The Art of Places (Midterm Inspiration!)

Welcome to Midterms! Balancing homework, studying, sleeping, and eating as a student at The Academy does not only include coffee, books, and Microsoft Word. Art is not born from Red Bull, flash cards, and 6 hours of free time. AAU midterm projects must be inspired and revolutionized, balancing color, space, concept, medium, legibility.

To quote the famous impressionist painter Edgar Degas: “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”

So what keeps a landscape architecture student inspired during late nights, when the .3 fine line pens are dulling and the “Acacia” green trees start looking too similar to the “Acid Yellow” shrubbery? We’ve found the answer!

A recent article titled “Well-being enhanced more by places than objects,..”, explains how the emotional receptors in the brain are “fired up” when a person visits a place connected with memories. According to their studies, places provide feelings like “safety,” “belonging”, and even a sense of “magnetic pull”.  For example, swinging on the swing set at your family’s favorite childhood park could invoke much more emotion about your mom than holding a pair of her socks in your hand.

Landscape architects have the ability to create generations of emotion through memories created inside their art piece. So, if you’re an aspiring architect, if you’re out there revolutionizing landscapes, buildings, and rooms, remember the power your art has to change a person’s life path.

Finally, if an artist looks to invoke emotion, it could be argued that emotion is needed to create the art piece. The answer?

Dear Art Students,

Find the right place to work on your project. There’s a good chance the right place will inspire you even more than the Copic Sketch Marker in your hand.

On behalf of the AAU School of Landscape Architecture, good luck on your midterms!

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Is Landscape Architecture “Activism”?

Kate Orff, Landscape Architect, 2017 MacArthur Grant Fellow

Planning, in any event or art piece, requires multidimensional thinking. Landscape architecture allows the platform for professionals to widen the lens on a location, marrying the environment to the solution of all problems, while transporting into the future of design and materials. Solving problems becomes an opportunity to make advancements in science and to create change at the same time.

Kate Orff, 2017 recipient of the MacArthur Grant, says she came to this field in part because of “activism“. Kate says that her work constitutes as activism because it “inspires people to be involved and to create a more direct connection with the immediate environment.”

Let’s consider these consequences. What happens when people are inspired to interact with nature? If we gain a relationship with nature, through sustainable and creative designs in landscapes, is it possible that we would also choose innately to protect it? Could landscape architecture be the answer?

Read the Q&A with Kate Orff by PBS News Hour HERE and tell us what you think: is landscape architecture activism?

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AAU Landscape Architecture Fall 2017 Speaker Series Presents: Sergio Lima

AAULandArch Fall 2017 Speaker Series

This Thursday, October 12th, 2017 from 6pm to 7:15pm, visit the AAU School of Landscape Architecture to witness Senior Associate at SWA, Sergio Lima, present his current projects in the field. Subjects will include the design of both:

Both of these designs are world-renowned and will reshape Landscape Architecture as we know it. In Sergio’s words:

“The design of the [Al Wasl] plaza integrates a diverse and multi layered landscape space with an intricate domed trellis. Using innovative technology and ingenious design solutions the dome will shelter visitors from the intense UAE sun and allow visitors to enjoy a new public plaza enhanced by native planting species, fountains and multilayered outdoor performance spaces.”


More about Sergio Lima:

Sergio is an Italian Architect with a strong design and history background. After completing his architecture and landscape architecture studies in Italy, Spain and Canada he moved to the United States, where has been working as a landscape architect for the last 14 years. He is an Associate at SWA, where he has worked on a wide range of landscape projects, both in the US and abroad. He has a particular interest in the contamination of historic landscapes and historic urban spaces with contemporary design.  Much of his design attention through his career has been directed at the use of planting material, and working on projects in different parts of the world, he has developed substantial knowledge of plants from different climates.

Sergio Lima

Prior to his career in the US, Sergio has cooperated with the History Department of the University of Palermo, participated to several international workshops in Cairo and in Beirut, and published a few articles on historical Middle Eastern architecture and urban design.

