The Landscape Architecture Profession Seeks to Diversify, Says ASLA

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WardWhen we think of an architect, we often immediately think of one who builds buildings. But the landscape architecture profession is relevant and growing.

Whether beautifying the yards of suburban homes or creating lush community gardens in America’s urban neighborhoods, these landscape architects’ planning and design projects stem from years of training in conservation, outdoor spaces and related green infrastructure—including parks, plazas, campuses, playgrounds, streetscapes and residential properties—that make our communities great places to live. And the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) is fully committed to raising the diversity profile of the landscape architecture profession through general public awareness, early exposure to the profession and mentorship. Founded in 1899, ASLA is the national professional association for landscape architects, representing more than 15,000 members in 49 professional chapters and 72 student chapters

According to ASLA’s 2015 graduating student survey, just one percent of survey respondents identified themselves as African American.

“We need to foster more landscape architects who reflect their communities and understand their needs,” says ASLA President Chad Danos. “ASLA’s goal is to help K-12 students and their parents learn what landscape architects do and show them that landscape architecture is a great career choice.”

We’ll keep watching the industry for more diversity updates, but in the meantime, here are some names to know when it comes to African American landscape architects:

Kona Gray, ASLA. As a principal of EDSA, Gray reaches beyond the ordinary with every project in which he is involved. He has experience in many aspects of planning and landscape architecture, ranging from large scale planning to detailed site design with emphasis on community planning, urban design, hospitality and campus-related projects. Gray has also demonstrated a dedication to the landscape architecture profession through being named to serve as chair of the 2016 ASLA Professional Awards, and having previously served as chair of the 2015 ASLA Student Awards. He received a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from the University of Georgia.

Courtney Hinson Cason, ASLA. With more than eight years of experience in the land development industry, Cason works as a planner with Langvardt Design Group. Her previous experience includes working as a planner and landscape architect for other civil engineering, surveying and land-planning firms. She received her master’s degree in landscape architecture from North Carolina State University in 2007.

Aaron Ruffin, ASLA.
Ruffin, a senior urban planner with Jacobs, offers a unique background of land use planning, design and landscape architecture. He has demonstrated a capacity to incorporate various planning concepts into real-life applications, resulting in planning processes and documents that can be easily applied by local jurisdictions. He received a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture and a master’s degree in public policy and administration from Mississippi State University.

Christopher L. Sanders, Associate ASLA.
Sanders is a designer with SWT Design whose career focus is environmental stewardship and innovation. He had previously been a conservation specialist with the Big Bend Groundwater Management District in Stafford, Kansas. He earned his master’s degree in landscape architecture from Kansas State University in 2012.

Lindsey D. Smith, ASLA. Smith is a designer and landscape management supervisor for Favrot & Shane Companies AIA. His career has emphasized design, multifamily development, community engagement, project management and communications skills. He earned his bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from Mississippi State University in 2004 and is currently studying for a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the University of New Orleans.

Mercedes Ward, ASLA.
Ward is assistant landscape architect for the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation. Her focus is updating and redesigning neighborhood parks and playgrounds in Brooklyn, New York, as well as contract and construction management for these sites. Ward had previously worked on residential environmental and economic sustainability initiatives for New York City. She received a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from Penn State University.