these public places to exercise, hold a protest, get out of their homes, and feel a sense of connection and community.

San Francisco’s Chinatown, one of the “the most densely populated urban areas west of Manhattan”, according to the San Francisco Planning Department, has only 5 major public outdoor spaces. Willie “Woo Woo” Wong Playground is the only space dedicated to active outdoor recreation for all of the residents within the entire neighborhood. The Playground and associated Community Center closed for renovation in 2018, leaving the Chinatown community ever more short of open space and lacking an active outdoor recreation area for the duration of the Corona Virus pandemic. The Playground and Community Center reopened, fully renovated, in February 2021.

Exterior of Willie Woo Woo Wong Park Clubhouse
Climbing tower and embankment slide at Willie Woo Woo Wong Park

“In a year Chinatown suffered so much, this reopening is very uplifting and is a “fresh air” for community! This renovation and reopening have even greater impact at this pandemic moment as space like this can be our recovery and literally a much-needed social distancing space for residents especially those living in single room occupancy (SRO). It also provides us a space to host civic community activities (with safety in mind) and creating the resiliency and cultural fabrics that has been so much of Chinatown.”Committee for Better Parks and Recreation in Chinatown/ Chinatown Community Development Center

Since the park’s opening, the playground continues to be discovered by families and residents every day. In fact the park is animated at all hours. Crisp mornings see seniors strolling, looping through the upper and lower outdoor levels. Active adults and teenagers use the exercise equipment or play a pickup game of basketball.  As the day progresses, pods of school-aged children run through the preserved pagoda and jump from each play structure to the next. Kids are encouraged to explore their adventurous side by climbing over everything–the rope tower, embankment slide, and phoenix and dragon play structures by Earthscape.  Younger children and their parents gather in the sheltered corner where they can safely play in the toddler area. The simultaneous use of the park’s spaces throughout the day by residents of all ages was the direct result of the collaboration and design process with the community.

ACTIVE LISTENING: EFFECTIVE COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

CMG was passionate about designing Willie “Woo Woo” Wong Park because it was a vital public space that needed renovation to better serve the Chinese American population in our San Francisco community. Committed to listening to the community, SF Recreation and Parks Department and CMG engaged specific local organizations and community partners, including youth and seniors, in conversation: Committee for Better Parks and Recreation in Chinatown/ Chinatown Community Development Center, Chinatown YMCA, local pre-schools, as well as recent immigrant groups. Through in-language meetings and intercept surveys, the design team had the opportunity to listen to the community and understand their need for basic services—ample seating, shade, clean bathrooms, comfort and safety –as well as appreciate the diversity of ages the open space must serve. The dialogue between our team and the community directly informed the design of Willie “Woo Woo” Wong Park and Playground, including the use of imagery such as Dragon and Phoenix, and the organization of various uses to best serve the vast range in ages of the Chinatown neighborhood.  

Chinatown community members use VR to see what the new Willie Woo Woo Wong Park could look like
Chinatown community members give park design feedback on presentation boards for Willie Woo Woo Wong Park

DESIGN: COMPLEXITY AND CONSTRAINT

The reincarnated park is more than just an outdoor playground, it is a celebration of the Chinatown community. The design restored a Pagoda that was original to the 1926 playground, to now serve as an entrance to the park, incorporated dragon and phoenix play structures, and preserved existing murals. Although a complete transformation of its previous design iterations, Willie “Woo Woo” Wong Playground and Park is fully integrated into the urban fabric of the Chinatown neighborhood.

“the carefully mapped congestion is in sync with Chinatown’s magnetic density. Each nook and cranny within the half-acre space takes on a distinct character, with its own scale and often its own surprising vantage point on the outside world.”John King, The Chronicle.

Physically bound by buildings, Willie “Woo Woo” Wong Playground and Park maximizes its footprint to provide opportunities for play, exercise, and community gathering. To define distinct spaces for its multi-generational users, the park design  choreographs topography, verticality, and compactness across 40’ of grade change. Rising up the 40’, the park features three levels, defined by age and uses: the Community Center, designed by Jensen Architects, for large groups and youth programming, the middle level with play equipment for children and families, and the top level for active sports and exercise for adults.  