In 2000 he moved to the United States and in 2001 he has joined SWA Group. Sergio has worked on a wide range of landscape architecture projects, both in the US and abroad, including the Landscape Design for the Burj Khalifa building in Dubai and the Academy of Science in San Francisco.


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FREE Academic Support for AAU Landscape Architecture Students Fall 2017


ARC Onsite + Online Workshops [drop-in only]
Supplemental instruction from academic departments to help ALL students improve their skills and knowledge.

ARC Language Labs (formerly MFA Labs) [by appointment or drop-in, onsite only]

  • For graduate students who need help with the verbal, written, and other language aspects of their classes, including Midpoint Review and Final Thesis Project – available to both domestic and international students.
  • ARC Workshops and Tutoring schedule link: Here
  • Open Visual ARC Schedule PDF: LAN Fall 2017 Workshop Calendar

LAN: Landscape Architecture
Darien Eckberg
TUE 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
THU 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Cannery, Room 302B

There are no ARC Workshops or Language Labs scheduled on Thursday, November 23 through Sunday, November 26, 2017 because of Thanksgiving Holiday.

Onsite Workshops Available:

  1. Site Planning and Natural Factors Workshop, hosted by Jeff McLane and Todd Gilens, will take place at The Cannery in Room 302H, on Tuesday 12pm – 2pm for the following dates: 9/26, 10/3, 10/10, 10/24, 11/7, 11/21, 12/5. It is suggested to attend these workshops if you need any assistance or want extra feedback in the following courses: LAN 115, 135, 180, 235, 260, 617, 619, & 801.
  2. Digital Graphics Workshop, hosted by David Vasquez, will take place at The Cannery in Room 300P on Wednesday 3:40pm – 5:40pm for the following dates: 09/27, 10/4, 10/11, 10/25, 11/8, 11/22, 12/6. It is suggested to attend these workshops if you need any assistance or want extra feedback in the following courses: LAN 223, 665, 679, 801.
  3. Landscape Studio and Graphics Workshop, hosted by Jeff McLane, will take place at The Cannery in room 300H on Thursday 8:20am – 10:20am for the following dates: 09/28, 10/5, 10/12, 10/26, 11/9, 12/7. It is suggested to attend these workshops if you need any assistance or want extra feedback in the following courses: LAN 180, 193, 250, 297, 300, 360, 400, 605, 610, 620, 660, 680, 690, 801.

Online Workshops Available:

  • The Landscape Studio Graphics Workshop, hosted by our Online Director, Heather Clendenin, will take place online every Wednesday from 3:30 – 5:30pm PST starting September 27. If you need any assistance or want extra feedback in the following courses: LAN 177, 180, 193, 240, 250, 277, 297, 360, 375, 400, 605, 610, 620, 660, 680, 690, 801 or ARH 110, just follow the sign-in instructions below.

NOTE: This workshop will be held via Adobe Connect. In order to tune in:

  1. Log into the LMS
  2. Click on the “Workshop” tab
  3. Access the Workshop’s Connect room via the “Live Meeting Room” tab
  4. Follow the dial-in instructions!

Additional Online Resources Available:
* The AAU Library has software & content tutorials available. Visit for more info.

– Digital Tutors: Access over 12,000 video tutorials on 30+ software applications

– Ebook Central: Access over 9,000 ebooks in 18 subject areas of the humanities
– LUNA: Over 331,000 images available to search & download that directly support AAU curriculum
– Oxford Art Online: Encyclopedia of world art & art history
– Material ConneXion: Custom library of material samples

Students and Instructors will access the ARC Online Workshop (both the discussion thread and the LIVE meeting component) through the LMS. Students are automatically enrolled in an online workshop that corresponds with their current class listings. If a student wishes to attend an ARC Online Workshop for assistance not appearing in their LMS, they may email to request access.

