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Please join the Doctor of Design program and the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning for a co-sponsored lecture featuring Anya Domlesky from the SWA Group. 

Anya Domlesky, ASLA, PLA, is an urban designer and landscape architect, currently the Director of Research at SWA Group.  She runs XL Lab, the firm’s innovation lab undertaking practice-based research. She holds an MLA from the Harvard GSD and an M.Arch II from McGill University.

Not All Green is Gold: Appearance and Performance in Scaling Up Climate Action

Landscape architects are not doing enough on climate action.  Even as architects have been working for years to reduce the embodied carbon of steel and concrete, incorporating automated Life Cycle Assessment into BIM models to calculate impact, accounting for operational carbon through LEED, and making pledges for mitigation and meeting targets, our small discipline has not significantly altered our practices.  Although a small number of landscape projects go through SITES certification every year, the majority receive little or no scrutiny on their carbon impact, sequestration, or climate adaptation performance—from clients, the public, or the press.  Inadvertently, our work has been greenwashed by others; it looks like sustainability.  This historical “pass” stems in part from our projects’ appearance of naturalness, an artifice we train long to wield.

It is time now to immediately expand how we imagine the scope of our work.  New research is showing the carbon impacts of landscape projects can be massive.  We must begin to hold ourselves to account rather than continue to be complacent in our perception as providers of an uncontested “green” good.  In the last 10 years, the field has made significant strides in designing for flood adaptation, but we quickly need to incorporate adaptations to heat, drought, fire, and bolster the ability of people, animals, and plants to absorb and recover from shocks.  To scale up our climate action takes reskilling, new tools, practice-based research on emerging dynamics, a new emphasis on working both upstream of the design brief and post-construction, and an active, rather than passive, stance in relation to clients.  We have been constructing novel ecosystems to meet aesthetic and social aims for decades.  The time has come for these sites do more work.

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