Willie “Woo Woo” Wong Park and Playground celebrates its location in the heart of Chinatown while creating its own sense of place. The park offers the community, families and neighbors a space outside of their homes to reconnect, play, and gather—simple goals now more important than ever.

#StopAsianHate

The recent murders in Atlanta and attacks in Oakland and San Francisco have brought to national attention to what, unfortunately, is not news to many: bigotry, misogyny, and racialized violence in our country and our community are surging and Asian and Pacific Islander Americans are frequently the targets of hate crimes and acts of terror.

We wish to extend a message of solidarity to all in our communities who are of Asian and Pacific Islander descent: We see you; we value you, and we stand with you.

As a practice that is committed to anti-racist policies, we acknowledge the continuous work that we need to do to educate ourselves and act, individually and collectively, by participating in and supporting organizations that are working to raise awareness and advance antiracist policies.  As Ibram X Kendi, so clearly articulates, “To be anti-racist is to view national and transnational ethnic groups as equal in all their differences.  To be antiracist is to challenge the racist policies that plague racialized ethnic groups across the world.  To be antiracist is to view the inequities between all racialized ethnic groups as a problem of policy.”

To start, our firm will be taking the following actions to support the Asian American Pacific Islander Community:

  • Donating $500 to the AAPI Community Fund
  • Coordinating an all-firm Bystander Intervention/Anti-Racism workshop

How to Get Involved:

  1. Support the families of the victims of violence in Georgia here.
  2. Consider donating to the AAPI Community Fund  
  3. Learn more about actions you can take to Stop AAPI Hate
  4. Comprehensive APALA’s Resource Guide on Anti-Asian Violence
  5. Attend a free, 1-hour, online Bystander Intervention to Stop Anti-Asian/American and Xenophobic Harassment workshop presented by Hollaback! and Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ).
  6. Read and/or have your organization sign on to this statement from Red Canary Song, a grassroots collective of Asian and migrant sex workers, calling for protection and rights for Asian massage workers and not an increase in policing in Asian communities. You can also support this visionary organizing here.

Community Engagement at a Distance

by Nico Wright, Associate

CMG Landscape Architecture has been at the forefront of using hands-on interactive exercises to engage communities in the process of planning and designing public spaces. These “games” have been the highlights of many community planning processes, at Crissy Field, McLaren Park, East Oakland Estuary, Richardson Bay in Marin County, and for the San Francisco Waterfront Resilience Program.  We have brought stakeholders, planners, designers, and community members together to work through critical questions and understand the decision-making processes that go into long term planning for public spaces, sea level rise infrastructure, and urban communities.


This way of working with stakeholders allows us to get around a table and have deep and collaborative conversations about what is important to people. It is our opportunity to learn about how they see and imagine their communities getting better. In long range planning efforts, this model also provides the opportunity to engage stakeholders in the complex process of trade-offs, negotiations, and compromise that public land managers undergo through long duration projects with often indeterminate outcomes. By taking the community through the process itself, rather than just communicating its outcomes, we have found that consensus building is more easily achieved through an understanding of the decision-making process and direct engagement with their fellow community members.

This approach has been especially powerful in our work with the Port of San Francisco and the CH2M/Arcadis Planning and Engineering Consultant team on the San Francisco Waterfront Resilience Program. This long-range resilience project is setting the foundation for the long-term sustainability and transformation of the century old waterfront of San Francisco. This program will bring about a robust set of shoreline improvements to mitigate the effects of earthquakes and flooding due to sea level rise of the coming decades. Over the last two years we have sought to keep the public informed and engaged with a planning process that is abstract, multi-layered, and iterative. Working with the programs communications and stakeholder lead Civic Edge Consulting and our collaborators at SiteLab Urban Studio and TEF Architects we accomplished this through a series of community meetings that presented the ongoing work of the program and engaged community members in exercises that linked abstract concepts such as the selection of evaluation criteria for future design alternatives to the decision-making process that will shape the future of the waterfront for future generations.



Of course, this year we, along with everybody else, were thrown into a “work from home” world in which we have been paradoxically distanced from our communities and simultaneously brought closer to our neighbors. We have also discovered that in this unprecedented time public spaces have become more critical and necessary than ever. As such, the planning and design efforts for more and better public spaces have not stopped, if anything, they are more urgent than ever. CMG, and the rest of the planning and design field, has been faced with the challenge of creating meaningful engagement with communities that we can no longer meet face to face with and gather around a table.

