Equity in Landscape Architecture: Community Design Virtual Salon

Go Beyond Traditional Engagement By Working With Communities

Community Design is the second of three salons in CMG’s Equity in Landscape Architecture series, which convenes innovative and distinguished professionals from around the U.S. who are focused on inclusive design and processes, community co-creation, and increasing representation and equity in the public realm and in the profession.

The first salon, The Power of Representation, focused on the experiences of designers of color in landscape architecture and how firms can reflect a positive trajectory for equity and racial justice. The goal of Community Design is to learn how to go beyond traditional community engagement processes by working with communities to build trust, capacity, and to define and design projects together.

As a mission-oriented studio working to increase social and ecological well-being through artful design, CMG is committed to furthering the conversation about social justice and landscape architecture. We work on a wide range of initiatives and projects that we believe accrue as an overarching project: enriching communities through landscapes that promote the democracy and ecology of public space. We believe these efforts and projects can only be improved by these important conversations, and invite all those involved in shaping the public realm to join us in learning from these important voices.

WHEN

Thursday, October 7, 2021 at 5:00 – 7:00 pm PST

WHERE

Zoom (link will provided after registration in the confirmation email)

PANELISTS

Antwi Akom | Founding Director of UCSF/SFSU’s Social Innovation and Urban Opportunity Lab (SOUL) and Co-founder of Streetwyze

Diane Jones Allen | Program Director of Landscape Architecture at UT Arlington and Principal at DesignJones LLC

David de la Pena | Professor of Landscape Architecture at UC Davis and co-editor of the book “Design as Democracy”

Keta Price | Director of Urban and Regional Planning for The East Oakland Collective

ABOUT THE PANELISTS

ANTWI AKOM | Founding Director, UCSF/SFSU’s Social Innovation and Urban Opportunity Lab and Co-Founder, Streetwyze

Antwi Akom Ph.D. is an eco-visionary on Community Informatics – which combines people-centric design with cutting-edge technology in order to achieve new standards of affordability, mobility, sustainability, equity, and opportunity for all.  Named as one of the world’s top innovators at President Obama ‘s Frontiers Conference (2016) and awarded the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation Pioneer award  (2019), what makes Dr. Akom’s work unique is his ability to integrate Community-Drive Data with Big Data in ways that make communities smarter, more equitable, just and sustainable.  As an expert in centering community voice, designing for equity, and developing culturally and community responsive methodologies and technologies Dr. Akom’s work enables architects, designers, and engineers to design more just, equitable, diverse, and inclusive (JEDI) spaces with the world’s most vulnerable populations.

DIANE JONES ALLEN | Program Director of Landscape Architecture, UT Arlington and Principal, DesignJones LLC

Diane Jones Allen, D. Eng, FASLA is Program Director and Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Texas, Arlington. She is Principal Landscape Architect with DesignJones LLC which received the 2016 American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Community Service Award. In 2017, she participated on the ASLA Blue Ribbon Panel on Climate Change. Diane serves on the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) as the Vice President of Education. Diane is author of Lost in the Transit Desert: Race Transit Access and Suburban Form, Routledge Press, 2017, and co-editor of Design as Democracy: Techniques for Collective Creativity, Island Press 2017.

DAVID DE LA PENA | Professor of Landscape Architecture, UC Davis and Co-editor, “Design as Democracy”

David de la Peña is an Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Design in the Department of Human Ecology, and also a member of the Geography and Community Development Graduate Groups. He received his Masters in Architecture from UT Austin, and his Masters in Urban Design and PhD in Environmental Planning from UC Berkeley. His research focuses on participatory design and planning methods, social housing, sustainable architecture, and urban agriculture. Current projects include an analysis and design for urban farms and community gardens in Sacramento, an examination of grassroots urbanism and housing in Barcelona, and a comparative study of community-based stewardship between California and Chile.

