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Highlights from LAF's Philadelphia Summit
Symposium Inspired by 1966 Declaration of Concern


The Landscape Architecture Foundation's Summit of Landscape Architecture in Philadelphia, June 10-11, attracted 715 attendees. LAF is synthesizing the ideas, discussions and audience input from the summit to draft a "Landscape Declaration," which will be released for public comment this fall.

Seven hundred and fifteen attendees gathered for the Landscape Architecture Foundation's Summit of Landscape Architecture and the Future at the University of Pennsylvania campus in Philadelphia, June 10 and 11, 2016. Attendees came from as far away as China, Argentina and Australia to hear 75 presenters and panel discussions.

The symposium was inspired by LAF's 1966 Declaration of Concern, in which a small group of landscape architects came together in Philadelphia to urge a collaborative effort to improve the American environment, and to train a new generation to help create that environment. The symposium featured 25 "declarations" on the first day, and nine themed panels on the second, examining and discussing whether the landscape architecture profession has fulfilled its promise, and how it can effect change over the next 50 years.

"We wanted to bring the profession together to determine what we need to do to define and focus the vital contribution of landscape architects right now," said LAF Executive Director Barbara Deutsch, upon welcoming the attendees. "The world needs what we have to offer to help solve or adapt to the complex, interrelated interdisciplinary environmental, social and economic problems we face today," she added.

Common themes were the increasing importance of cities; how landscape architecture can contribute to managing and preserving vital resources like water, food and biodiversity; the importance of participatory design, integrating communities into design work; and how to communicate the value of landscape architecture to the broad public.

"As cities get denser and more compact, they will demand new organizational development frameworks that improve mobility, efficiency and comfort," observed James Corner of Field Operations, and designer of The High Line in New York City.

Mario Schjetnan, co-founder of Grupo de Diseno Urbano in Mexico City, noted the projections of tremendous growth of Latin American urban centers, and the environmental deterioration happening in developing nations.

"Although many landscape architects actively participate in government and private or social organizations, their numbers are small, disproportionately small compared to the relative phenomenon of environmental problems and conditions of large numbers of urban dwellers," Schjetnan said. "This is unacceptable. While there are 150,000 architects in Mexico alone, fewer than 1,000 landscape architects work in the country.

"What will become of wilderness, wild things and the wild in man as we continue on a relentless trajectory of global urbanization," asked Nina-Marie Lister, an ecologist, urban planner and professor at the School or Urban Planning at Ryerson University in Toronto.

Blaine Merker of Gehl Studio advocated for human-scale development, local social ties, people-powered mobility and places for common ground.

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