SAN FRANCISO WATERFRONT RESILEINCE PROGRAM ENGAGEMENT

To overcome this challenge, the team working with the Port of San Francisco leveraged our experiences with digital tools to develop an interactive engagement process with community members. Becoming experts of the many communication platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams and combining those with collaboration tools like Conceptboard and Miro allowed us to continue engaging with communities while simultaneously educating the public and gather in depth, targeted, and specific feedback to inform the program as it entered a critical phase in its development.

LESSONS LEARNED

We hope that some of the lessons we learned through developing these engagements will help others in the planning, design, and land management industry who are still working to find the best practices for these new times and conditions:

  • TRUST THE GOOD FAITH OF THE PARTICIPANTS AND YOUR TEAM TO DEAL WITH CHALLENGES.
    • It is easy to worry about technological issues and disruptive participants like “zoombombers” when planning for a virtual community meeting. To get through your presentation without any disruptions or issues, it is tempting to use a webinar format for community presentations. We have found that this type of communication and meeting type eliminates the opportunity for robust feedback from the public, reduces enthusiasm from the audience, and worse, their trust in the engagement process. In the virtual world, we have the tools and features to prevent and/or quickly fix these challenges and still have meaningful engagement with the public.
  • BE PREPARED BY PRACTICING.
    • It is even more critical to do a full run-through of a virtual meeting and include all speakers, facilitators, and note-takers. In the run-through, check to make sure your team has sufficient internet connectivity, audio (specifically a microphone through a laptop, computer, headphones, etc.) and a video camera. Transitions between parts of the meeting need clear cues and a tight agenda (or tick-tock that notes the times and changes in a presentation or meeting).

  • ENGAGE IN PAIRS.
    • For small group engagement pair a facilitator and note-taker together. The facilitator leads and participates in the conversations with the participants, while the note-taker interfaces with the interactive part of the exercise (ConceptBoard or Miro) to record and reflect feedback from the community.

  • STAFF APPROPRIATELY, BUT NOT OVERWHELMINGLY.
    • It is important to make sure you have enough facilitators on hand to keep small group discussions small, and just as important to not have too many staff present. The goal is to have community members speak with facilitators but also with other community members. The impact of having too many staff in relationship to public participants is especially heightened by the format of video conferencing where every participant (facilitator, community member, or stakeholder) is given equal space on the screen. In virtual meetings, you cannot simply step back from the table and listen!

  • KEEP IT LIGHT AND HAVE FUN.
    • These times are challenging for everyone. Making the work of our lives fun and uncomplicated makes it easier and more productive.

For more information, please contact Associate Nico Wright, nwright@cmgsite.com.

The Power of Representation Salon Recap

The Issue of Equity in Landscape Architecture

On September 17th, CMG hosted its first virtual salon, Equity in Landscape Architecture: The Power of Representation, about representation and how firms can reflect a positive trajectory for equity and racial justice.  First-year CMG designer, Arturo Fuentes–Ortiz, is vocal and passionate about the underrepresentation and misrepresentation of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) in landscape architecture and developed the concept for the salon. He kicked-off the evening by speaking about the lack of representation he saw growing up and his own work to introduce design to young people of color. Arturo and fellow CMG designer Mwinyi El-kindiy moderated a salon that highlighted proactive steps landscape architecture firms can take, to not only diversify the profession, but continue the fight to end systemic racism.  

The Power of Representation focused on the experiences of designers of color in landscape architecture. Fellow landscape architects from across the United States, Davi de la Cruz, Jenn Low, and Roberto Rovira, spoke about the entire pipeline and development of young designers from K-12 schools through university and into the profession.  The salon dove into stimulating conversations about what firms can do to increase representation by building the pipeline. In addition, the salon panelists addressed how firms can successfully engage, retain and mentor young designers of color.  