KETA PRICE | Director of Urban and Regional Planning for The East Oakland Collective

Marquita “Keta” Price aka The Hood Planner is a third generation East Oakland native serving as the Director of Urban and Regional Planning for the East Oakland Collective. Keta’s formal passion for urbanism came about during recreational research on how gentrification has impacted low-income Black “Hoods” across the nation. She joined EOC to help disrupt the eurocentric status quo of the city planning industry by helping it evolve to a more equitable and inclusive process. As director, Keta is the lead on several East Oakland neighborhood & transportation projects, participates in the development of regional planning, and holds the city of Oakland accountable to equitable zoning and land use in East Oakland. As an independent contractor she has supported the Brower Dellums Institute for Sustainable Policy and Studies to deliver the San leandro Creek Urban Greenway project in East Oakland. Keta has an Associates of Mathematics and Natural Science from Merritt College, Home of the Black Panthers.

CMG Studio Video Wins SMPS Award of Excellence – External Video!


Why does landscape architecture matter? How does landscape architecture benefit the communities and the world we live in? In 2019, CMG Landscape Architecture wanted to challenge ourselves to answer these questions in a new visual way – through the medium of video.

To us at CMG, landscape architecture is centered around creating beautiful and purposeful places and a providing a social and democratic amenity for the people that use those places. It is about re-connecting humankind to the nature around us. We hope our artful design and practice inspires and provokes communities and future landscape architects to design better places for people and nature.

A more effective way to tell people about why landscape architecture is important is to show people. Video is an underutilized storytelling medium in the AEC industry. It is visual and evocative like the landscapes we design. Landscape architecture transforms bleak and underutilized spaces into comfortable and welcoming places that invites people and nature together. We seized this opportunity to share the story of our designs, our firm, and our profession – to engage not only other designers and planners, but the people we design these places for.

We are so proud that our CMG Studio Video has been recognized with the Award of Excellence in the External Video Category from the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS)!

The SMPS is dedicated to creating business opportunities in the A/E/C industries and the Marketing and Communications Awards is the only awards program that highlights the critical role and immense value marketing professionals bring to the design and building industries. Learn more about SMPS at smps.org.

CMG’s New Associates: Wesley Cogan, David Gastañeta, and Jamie Yousten



In a year of resilience and growth, we are excited to recognize Wesley Cogan, David Gastenata, and Jamie Yousten with promotions. Thank you for all you do – we are excited for your future contributions!

Wesley Cogan, Associate

Wesley is a thoughtful, diligent, and talented team member. She has brought valuable contributions over the years on so many projects – Potrero Power Station, Mission Rock, San Francisco Civic Center, and San Francisco Waterfront Resilience Program. Her efforts extend beyond exceptional work into many facets of our office – hiring, internships, Design Team, advancing Climate Positive Design, and leading important office conversations like the recent Green New Deal.

David Gastañeta, Associate

David’s enthusiasm translates into curiosity and his curiosity translates into creativity and invention. He is a generous collaborator who is always there to support the team. He brings a witty sense of humor coupled with a seriousness and rigor in his work on Nueva School, Gateway of Pacific, and Treasure Island. David has been leading the implementation of CMG’s IT strategy and has integrated a wide range of new technologies into CMG’s workflow including our Revit, 3D printing and many more. 

Jamie Yousten, Associate

Jamie cares deeply about the work she touches, the people she works with, and the places and communities that we do the work for in the first place. She contributes great joy and spirit to CMG – from versatile project types and phases of Facebook, Hunters Point, and Marin Country Day School, where she nimbly moves between meetings, field, coordination, documenting, researching, and designing (in no particular order) to her dedicated involvement on CMG’s DEI initiative.

Inspiring A New, Diverse Generation of Designers: Everett Middle School



“For the profession of landscape architecture to remain relevant and responsive, it must better represent the communities and people it serves. Greater diversity brings new perspectives and thought leadership, strengthens professional/community connections, and supports social equity” – ASLA Mirroring the Nation: Landscape Architecture and the Future of the Profession

During our Salon “Equity in Landscape Architecture: The Power of Representation”, panelists Davi de la Cruz, Jenn Low, and Roberto Rovira spoke about the importance of educating and developing young designers from K-12 schools through university to diversify the landscape architecture profession and end systemic racism through the built environment. In our effort to educate K-12 students about landscape architecture, we started with schools in our own community of San Francisco. We had the opportunity co-create a design process focused curriculum with Everett Middle School. The design curriculum met State and National Standards for Art, specifically pertaining to Landscape Architecture.  