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Imagine Designing a 5.4 Acre Rooftop Park

Residents of the San Francisco Bay Area have long believed that a West Coast version of Grand Central Station is needed.


In fact, voters agreed back in 1999 that this new terminal in SF needed to be built to support buses from the East as well as trains from the Peninsula. Unfortunately, since its ribbon cutting in 2010, the budget for this project has evolved from $1.6 billion to 2.259 billion dollars today, borrowing money from the phase 2 project which was intended to incorporate the train system. Still, the terminal is well under way and was finally named Salesforce Transit Center this year in a $110 million, 25-year “sponsorship agreement”. The building stretches longer in length than the Salesforce Tower reaches tall.

From “The Transit Bay Transit Center — A Difficult Journey”



Among the elaborate plans for retail shops, food courts, gigantic skylights, and artistic outer shell, landscape and park enthusiasts are prepared to be impressed by the 5.4 acre rooftop park “conceived by Berkeley’s PWP Landscape Architecture.

PWP Landscape Architecture Rendering

This gigantic outdoor space will feature water moving with bus flow, 3 layers of soil “atop a Styrofoam-like material” to support “naturalistic topography”, a child-play area, and even bridges to neighboring towers.

Whether or not the 2nd phase (to incorporate southbound trains) is accomplished within the next decade, the rooftop park is sure to impact San Francisco’s identity.

San Franciscans have made so many memories on rooftops: in privately owned public spaces atop office buildings, at rooftop bars like Jones, at California’s Academy of Science’s “living roof”.

Not to mention, reading, yoga, tanning, and large gatherings all happen on private residential roof decks in the Marina and beyond. Finally, did you know 94,000 voters in California are registered Green as of February 2017?


There’s no denying: future buildings in this area are sprouting and you could be the next Landscape Architect to design it. Register for Spring 2018 classes at the Academy of Art’s School of Landscape Architecture.

Read more about “The Transit Bay Transit Center – A Difficult Journey” HERE (written by John King this past Friday, 9/15/17). The article displays some incredible maps and graphics to illustrate plans, timelines, and budgets like this one:

Transbay Center Finances (interactive map on original article site)

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SF Bay Area Resilience Relies on Sediment

“What happens in one area may impact what happens in another.”

A seemingly simple process explained by Chris Devick with Arcadis reminds us how the movement of sediment in any area, including the Bay Area, hugely alters the ecology and ultimate stability of the region. Due to sediment movement, the SF Bay Area’s “drinking water, energy, and transportation infrastructure” are all at risk. What is being done about this?!

(see full video at regarding Public Sediment)


One of AAU’s Landscape Architecture instructors, Wright Yang, and his office at TS Studio, is part of PUBLIC SEDIMENT, the team addressing this issue. TS Studio ultimately “views sediment as a core building block of [the region’s] resilience.”

Wright Yang, AAU Landscape Architecture Instructor

Using models to study sediments as well as sea level rise, the team seeks fair and equal distribution of sediment and hopes to “link broader ecological goals with local needs, public health, economic development, and flood risk reduction.”


Communities often focus on balancing two factors to solve problems: social and economic impacts. These two cannot be balanced unless the third pillar of ecological factors is incorporated.


Sediments and mud are shifting. Visit this site to learn more and spread the word! Also, the AAU School of Landscape Architecture would like to congratulate and thank Instructor Wright Yang and the TS Studio on their team’s great work!

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Breaking News: AAU’s Own, Nahal Sohbati, Wins Prestigious Landscape Architecture Award!

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) announced just 28 winners for their 2017 Student Awards. For the 2nd year in a row, an AAU Landscape Architecture student WON!


Nahal Sohbati was selected from 295 entries and 52 schools throughout the U.S. and around the world by a professional and academic jury.

Nahal Sohbati on Instagram @nahalsbt

Receiving the AWARD OF EXCELLENCE in the category of Community Service for her Ridge Lane project, Nahal is hard working, collaborative, innovative, and a passionate leader in this field. As her MFA Thesis Project, Nahal gathered neighborhood feedback, pinpointed problems of inaccessibility, crime, and inefficiency in the area, and created a solution that has addressed the many concerns of the neighbors. The first part of her project was actually installed in June 2016 and has become the heart of the community. The second phase is currently under construction. In designing and executing her Ridge Lane project, Nahal supported this community and ecology in a way that may never have been imagined: even butterflies were taken into account! Read more about the Ridge Lane award HERE and watch the 3-min-video about her project HERE!

Final Touches of Ridge Lane Phase 1 (From Nahal Sohbati’s Instagram)


Landscape Architecture is a tool to change communities, daily lives of people, and the Earth as we know it. Don’t believe us? Just ask @nahalsbt how Landscape Architecture and studying at the Academy of Art is changing her life…

Ridge Lane featured as the heading!

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New! Weekend Events at The Cannery

The Cannery Courtyard: another example of an outdoor space impacting lifestyles.

The Historic Cannery Building: Home to the Academy of Art’s School of Landscape Architecture

This historic building, 2801 Leavenworth at the San Francisco Wharf, is hosting a monthly Artisan Marketplace! The first event is this Sunday, September 10th! People travel from all over the world to see this location, where students attend their classes at the AAU School of Landscape Architecture. How would you like to call this your home?

Labor Day Weekend 2017 at SF’s Newly Renovated Aquatic Park

Last weekend, a huge crowd enjoyed the 100 degree weather at the newly renovated Aquatic Park beach, as if it were the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Did you know this beach is just 2 blocks away from the Cannery?

Tell us: what #landscapes are you visiting this weekend?! #FridayJunior #SanFranciscoweekends #aaulandscapearchitecture #renovatedlandscapes #SanFranciscowharf #thecannery

#landscapearchitecture #urbandesign #usefullandscapes #aquaticpark #labordayweekend2017

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How can tragedies like Houston happen? #HoustonInOurHearts

Articles written in 2015 and 2016 warned Houston that their region was flood prone after “38,000 acres of wetlands vanished,” covered with #impervioussurfaces . Urbanization issues like these lead to lives lost: #itstime for the United States to bring teams of #LandscapeArchitects to the table!

AAU Landscape Architecture Department Holds Houston In Our Hearts this Fall Semester

The #AAUlandarch family holds the people of #Houston in our hearts. Let’s make cities safer.  Who is with us? Take LAN 300 and 400 Studios to learn about Design of Urban Spaces and Regional Planning THIS SEMESTER at AAU with Instructor Bava and Frankl. We’re learning ways to save cities from such tragedy.

#regionalplanning  #HurricaneHarvey #protectourcities #stormwatermanagement #HoustonInOurHearts

How to Donate to Harvey Victims, an article by NYTimes.

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Tree-planting drones can sow 100,000 seeds a day

The much-hyped promise of a drone-driven future—where drones bring us foodtake our selfies, and even serve as taxis—is not nearly as cool as this Myanmar community’s drone-driven present. A group of villagers along the country’s Irrawaddy River will soon use drones to plant a million new mangrove trees in an effort to restore the area’s natural ecosystem.

After several years of planting the mangroves manually, the villagers and nonprofit Worldview International Foundation are teaming up with drones and pilots from BioCarbon Engineering to seed an additional 600 acres of land—freeing up their time to tend to saplings and more mature trees.

The drones have two jobs in the planting. First, they fly over the land, mapping the terrain and collecting information about its topography and soil. This data is then processed by an algorithm to determine where to plant and what species of tree would thrive. Then, another set of drones is each given a batch of specially designed seed pods and sent out. Flying low over the ground, the planter drones follow instructions determined by the data on where to go and when to fire a seed pod into the ground. They’re accurate to within centimeters.

The drones are more than 10 times faster than human planters, at half the cost, according to Fast Company.

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