ReDesign.School Roundtable: Landscape Architecture / In partnership with ASLA Arizona / 06.27.18

On June 18th we hosted the last of our local roundtables, this one focused on Landscape Architecture. We partnered with the Arizona chapter of ASLA to convene a group of practicing professionals along with some of our landscape architecture faculty at the Phoenix office of HDR. The following is an overview of the conversation that took place. Take a look and let us know what you think!


Valerie Ahyong – Floor Associates
Landscape Architect

Justin Azevedo – Coffman Studio
Principal Landscape Architect

Marc Beyer – The Design Element

Ken Brooks – The Design School at ASU
Professor – Landscape Architecture

Chingwen Cheng – The Design School at ASU
Assistant Professor – Landscape Architecture

Tanner Christensen – Coffman Studio
Landscape Designer

Paul Coseo – The Design School at ASU
Assistant Professor – Landscape Architecture

Joseph Ewan – The Design School at ASU
Landscape Architecture Program Head, Associate Professor

Kristina Floor – Floor Associates

David Hewitt – J2 Engineering & Environmental Design
Landscape Architect

Beth Johannessen – TRUEFORM Landscape Architecture Studio
Landscape Designer

Kristian Kelley – The Design School at ASU
Clinical Assistant Professor

Lora Martens – The Design School at ASU

Laura Paty – HDR Inc.
Landscape Architect Senior

Roger Socha- TRUEFORM Landscape Architecture Studio

Jesse Westad – WERK Urban Design & Engineering
Owner & Principal

After introductions, a warm-up exercise kicked off the evening, with participants writing down their answers to the question, “Where is design going?” 

Where is design going?

Post-it note exercise – Full Group


Chingwen Cheng

  • Equity/social impact
  • Diversity/cultural sustainability
  • Net positive impact; >net zero

Beth Johannessen

  • Environmental/climate justice
  • Economic justice
  • Space? (Mars)
  • Tech based solutions
  • Diversity and inclusion

Marc Beyer

  • Understand the challenge/problem
  • Learn from the past
  • Anticipate needs

David Hewitt

  • Frenetic pace; shorter attention spans
  • Reliance on each other

Justin Azevedo


Christian Kelley

  • Increase in specialization
  • Increased collaboration amongst different disciplines
  • Appreciation of beauty (More or less)

Roger Socha

  • Learning from the past
  • Understanding the present
  • Moving forward

Valerie Ahyong

  • Beyond sustainability…the next level
  • Outside the norm of design today…
  • Community collaboration

Ken Brooks

  • Performative design
  • Evidence-based design
  • Engaging empathy

Lora Martens

  • Focus on sustainability
  • Focus on improving community
  • Collaborative

Jesse Westad

  • Places for healing
  • Environmental impact
  • Providing habitat

Joe Ewan

  • Demand for sustainability and beyond
  • Environmental expertise
  • Integrate technology in design

Assistant Professor Paul Coseo provides his thoughts on where design is going.

Paul Coseo

  • Co-Production- beyond collaboration
  • Urban climate design
  • More storytelling
  • Adaptation
  • Environmental/climate justice

Laura Paty

  • Environmental-based
  • Global/international
  • Collaborative

Tanner Christensen

  • Future
  • Technology
  • Global warming; climate-design

Overall impressions from the sticky note exercise:

  • Marc Beyer: “I feel that we are broadening ourselves beyond typical boundaries.”
  • David Hewitt: “No outliers here, the categories are very similar.”
  • Lora Martens: “Collectively focused around the good that landscape architecture can do in the world.”
  • Roger Socha: “If we are talking in broader sense of design in the world, there are huge impacts here.”
  • Justin Azevedo: “Technology is going to have a huge impact, whether that narrows our focus or broadens our scope.”
  • Beth Johannessen: “At a point in the industry where people recognize our ability to impact big problems. We’ve moved beyond “garden designers”. Landscape architects have big responsibility to solve complex issues.”

Attendees were then led into smaller group conversations to discuss the next three questions.

What are the skillsets of the future we should be teaching now?

