The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) announced its 2021 Honors recipients. Selected by ASLA’s Board of Trustees, the honors represent the highest recognition ASLA bestows each year.
In addition, ASLA announced the induction of five honorary members. Honorary membership is among the greatest honors for non-landscape architecture professionals in recognition of notable service to the profession. Since its inception in 1899, ASLA has inducted only 237 honorary members.
The ASLA Medal
Darwina Neal, FASLA
In 1984, Darwina was elected president of the ASLA — the first woman to hold that position since ASLA’s founding in 1899. But her career as a woman trailblazer in landscape architecture started much earlier than that. After she received her landscape architecture degree from Penn State University — one of a handful of young women then studying the field — she began her career at the National Park Service (NPS) — just the third woman landscape architect ever hired. Her first assignment was to assist Lady Bird Johnson on her Beautification program, and through the NPS, she oversaw the design and development of parks in and around D.C. In 1972, she was commissioned by the ASLA to research the status of women in the field and uncovered that only five percent of ASLA members were women, prompting the organization to start promoting landscape architecture as a career for women. It was a decade later that Darwina was elected to be the first woman president of ASLA, paving the way for multiple women to become presidents in the decades to follow.
The ASLA Design Medal
Thomas Oslund, FASLA
Thomas is principal/partner and Director of Design for Minneapolis-based O2 Design, where he has design hundreds of projects spanning the globe, earning more than 65 national and international awards. But perhaps his most coveted projects are those he’s created for his hometown, among them: The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, the General Mills campus, and the Minnesota History Center. Citing Thomas’ innovative work integrating art with urban design, The Minneapolis Star Tribune awarded him “Artist of the Year” 2012. Thomas was also was a recipient of the prestigious Rome Prize Fellowship in Landscape Architecture from the American Academy in Rome, 1991. Thomas earned his bachelor degree in landscape architecture from the University of Minnesota and Masters in Landscape Architecture from Harvard University Graduate School of Design.
Community Service Award – Individual
Ernie (Ernest) Wong, FASLA
Named “Chicagoan of the Year” for 2010 by The Chicago Tribune, Ernie Wong said recently his mission is to create greenspace for urban areas and bring beauty to city living. In 1990, he founded his firm, Site Design Group, in order to “brighten the cityscape” of his native Chicago. Some of Wong’s most notable projects include Henry Palmisano Park, Mary Bartelme Park, and Ping Tom Memorial Park. For Memorial Park, built next to Chicago’s Chinatown, he worked side-by-side with community members to be sure the park reflected Chinese culture, creating a bamboo garden, a pagoda, and walking trails lined with rocks shipped from China. A graduate of Michigan State’s Landscape Architecture Program, has been both a leader in the field as well as his community service as commissioner of the City of Chicago Commission on Cultural Affairs and Mayor Rahm Emanuel Ad-Hoc Committee on Design and Planning, among other city organizations. Ernie’s other community service activities include serving as chair for the Chinese American Service League and other non profits, including the Museum of Science and Industry, the Student Conservation Association, and the YMCA.
The LaGasse Medal – Landscape Architect Professional
Barrett Kays, FASLA
Dr. Barrett Kays is considered one of the field’s top specialists in environmental sciences, groundwater, and soil design. Through the years, working through his own firm, Barrett Kays and Associates and later, Landis Inc., he has developed a unique expertise in soil design. This specialty was first put to use to bring back to life the Great Lawn of NYC’s Central Park in NYC; Kays’ soil and stormwater expertise turned the dry and decaying acreage of the 1990s to the lush and thriving recreational areas it is today. A similar project has been the restoration of the fountain of the famous Longwood Gardens in Philadelphia, where overflow of stormwater had for years been flooding the adjacent concert grounds. Dr. Kays’ multi-disciplinary approach to landscape architecture is drawn from his three degrees: a bachelor’s in horticulture from Oklahoma State University, his NC State master’s in landscape architecture, and doctorate in soil science from NC State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
The Jot D. Carpenter Teaching Medal
Lolly Tai, FASLA
Dr. Lolly Tai has for decades brought her passion for nature into the classroom, her books, and her landscape architect projects over the decades. She serves as professor of landscape architecture at Temple University, where she teaches design studios, research design methods, computer graphics, materials, and methods of construction and site engineering. In all her classes, she incorporates green infrastructure and sustainable landscape design. An author of three books on children’s recreational spaces, including The Magic of Children’s Gardens: Inspiring Through Creative Design (Temple University Press, 2017), Tai has focused her research on children’s relationships with gardens and how well-designed play areas can promote children’s emotional and physical well-being. She hopes her research will “inspire people to build their own rewarding relationships with nature.” She earned her PhD in Landscape Architecture from the Edinburgh College of Art, and her MLArch from the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
The Landscape Architecture Firm Award
The Cambridge, Mass. STIMSON is a uniquely comprised collective of urban and rural landscape architecture, as well as a nursery and a working farm, providing professionals a hands-on “field station” for the practice of landscape architecture. Founded in 1992 by Stephen Stimson, FASLA, a tenth generation dairy farmer, the studio remains inspired by its agrarian-minded heritage. It specializes in the design of college campuses, museums, parks, and gardens. The firm’s recent ASLA awards include the Heritage Flume at Heritage Museums and Gardens; the Florence Griswold Museum Artists’ Trail; Re-Envisioning Pulaski Park; and Northeast Harbor, A Restoration on Mount Desert Island.