View the recording of CMG Salon Equity in Landscape Architecture: The Power of Representation: https://youtu.be/kqzutypqcJA

Race/Ethnicity and Education in Landscape Architecture

Getting young people of color interested in design isn’t enough. They face challenges when entering college and are less likely to complete their undergraduate degrees. According to the US Department of Education, the distribution of Bachelor’s degrees awarded and retention rates are much lower particularly in Hispanic/Latinx and Black and African American communities. When comparing the US population by race to that of Landscape Architecture degrees by race, we see that Landscape Architecture degrees awarded are not proportionate to the US population. The following illustrations show the trajectory of the educational pipeline and demonstrate the urgency to successfully engage, retain and mentor young designers of color.  

The Panel for The Power of Representation

Thank you to Davi de la Cruz, Jenn Low, and Roberto Rovira for participating on The Equity in Landscape Architecture: The Power of Representation panel. 

DAVI DE LA CRUZ | Founding Member + Board Administrator, The Urban Studio 

Davi was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, the occupied territories of the Tongva [TONG-və] People. He grew up learning from his mother’s leadership, and community involvement. Daví is the first of his family to pursue higher education. Daví de la Cruz studied at Cal State Northridge in the San Fernando Valley, territories of the Tataviam people, and in the Pacific Northwest at the University of Washington, Seattle, territories of the Duwamish people. Today, as a founding member of The Urban Studio, he is excited to expand the work of Studio South Central in his own neighborhood addressing the legacy of disinvestment in Pueblo del Rio and tapping into local youth leadership as a way forward. Through authentic engagement with youth, we can find ways to connect meaningfully with communities and shape new and just futures. 

JENN LOW | Board Member, The Urban Studio 

Jenn Low is an integrative designer, educator, and landscape architect with over thirteen years of experience as a Landscape Architect in New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle. Now based in Washington, D.C., she is a Board Member of The Urban Studio and the Deputy Director of the 1882 Foundation, where she leads the organization’s suite of place-keeping initiatives. Currently working at the intersection of design and public history, Jenn’s work seeks to redistribute power in our design processes in order to advance our work toward spatial justice. She holds an MDes in Integrative Design at the Stamps School of Art and Design at the University of Michigan, where she and her cohort were tasked with addressing issues in access and equity in education, and a Bachelor in Landscape Architecture from the University of Washington. 

ROBERTO ROVIRA | Chair, FIU Landscape Architecture + Environmental and Urban Design + Principal, Studio Roberto Rovira 

Roberto has received recognition for his work as an educator and professional by prominent organizations like the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture, the Architectural League, the American Institute of Architects, and others. Fast Company magazine recently selected his EcoAtlas Project as a World Changing Idea finalist and he was recognized with an Emerging Voice award by the Architectural League in New York, one of the most coveted awards in North American Architecture. Roberto is VP of Research for the Landscape Architecture Foundation and has been lead designer in national and international projects. His work ranges from environmental installations to art commissions and landscape architectural projects. 

Organizations and Resources

Throughout the panel discussion, Arturo, Davi, Jenn, and Roberto talked about a number of resources and organizations working toward improving equity in the landscape profession:  

What’s Next?

CMG is committed to cultivating diversity in our practice and profession because an inclusive design culture and process is critical to creating truly democratic public spaces. Read more about CMG’s commitment and how we are working toward these commitments here: https://www.cmgsite.com/cmg-is-committed-to-cultivating-diversity/.

This salon, Equity in Landscape Architecture: The Power of Representation, was the first of a three-part series on the topic. CMG will host two additional salons as part of this conversation addressing community engagement and empowerment and inclusive public space design.  More information will be released soon.

If you want to stay involved with CMG on improving equity in landscape architecture, email us at info@cmgsite.com.  

2020 CMG Summer Internship: The Value of Virtual Mentorship

Every summer, CMG Landscape Architecture hosts an internship for prospective designers who want to gain real world experience. Our summer internships have provided college students with the opportunity to research relevant issues and topics to the landscape and urban design profession such as democratic public space and sea level rise – all while working in a professional studio. But how can we offer an in-person internship during a major pandemic and current shelter-in-place orders? The answer was: we can’t. This was until we received an email from a Faculty member at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo who had a bright and intelligent landscape student looking for an opportunity that made us reconsider our 2020 internship program.

