The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA)—the nation’s largest professional association in the field—has released a letter to the White House urging the Biden Administration to once again include landscape architects on the Commission of Fine Arts (CFA).
The CFA, an independent agency that advises the federal government on the aesthetics and design of the Capital’s monuments, parks and buildings, has had at least one landscape architect serving as a commissioner since its founding in 1910 (except for 1994-2002). With the administration’s recent appointments to the CFA, architectural professionals now occupy five of the seven seats, with no landscape architects to oversee planning and design of the public spaces around the Capital and inside the D.C. Metro Area.
“For only the second time in history, there is not a single landscape architect on the CFA, an omission we believe could be detrimental to the future of the Capital area, and how it is used by local residents, visitors and federal employees,” says Torey Carter-Conneen, CEO of ASLA. “When it comes to planning for public spaces, monuments, climate change and even security, these are all within the purview of landscape architects and have been since the field was first established in the 19th century.”
At its founding in 1910, the commission brought on Frederick Law Olmstead Jr., the leading landscape architect of the day, as one of the seven commissioners to serve (1910-18). Best known for his design of the National Mall’s landscape and park system, he was the son of Frederick Law Olmsted, considered the “father” of the landscape architecture profession, who designed the 50 acres of the grounds then surrounding the U.S Capitol Building in 1874.
“While we are pleased to see the racial and gender diversity of this new commission, we are missing the professional diversity so vital to the work of the commission,” Carter notes. “The most inspired work comes from when landscape architects, architects, planners, and other design professionals collaborate, when they can meld together their expertise, perspective and visions.
“In fact, you can see the extraordinary results of this long-standing collaboration throughout the Capitol area today.”