The Medal of Excellence
Potomac Chapter ASLA Advocacy Committee
It wasn’t until 2020—after an intensive ten year effort—that licensure for Washington, D.C. landscape architects became a reality. Thanks to the work of The Potomac Chapter ASLA Advocacy Committee, notably, of Dena Kennett, Robert Alter, ASLA, and Marsha Lea, FASLA, legislation was finally passed, making the District the 51st jurisdiction in the U.S. to require licensure for landscape architects. The effort faced many challenges, among them, that the U.S. was facing mounting pressure to deregulate the requirement for licensure in many professions, with landscape architecture as one of them. Despite this, the Committee worked ceaselessly to draft legislation, attend public hearings, meet with legal counsel, and ensure in the bill that landscape architects within the District met national standards for licensure. Finally, on April 1, 2020, the D.C.’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) began accepting applications to operate inside the District, granting those approved the public and professional legitimacy in the profession.
The Olmsted Medal
NYC Playgrounds Program
Since 1996, the Trust for Public Land’s NYC Playgrounds Program (TPL) has built more than 214 green playgrounds, making it possible for more than 4.2 million New Yorkers for the first time to live within ten minutes of a playground, throughout the five boroughs. Collaborating with students, community leaders, and the NYC Department of Environmental Protections, and other organizations, the TPL program managed to transform scores of barely used asphalt schoolyards into highly popular community hubs. A hallmark to this initiative has been TPL’s commitment to “green” practices, designed to conserve natural resources and increasing resiliency, reduce flooding, improve the environment, and address climate change. Throughout the planning phase of each school’s playground redesign, the students themselves have had a “seat at the table,” empowering them to voice their opinions and take “ownership” of the building of each playground.
Emerging Professional Medal
Magdalena Aravena, ASLA
Maggie has spent much of her collegiate and professional career exploring how landscape architects can improve disadvantaged communities through education, advocacy and collaborative design. A first-generation Chilean, she is a devoted advocate for attracting more diverse practitioners into the field. Last year, for instance, she participated in a virtual Landscape Architecture Camp, designed to introduce girls to the field. Maggie has served the profession actively on both a national and local level, currently as president of the ASLA Illinois chapter. To honor her work on behalf of National ASLA — as part of the CEO search committee — she received ASLA’s 2020 Outstanding Service Award. Maggie received her degree in landscape architecture from the University of California at Davis. Today she is a licensed landscape architect with seven years of experience in the profession.
Representative Peter Defazio, Hon. ASLA
Congressman Peter DeFazio has represented the 4th District of Oregon since 1987. Throughout his tenure in the House, he has sponsored dozens of bills aimed at environmental protections. As Chairman for the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Congressman DeFazio has been a leading champion of sustainable mass transit. Perhaps his best known work is his advocacy for preserving natural landscape and wildlife for future generations.
Vicki Phillipy, Hon. ASLA
For 30 years, Vicki Phillipy has served as Executive Director of the ASLA Southern California Chapter. With more than 700 members from throughout the Southern California region, it is one of the nation’s largest chapters. Vicki has worked in a variety of administrative, educational, and professional support roles. Of crucial value to the chapter’s growth has been her work leading the chapter’s digital transformation efforts.
Christina Smith, Hon. ASLA
Christina Smith is president and CEO of Groundwork Bridgeport, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating the next generation of ecologically minded landscape architects by teaching high school students about sustainability, horticulture, and environmental stewardship. The City of Bridgeport, CT, serves as the students’ laboratory, where they transform blighted blocks into playgrounds, parks, and gardens and are often mentored by local professional landscape architects.
Heather Whitlow, Hon. ASLA
For the past decade, Heather Whitlow has served as the Senior Director of Programs and Communication at the Landscape Architecture Foundation, whose mission is to promote the impact and influence of the landscape architecture profession. Heather, an environmental engineer and community planner, speaks and writes frequently about the growing importance of the profession. For instance, ten years ago, Heather conceived and implemented the Landscape Performance Series Case Study Investigation (CSI) program, which today features 165 case studies and is considered a highly valuable resource for professionals around the globe.
Rhea Williams, Hon. ASLA
Rhea Williams has served as a leading proponent for the landscape architecture profession in the State of Alabama. She is well known throughout the state’s design community, regularly connecting artists, urban planners, architects, designers, and landscape architects in order “bridge the gap” between disciplines. Rhea actively encourages collaboration among these professionals in order to support better design and planning in communities across Alabama.