What about a virtual internship? Could a student gain experience without physically being in the studio or on the project site? Although interns wouldn’t be able to get the full experience of working side by side with professional designers, a virtual internship could still teach students about the design process, the importance of collaboration with designers, the community and clients, and provide an inside look into our firm’s culture and values. This summer, we hosted a virtual internship with LaVance Thomas, a fifth year Landscape Architecture student at Cal Poly SLO.

During his internship, LaVance observed and participated in a mix of project meetings, both internal with project teams and external with CMG clients, our office all team weekly meetings, online lectures and conferences about landscape architecture and one-on-one meetings with CMG designers to learn about their professional experiences. Here’s what LaVance had to say about his time with our office:

What was a typical day and/or week of your internship?

Due to the nature of the virtual internship a typical week consisted of attending various project meetings. Although my primary role at CMG was as an observer, I had the opportunity to learn meeting structure, design process, and problem solving in a professional environment. In addition to attending project meetings I was given the opportunity to speak with individual CMG team members about their career trajectory and academic and professional experience which was very valuable during my time as an intern.

During your internship, you spent time with the Climate Positive Design and Yerba Buena Island/Treasure Island project teams. What interested you about these projects? What did you learn from working with these teams?

Climate Positive Design (CPD) is a concept I had a particular interest in during my internship at CMG. By attending CPD project meetings I learned it’s possible to quantify the carbon footprint of a project which is a valuable design tool to help mitigate the overall environmental impact a project is responsible for. This concept is very fascinating and something I definitely plan to consider applying toward my senior design project this fall. I owe my knowledge of this concept to the Climate Positive Design team at CMG and I’m grateful to have been a part of the experience.

Master Plan meetings for the Treasure Island project was another great opportunity to learn how large scale complex sites are approached from a city planning standpoint. The emphasis on low-impact development and the use of local materials speaks towards CMG’s appreciation for sustainable practice.

What will you take from the virtual internship into your own practice?

Professionalism is definitely something I will take from my virtual internship experience at CMG into my own practice. This opportunity allowed me to observe a professional environment that values building relationships with the community through hard work and integrity which is something I envision for myself as a future professional.

Any highlights of the virtual internship? Any challenges?

A highlight of the internship experience was attending the Cut/Fill virtual conference. Presentations and discussions on racial justice and climate change were interesting topics to contemplate how we understand them within the context of the landscape architecture profession. The small group discussions on how to develop and communicate frameworks that promote environmental justice as a tool for positive change were definitely powerful and encouraging as a future designer of public spaces.


Climate Positive Design Recognized for its Climate Action Contribution to Landscape Architecture Profession

Climate Positive Design wins Honor Award in Research from the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).

San Francisco, CA – September 13, 2020

Climate Positive Design created by CMG Landscape Architecture’s Principal Pamela Conrad, received one of the most prestigious awards in landscape architecture – the Honor Award in Research from the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Climate Positive Design is a revolutionary and powerful movement for designers to positively impact the world and contribute to solving the climate crisis. The initiative delivers a new way of designing to the global practice, providing pioneering tools, guidance and resources for designers, municipalities, and the everyday gardener to improve carbon impacts of their work. The Climate Positive Design Challenge sets the ambitious goal of taking more carbon out of the atmosphere than the amount emitted in designed landscapes, measured by “Years to Positive”.

To meet the Challenge goals, Climate Positive Design provides landscape architects and designers with the toolkit, case studies, and the free online Pathfinder application to reduce the carbon footprint of our projects. Available on ClimatePositiveDesign.com, the Pathfinder provides project-specific guidance on reducing carbon footprints while increasing carbon sequestration.

The Initiative officially launched on September 30, 2019 coinciding with the month of the largest collective climate activist events in history. Within the first six months of its launch, it successfully reached a global audience of 96 countries, 621 contributors logged 858 projects which anticipate sequestration of 4.9 million metric tons of CO2 beyond their emissions in 30 years. The cumulative impact of Climate Positive Design projects to date will result in the planting of 558,286 trees which would be the equivalent of taking 302,432 cars off the road in 10 years and 907,296 in 30 years.  

Climate Positive Design empowers the landscape profession with the opportunity and the tools to design a better environment and take immediate climate action.

“ASLA Professional Awards acknowledge exceptional projects that define and move the profession of landscape architecture forward,” said Curt Millay, Executive Secretary of the American Society of Landscape Architects. “We congratulate Pamela Conrad and her team on this incredible achievement.”