Small Group Discussion


Chingwen Cheng, Kristina Floor, David Hewitt and Lora Martens

  • Start with design thinking
  • Ask good questions
  • Site analysis
  • Critical analysis
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Systems-thinking
  • Ecology 101- e.g. food web- how one factor affects one another
  • Scales- micro vs. macro
  • Content- storytelling

Valerie Ahyong, Marc Beyer, Kenneth Brooks and Kristian Kelley

  • Production skills
  • Business skills
  • Human behavior and communication skills, including writing
  • How to think
  • Learning how to learn
  • Cultivate ability to see and presenting that vision
  • Visual thinking
  • Engaging ethics
  • Critical thinking
  • Learning to deal with complexity and accelerating rates of change
  • IT advancements in visualization

Justin Azevedo, Tanner Christensen, Joseph Ewan and Jesse Westad

  • Drafting
  • Codes and regulations
  • Current software
  • GIS
  • Communications- graphic, public speaking, presentation, AR/VR
  • Hand → Digital Graphics

Paul Coseo, Beth Johannessen, Laura Paty and Roger Socha

  • Critical thinking
  • Design thinking
  • Learn CAD at work
  • Empathy training- having experiences that are different, even beyond, listening
  • Listening to come up with solutions
  • Bias- having that revealed and better understood; learn how to change that
  • Skills to build capacity to assimilate as much info as possible; how you access and use information; knowing where to go and how to get it
  • Put yourself in someone else’s shoes
  • Service work is essential, travel as well. Connection to a community can give life-changing perspective; makes you more empathetic; community embeddedness
  • Show examples of work of women- helps young women be inspired; diversity of topics/faculty helps those who look and think like them
  • Communication skills- graphic communication, collaboration skills, talking to people, writing, presenting ideas
  • Evidence-based processes; science thinking
  • Know how to research
  • Understanding how the watershed works

How can design education be more relevant?

Small Group Discussion

Beth Johannessen and Kristina Floor discuss the relevance of design education.

Valerie Ahyong, Justin Azevedo, Kristina Floor and Beth Johannessen

  • More community involvement; outreach
  • Get out of the studio!
  • Helping with real projects; volunteering
  • Success of place is based on designers as well as community members, artists, restaurateurs, etc. working together
  • Create livable space in our or other challenging environment
  • What are other schools and programs doing? How do we differentiate at ASU?
  • Audit programs/ theory vs. design
  • Maker/hands-on/construction- learning through doing
  • Shadowing professional practices
  • Focus on arid climate- designing for our unique conditions
  • Refresh our memories of what we do right- indigenous, local wisdom that we (professionals) take for granted
  • Look at other regions as well to expand range
  • VR/Tech- making sure students can convey ideas through various means

Marc Beyer, Paul Coseo, Lora Martens and Jesse Westad

  • Landscape architecture education gets held up in old thinking; build on strengths at medicine or art or law
  • Too complex for people to understand
  • Landscape design → designing space/urban design
  • Health, safety and welfare components that people can’t get their head around
  • Design education should be grounded in reality
  • Local issues; has to be embedded in local community; working with community partners
  • Must educate the public on what design is
  • Design process as a skill
  • Larger cultivation of landscape architecture in Phoenix at all levels
  • Promote the work of the school

Chingwen Cheng, Tanner Christensen, Kristian Kelley and Laura Paty

  • Design having meaning to society- How do we inspire students about issues at large but applied to community?
  • Research- addressing big issues through small design applications
  • Job-readiness; evolving curriculum to be ensure students are ready for practice
  • Finding common ground of ideas that can apply everywhere

Kenneth Brooks, Joseph Ewan, David Hewitt and Roger Socha

  • Experience real world: ecology, sociology, culture, politics
  • Cross-country field trips
  • “Real world representatives”
  • Exposure- gain tools
  • ASU landscape architecture has unwritten rule to use real world sites- this is a good thing
  • More studios abroad
  • Bring juries from outside schools
  • Get comfortable being uncomfortable
  • Mold students into professionals- passion, advocacy, civically-engaged
  • Design education creates better citizens

Design your ideal transdisciplinary studio/class/learning exercise. What would that look like?

