What the future holds for landscape architecture

John Dempsey, PLA, Landscape Architect

In February, landscape architects from around the upper Midwest joined the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) spring conference on the campus of University of Wisconsin – Madison. The theme was 50 & Forward.

I presented a session on Universal Street Design for the 21st Century. I structured my session around the exciting recalibration that is currently underway with street design – topics included Vision Zero, Complete Streets design guidelines, and curbside management. I highlighted how the City of Wausau Center Urban Design and Transportation Master Plan is using these innovative methods.

One of the key recommendations for Wausau and the surrounding area is to reconnect the city’s grid and modify the street network configuration, in order to make it as efficient as possible for all travel modes. The Master Plan includes recommendations to modify the built environment through short-term and longer-term strategies for all travel modes and shift from a pass-through to a destination neighborhood.

Other conference highlights included: 

  • Conservation and resiliency. A lot of sessions and topics had an overarching theme documenting the need to design with nature.
  • Bridging the adventure gap. Our country is growing increasingly multicultural, and our landscapes will need the skill of all races and ethnicities to uplift the human spirit.
  • Designers meet and greet. It was great to share ideas and network with hundreds of professionals at the spring social.

The two-day conference showcased the importance of sustainability and equity in the face of climate change. Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes provided the morning address on the second day and left us with this powerful message: “Turn our greatest challenges into our greatest opportunities.” This statement will undoubtedly supply inspiration for future Wisconsin ASLA conferences.

Save the date for the 2021 Spring Conference in Milwaukee, WI: March 10 & 11, 2021!

John Dempsey

Landscape Architect II
John Dempsey is a professional landscape architect in Toole Design’s Minneapolis office with experience in a wide variety of urban...
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