The award will be presented during a virtual Professional Awards Ceremony later in the fall.

Learn more about Climate Positive Design at climatepositivedesign.com or watch the About Climate Positive Design video: vimeo.com/404261532

ABOUT THE AWARD

The Research category recognizes research that identifies and investigates challenges posed in landscape architecture, providing results that advance the body of knowledge for the profession. The prestige of the ASLA Professional Awards program relies in large part on the high caliber of the juries convened each year to review submissions. Juries represent the breadth of the profession, including private, public, institutional, and academic practice, and exemplify diversity in professional experience, geography, gender, and ethnicity. This year, 31 projects were recognized in seven categories: general design, residential design, urban design, analysis & planning, communications, research, and The Landmark Award.

ABOUT ASLA

Founded in 1899, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) is the professional association for landscape architects in the United States, representing more than 15,000 members. The Society’s mission is to advance landscape architecture through advocacy, communication, education and fellowship. Sustainability has been part of ASLA’s mission since its founding and is an overarching value that informs all of the Society’s programs and operations. ASLA has been a leader in demonstrating the benefits of green infrastructure and resilient development practices through the creation of its own green roof, co-development of the SITES® Rating System, and the creation of publicly accessible sustainable design resources.

Equity in Landscape Architecture: The Power of Representation Salon

CMG Virtual Salon Equity in Landscape Architecture Invitation

Join CMG for the first in a three-part series of salons addressing equity in landscape architecture.

This salon will focus on what it means to be a person of color in landscape architecture and identify strategies to both increase representation in the field and create spaces for emerging designers of color to flourish. Following the moderated Q+A session with the panelists, please join us for a virtual social hour to break into smaller groups to meet one another and discuss the next steps that we as a profession can take towards achieving equity.

WHEN

Thursday, September 17th 5:00 – 7:00 pm PST

WHERE

Zoom (Link will emailed to registered attendees the day before the event)

PANELISTS

Davi de la Cruz | Founding Member + Board Administrator, The Urban Studio

Jenn Low | Board Member, The Urban Studio

Roberto Rovira | Chair, FIU Landscape Architecture + Environmental and Urban Design + Principal, Studio Roberto Rovira

Sara Zewde | Founding Principal, Studio Zewde

MODERATORS

Arturo Fuentes-Ortiz | Designer, CMG Landscape Architecture

Mwinyi El-Kindiy | Designer, CMG Landscape Architecture


PANELISTS

Davi de la Cruz | Founding Member + Board Administrator, The Urban Studio

Davi was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, the occupied territories of the Tongva [TONG-və] People. He grew up learning from his mother’s leadership, and community involvement. Daví is the first of his family to pursue higher education. Daví de la Cruz studied at Cal State Northridge in the San Fernando Valley, territories of the Tataviam people, and in the Pacific Northwest at the University of Washington, Seattle, territories of the Duwamish people. Today, as a founding member of The Urban Studio, he is excited to expand the work of Studio South Central in his own neighborhood addressing the legacy of disinvestment in Pueblo del Rio and tapping into local youth leadership as a way forward. Through authentic engagement with youth, we can find ways to connect meaningfully with communities and shape new and just futures.

Jenn Low| Board Member, The Urban Studio

Jenn Low is an integrative designer, educator, and landscape architect with over thirteen years of experience as a Landscape Architect in New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle. Now based in Washington, D.C., she is a Board Member of The Urban Studio and the Deputy Director of the 1882 Foundation, where she leads the organization’s suite of place-keeping initiatives. Currently working at the intersection of design and public history, Jenn’s work seeks to redistribute power in our design processes in order to advance our work toward spatial justice. She holds an MDes in Integrative Design at the Stamps School of Art and Design at the University of Michigan, where she and her cohort were tasked with addressing issues in access and equity in education, and a Bachelor in Landscape Architecture from the University of Washington.

Roberto Rovira | Chair, FIU Landscape Architecture + Environmental and Urban Design Principal, Studio Roberto Rovira

Roberto has received recognition for his work as an educator and professional by prominent organizations like the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture, the Architectural League, the American Institute of Architects, and others. Fast Company magazine recently selected his EcoAtlas Project as a World Changing Idea finalist and he was recognized with an Emerging Voice award by the Architectural League in New York, one of the most coveted awards in North American Architecture. Roberto is VP of Research for the Landscape Architecture Foundation and has been lead designer in national and international projects. His work ranges from environmental installations to art commissions and landscape architectural projects.

Sara Zewde | Founding Principal, Studio Zewde

Sara Zewde is founding principal of Studio Zewde, a design firm in New York City practicing landscape architecture, urbanism, and public art. The studio is devoted to exploring the “aesthetics of being” and creating enduring places where people belong. In parallel with practice, Sara serves as Assistant Professor of Practice at Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Sara was named the 2014 National Olmsted Scholar by the Landscape Architecture Foundation, a 2016 Artist-in-Residence at the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, and in 2018, was named to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s inaugural “40 Under 40” list. Most recently, she was named a 2020 United States Artists Fellow. Her work has been exhibited at the 2016 and 2018 Venice Biennale, in the Brazilian and U.S national pavilions. Sara holds a master’s of landscape architecture from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, a master’s of city planning from MIT, and a BA in sociology and statistics from Boston University


MODERATORS

Arturo Fuentes-Ortiz | Designer, CMG Landscape Architecture

Raised in Oaxaca, Mexico and the Bay Area, Arturo Fuentes-Ortiz has been honing his skills in design for the past several years. Currently graduating from UC Berkeley as a first-generation college student with a masters in Landscape Architecture from the College of Environmental Design, Arturo has used design as a form of resiliency and protest. Arturo’s evolution into Landscape Architecture allowed him to introduce his experience and has been a strong advocate in increasing representation of people of Color in the Landscape Architecture profession. His academic work illustrates a balanced design for nature, art, and people. Working is such diverse range of places, he has been exposed to a spectrum of work from private residential to public space.

Mwinyi El-kindiy | Designer, CMG Landscape Architecture

Relatively new to the profession, Mwinyi has worked on a wide variety of landscape projects. As a long-term resident of San Francisco, Mwinyi Faida uses the skills that he has acquired to improve the neighborhood that he grew up in by volunteering with a local non- profit. He believes that our environment/community has a direct influence to our “common sense”, and that Landscape Architects are in a unique position to manipulate behavior though design.

Recap: World Urban Parks & World Parks Academy Webinar: Climate Change Hasn’t Stopped for a Pandemic – Adapting Parks for Sea Level Rise, Flooding, and Fire

How do we prepare the parks for the various impacts of climate change? Michael Boland, Chief Park Office of The Presidio Trust hosted the World Urban Parks webinar with Alison Forrestal, Golden Gate National Recreation Area Chief of Natural Resources and Science; Kevin Conger, CMG Landscape Architecture Principal; and Lucinda Sanders, Olin CEO and Partner to discuss the impact of rising temperatures, frequent wildfires, intense river flooding, and rising sea levels. Watch the recording of the webinar: https://youtu.be/eFF4jbyTAkQ.  

Fire Management in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in the era of Climate Change

Fires are becoming more frequent and increasing in temperatures both day and night in the western U.S, leading to warmer and drier conditions ready for wildfire. Golden Gate National Recreation Area covers more than 80,000 acres in 3 counties of the San Francisco Bay Area neighboring 2.5 million people and welcoming 17 million annual visitors.

Community Preparedness is the top strategy to respond and adapt to wildfire for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area by:

  • Creating a defensible space.
  • The Boundary Vegetation Management Program enables the Park’s neighbors to apply to remove vegetation on park land near their home in coordination with ecologists to create a defensible boundary.
  • Establishing evacuation routes.
  • Educating the community and public.
    • “Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority (MWPA) was formed to develop and implement a comprehensive wildfire prevention and emergency preparedness plan throughout almost all of Marin County” – Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority website.
    • “The Marin Forest Management Strategy for One Tam will provide a series of informed treatment methods to improve the ecology of Marin forests. These approaches will improve forest habitat and protect biodiversity, while also strategically managing vegetation to reduce “fire fuels” such as dry brush and diseased or dying trees.” – One Tam Forest Health & Resiliency website

Adapting for Sea Level Rise at Crissy Field

Situated in the nearly 1,500-acre Presidio military base that was converted to a National Park, Crissy Field is a 100-acre waterfront park that is managed by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, built in 1999 and designed by Hargreaves Associates.