Small Group Discussion


Justin Azevedo, Kenneth Brooks, Kristian Kelley and Roger Socha

  • “Migrating Media”
  • Urban Design (Migrating)- arts, technology, ecology, economics, policy and culture
  • Selection of topic is based on community need; changes to current needs
  • Class may last longer than a semester
  • Must be for common good
  • Media/art forms/storytelling; different products from each student

Chingwen Cheng, Beth Johannessen, Lora Martens and Jesse Westad


  • Design a new city on Mars
  • Bring together a team of developers, venture capitalists, scientists, architects, landscape architects, NGO’s
  • Make decisions based on values of new colony

Valerie Ahyong, Joseph Ewan, Kristina Floor and David Hewitt

  • Transformational Design
  • HIstorical context- anthropology, broad history
  • Focus on work beyond what is landscape architecture
  • Marketing/advocacy- how do we tell people about landscape architecture?
  • Design and Sustainability and Sociology- what do people want to be in a space?

Marc Beyer, Paul Coseo, Tanner Christensen and Laura Paty

  • Landscape As Medicine
  • What are the things that make people ill that are environmental drivers? Bring together medical students, landscape architecture students, social scientists and computer scientists
  • Smart, Healthy and Connected Design: bring social media, computer sciences and landscape architecture students together to work on community topics for the future city

How do we promote and further equity and inclusion in our school and beyond?

Full Group Discussion


  • Laura Paty: “How does the ASU population reflect the population as a whole?”
  • Jason Schupbach: “Student population looks like America. On the faculty side, we have some work to do to better reflect that.”
  • Kenneth Brooks: “The national landscape architecture organizations have set goals for diversity in the profession. Our student population is more diverse than the profession as a whole. We are approaching gender equity in enrollment, but we have way more students of Hispanic heritage than many other parts of the country, very little African American students- how can we be more visibly diverse?”
  • Beth Johannessen: “The discussion of diversity and equity often focuses on how we look externally in terms of representation. We should be aware of the same biases being taught. Equity and inclusion should help transform the way we teach and what we teach. Having diverse population at the table isn’t enough. Acceptance and transformation of the methods and materials we teach should be the goal.”
  • Joseph Ewan: “I’ve been going to national ASLA diversity committee for years. Often focused on Hispanic and African-American populations. There should be more focus on Native American populations, especially at ASU. For our geography, we should be the hands-down leaders in that arena.”
  • Beth Johannessen: “Look at what the ASU College of Nursing and Health Innovation is doing, with the American Indians Into Nursing Program– provides financial and other support (peer support, counseling, cultural activities) for American Indian students to feel at home in their environment at the School of Nursing. There needs to be a true connection where people feel at home in the school they are studying in.”
  • Chingwen Cheng: “I would like to see more resources directed to teaching faculty how to accommodate different populations who may learn differently due to cultural differences.”
  • Kenneth Brooks: “When Chingwen and Paul took students to Hawaii, they took considerable time to teach students about the Hawaiian culture, embedded the history and cultural knowledge in the coursework before the student work began. How can we all do that here to better learn about our own place and population?”
  • Tanner Christensen: “Community engagement is a big piece. When you go into a community and they don’t know what we do, this is an opportunity for visibility and allowing for us to learn from each other.”
  • David Hewitt: “It’s important that the individual doesn’t get lost in the shuffle, teaching how to use your individual background to tell stories through your design skillset, use that as something that has value.”
  • Kenneth Brooks: “We must learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable. We must go out on a limb, because that’s where the fruit is.”

Final thoughts:

  • Roger Socha: “How do you measure these different questions? At the end of this process, what does success look like?”
  • David Hewitt: “What would failure look like?”
  • Kenneth Brooks: “There would be clues: if there were not good communication between the programs, faculty, students and industry, we would see this as a failure. This is a resource that not all schools and professional communities have.”
  • Beth Johannessen: “It would be good to look at past students from various communities. How was their experience? Did they learn to code switch? How did this affect their ability to gain employment after they graduated? Following up may provide very valuable insight.”

ReDesign.School Roundtable: Landscape Architecture

In partnership with ASLA Arizona

Join the Conversation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *