ASLA’s website shows that the 2008 award winners have indeed been named. In the words of ASLA’s president, Perry Howard, “These projects represent the pinnacle of design achievement by the world’s leading landscape architects.” (and by “the world’s” he means the United States’).
This is great news, not so much for the profession, but for the marketing specialists in each of these firms.
A quick perusal of the winners shows that the usual suspects have once again run roughshod over the upstarts. The big boys- Heargraves, Ken Smith, Van Valkenburg, Gustafson, Olin, etc.- are all going home happy, with Van Valkenburg Associates haven proven themselves especially versatile and adept in their ability to awe the staid and insipid folks of the jury.
There sure are some interesting projects there, and though there is likely more to be learned and enjoyed from actually walking down your block, the projects highlighted here prove to look fantastic in photos and to lend themselves well to the invention of “-scape” words. So there’s that.
But really, the problem is not the projects themselves but that they are held up to us by the powers-that-be as the goal of all our professional aspirations. A beautiful house in a breath-taking natural setting for well-heeled clients merits an award? “My, that is a wonderful planking pattern on your deck.“ Van Valkenburg has created some fantastic-looking places, but does that firm really merit three times the awards than the entire portfolio of Latin American designers? Either the American Society of Landscape Architects is a xenophobic, ethnocentric organization or they are saying that latinos just aren’t that good.
The GSD’s good ‘ol boy circle has once again proven themselves imminently competent at patting each other on the back, and any chance for serious and critical public discourse within the profession will have to wait for now. After all, there are press releases to get out!