In 2014, CMG led a planning process to create a vision for the next 20 years of Crissy Field. Engagement and analysis with the park’s diverse stakeholders and interest groups informed a strategic project framework; Crissy Field Refresh proposes new visions for Mason Street bike promenade, airfield programming, boardwalks and tidal marsh overlooks, and parking improvements.

To ensure the longevity of these improvements, CMG engaged in the analysis of sea level rise at Crissy Field and the vulnerability of the community and park assets. A Rise-Up Community Workshop looked at these vulnerability scenarios and community members designed their own vision for Crissy Field prioritizing cultural, historical, and ecological assets using various adaptation tools such as retreat, beach, seawall, levee, wetlands, and walkways. View the Crissy Field Sea Level Rise Analysis Report.

 

Sea Level Rise Projections for San Francisco Bay Area, Crissy Field + Sea Level Rise Report, May 2016

Designing for Flooding in the Midwest

Olin is leading the design for a new 400-acre park in Southern Indiana and plans to transform this park into a climate-resilient open space embracing the changing flooding patterns. The design integrates the river into the park’s experience through the path and programming, water, topography, ecology for low to high water areas of the park.

Vaulting into a New Virtual Dimension

I’d like to contextualize two recent project milestones at CMG within the current climate of working from home and highlight some specific examples that bring definition to many of the catch-words we hear and talk about around ‘collaboration’, ‘communication’, and ‘mentorship’. In this time of physical separation, how we are working together now has been on colorful display.

We are vaulting gracefully into a new virtual dimension, ‘new’ in that we are all here together in this environment of remote work, less ‘new’ in that we are all familiar with the technologies we use to do the work. Rather, I think ‘new’ applies to how we adapt our habits and routines, how we stay in touch, how we continue to be curious, to learn, and most importantly, how we support one another through this abstract dislocation.

Over the past couple of months while we all shelter in place, our teams have been continuing to produce high-quality work while operating in new ways. Underlying this productivity is ‘work ethic’ – “a belief that hard work and diligence have a moral benefit and an inherent ability to strengthen individual character and skill. It is considered a source of self-respect, satisfaction, and fulfillment”. I have seen and felt it in these two passing deadlines, and I hope this is something we all get to experience: the joy and reward of contributing to excellent work.

Oddly enough, although it may seem counter-intuitive, I felt more connected than ever through daily chatter on Microsoft Teams. We all had visibility to one another and a pulse on what everyone was doing. It was easy to check in and stay the course together – whether sharing screens to review a drawing, or a chat to discuss a quick question, or sending a link to a folder where information could be accessed or a final print should be saved – the communication and collaboration was fluid, supple, and conscientious. This created a clear channel for getting things done – staying goal oriented and prioritizing focus. Everyone showed up. Everyone was available and reliable. Everyone brought energy to the work and to one another. A symbiosis. A silver lining.

Perhaps all this is amplified by the challenges of not being physically together (the sound of trace ripping, keyboards clattering, printers sighing, voices humming) – but what I see is how positive people are and the strength shown in embracing the moment. Hardship often reveals character and some of the most stunning examples of dependability, reliability, and initiative have been on display. I am so grateful for the kindness we show to one another, the care we give, the quality of the design produced, and the translation of it through the documentation.

Principal Rayna deNiord

ANTIDOTES TO FEAR OF DEATH
by Rebecca Elson

Sometimes as an antidote
To fear of death,
I eat the stars.

Those nights, lying on my back,
I suck them from the quenching dark
Til they are all, all inside me,
Pepper hot and sharp.

Sometimes, instead, I stir myself
Into a universe still young,
Still warm as blood:

No outer space, just space,
The light of all the not yet stars
Drifting like a bright mist,
And all of us, and everything
Already there
But unconstrained by form.

And sometimes it’s enough
To lie down here on earth
Beside our long ancestral bones:

To walk across the cobble fields
Of our discarded skulls,
Each like a treasure, like a chrysalis,
Thinking: whatever left these husks
Flew off on bright wings.

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