Everett Middle School is a public school located at the border of the vibrant Castro and Mission districts, serving a diverse student population, and offering unique enrichment in arts, leadership, and civic activism.

In Spring 2021, CMG Designer Mwinyi El-Kindiy collaborated with Everett Middle School’s 8th Grade Visual Arts Teacher Ms. Andrews. Together, they developed a design curriculum centered on Landscape Architecture and the Built Environment. The intention of the collaboration was to expose and inspire students to potential career paths and educate them as to why it is important for multiple voices in design.

Ideally, we would have preferred to teach the students in their classrooms, but that wasn’t feasible due to COVID-19 guidelines. It was a challenge to teach the students over Zoom as Landscape Architecture is usually taught in a studio setting. Over the course of eight weeks, Ms. Andrews and Mwinyi adapted and taught the students how to use digital drawing tools.

To create a Design Program for Everett Middle School, Mwinyi and Ms. Andrews referenced K-12 lesson planning and educational resources by ASLA, FLAA, and LAF.

Curriculum Overview

Week 1 – Introduction to the Built Environment and Profession

It was important for students to understand that everything built around them was designed. At CMG, we like to emphasize that landscape architecture is a collaborative process between multiple professions such as landscape architecture, architecture, urban planning, and environmental science. An early education in design can lead to many possible career paths that have an impact on the built environment.

Week 2 – Aesthetics, Economy, Community and Ecology

Mwinyi introduced the students to Landscape Architecture through Aesthetics, Economy, Community, and Ecology. He gave specific examples of how Landscape Architecture can address things like:

  • Social Justice. Who are we designing for? How are communities protected from gentrification?
  • Community Outreach. Why it is important to understand what the community needs or wants? What is the value in having the community involved in the process?
  • Ecological Justice. Why is it important to design areas that promote and strengthen interconnections between humans and the natural environment? How do we restore habitats?
  • Diversification of the professional field. How do we get more voices of different backgrounds to cocreate spaces? Why are multiple voices important?

Week 4 – Introduction to the Project Site: Everett Middle Schoolyard

For the design exercise, Everett Middle Schoolyard was the perfect project site for the students to re-imagine. It is a space that they all are familiar with and use daily.

During the community engagement phase, the school’s staff members were surveyed by Ms. Andrews about the desires and needs of the space after years of observing students using the yard. The staff reported that the schoolyard needed more shade, less paving, trees to serve as a windscreen, outdoor classroom areas, spaces dedicated to recreational activities, and murals on the existing walls.

Week 5 – Writing the Project’s Narrative

The students were prompted to think through some essential questions about the Schoolyard as the basis of the project’s narrative and inform the design.

  • What currently exists?
  • What does not?
  • What could be kept?
  • What needs to be changed or added?
  • How does it feel in the space?
  • How can this opportunity to redesign the schoolyard be used to promote aesthetics, economy, community, and ecology?

Week 6 – Designing the Site 

The students did a quick sketch out bubble diagrams to create a basic layout for the design, followed by incorporating elements outlined in their written narratives, and refined the bubble diagrams again for a first draft of their Schoolyard designs.

Week 8 – Design Review

The first draft designs were shared anonymously over zoom with the entire class, Ms. Andrews, and Mwinyi, who then provided critiques and design suggestions.

The students refined their work and presented their final designs at the end of the semester incorporating Ms. Andrews and Mwinyi’s feedback.

Thank you to Everett Middle School and Ms. Andrew for allowing us to bring our passion for landscape architecture to your students. By working with schools and youth organizations, we hope to increase representation in our field and inspire a new, more diverse generation of designers. If you know a Bay Area school teacher, who would be interested in introducing their class to the field of landscape architecture, please email info@cmgsite.com.

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.


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