The Big Pre-Oscar Snub

From the Huffington Post, 8/23/2017 by Charles Birnbaum, The Cultural Landscape Foundation
Publicity still for Columbus showing male lead John Cho in the Miller Garden.

Who got snubbed? That’s the question asked every year when the Oscar nominees are announced. Critics opine about the performances not recognized, and gossips wonder if those snubbed had meltdowns like the one comedic genius Catherine O’Hara’s character Marilyn Hack has in the brilliant satiric movie For Your Consideration (O’Hara, by the way, was snubbed for that performance. Sad!).

Well, it’s not Oscar season but we already have one of the biggest snubs of the year.

It’s pioneering Modernist landscape architect Dan Kiley in the recent motion picture Columbus.

Dan Kiley and the U.S. Air Force Academy “Air Garden” in Colorado Springs, CO, part of the Academy’s campus he designed. Photograph © Aaron Kiley, courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation.

The movie, which takes place in Columbus, Indiana, a mecca for mid-century Modernism, features many scenes in the landscapes of key Modernist sites, and we learn from the movie’s characters that Eero Saarinen is the architect at each site: the Miller House and Garden (1955), North Christian Church (1964), and, Cummins Inc. Irwin Office Building(1964, originally Irwin Union Bank and Trust). Architects for other sites, including First Christian Church (1942) by Eliel Saarinen, Columbus Regional Hospital Mental Health Center (1972) by James Polshek, and Irwin Union Bank’s Creekview Branch by Deborah Berke (2007), are also acknowledged.

Cummins Inc. Irwin Office Building, 2013. Photograph © Matthew Carbone, courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation.

However, landscape architect Dan Kiley is never once credited, though his landscapes are frequently the movie’s pivotal “supporting actors” along with the buildings for which they were seamlessly designed. Indeed, the film’s advertising includes a still image of male lead John Cho in the Miller Garden (a key dramatic moment in the film).

Miller Garden allée, 2013. Photograph © Millicent Harvey, courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation.

And, one scene shows the Miller Garden’s widely acclaimed and influential allée, where we learn that a barely visible empty plinth once held a Henry Moore sculpture that was sold at auction at Christie’s. We’re told about a sculpture we can’t see and get some ersatz product placement for Christie’s, but nothing about Kiley-designed landscape that’s on screen.

Why does this matter?

Kiley is one of the nation’s most important post-War landscape architects and his influence is monumental. All three of the Kiley projects cited above, along with several other Modernist sites in Columbus, are National Historic Landmarks (NHL), an elite designation. While there are some 2,500 NHLs, only about 75 have significance in “landscape architecture” – in fact, Kiley ranks just behind Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., the father of landscape architecture, for shear number of NHLs.

The Art Institute of Chicago, South Garden, 2013. Photograph © Tom Harris, courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation.
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Kiley designed more than 30 landscapes in Columbus, more projects than any architect. Nationally, his significant commissions include the Art Institute of Chicago, South Garden(1962), Jefferson National Expansion Expansion Memorial, St. Louis, MO (1947, with Eero Saarinen), the John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, MA (1978, with I.M. Pei), the Donald J. Hall Sculpture Garden at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO (1988), and many others.

Miller House and Garden, 2013. Photograph © Millicent Harvey, courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation.

The Miller House and Garden, now owned by the Indianapolis Museum of Art, is acknowledged as one of the greatest Modernist collaborations. This thirteen-acre property was developed between 1953 and 1957 as a unified design through the close teamwork of Kiley, architects Eero Saarinen and Kevin Roche, interior designer Alexander Girard (who is acknowledged in the film), and clients J. Irwin and Xenia Miller. According to the NHL designation: “The Miller Garden and ‘its status as an icon of Modernism in American landscape architecture’ are the result of a fusion of ideas that cross boundaries between architecture and landscape.”

North Christian Church, 2013. Photograph © Matthew Carbone, courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation.

So how did Columbus become a Modernist mecca? It’s due to J. Irwin Miller. Starting in the late 1950s Miller, through his foundation, paid the design fees for new buildings (generally about 10% of a project’s total cost) provided the architect selected was one on his pre-approved list.

In a recent videotaped interview with landscape architect Joe Karr, who worked with Kiley from 1963 to 1969 on important projects including the Oakland Museum of Art in California and the Ford Foundation Atrium in New York City, it was revealed that while there were a great number of A-List architects on Miller’s pre-approved list there was only one A-List landscape architect: Dan Kiley.

Nevertheless, Kiley’s integral contribution is not only absent from the movie, but from recent coverage about Columbus, the place and the movie, in the New York Times – Columbus, Ind., Renews Its Big Design Legacy” – the Washington Post – ‘Columbus’ explores a city’s personal relationship with its architecture” – and others, too. Also snubbed in the film is landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh, designer of Mill Race Park (1992), which is featured in several key scenes.

Hamilton Garden, Columbus, IN, 2013. Photograph © Millicent Harvey, courtesy The Cultural Landscape Foundation.

To learn more about Kiley, visit the Chicago Architecture Foundation, which is currently hosting a traveling photographic exhibition The Landscape Architecture Legacy of Dan Kiley that features 45 newly commissioned photographs of 27 of Kiley’s more than 1,000 designs (it was organized by The Cultural Landscape Foundation of which I am president). In a 2015 Wall Street Journal review, critic Julie Iovine wrote that the exhibition, “shows how modern landscapes often make a better case for modernism than the architecture itself.”

To be generous, the film’s female lead Haley Lu Richardson does make an observation that could explain the omission of Kiley: “When you grow up around something, it feels like nothing.”

Press Release: ASLA Opposes Elimination of the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard


Contact: Karen Grajales
American Society of Landscape Architects
(202) 216-2371
[email protected]
ASLA Opposes Elimination of the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS)
Aerial views of the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy to the New Jersey coast taken during a search and rescue mission by 1-150 Assault Helicopter Battalion, New Jersey Army National Guard, Oct. 30, 2012.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen/Released)

Aerial views of the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy to the New Jersey coast taken during a search and rescue mission by 1-150 Assault Helicopter Battalion, New Jersey Army National Guard, Oct. 30, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen/Released)


Washington, D.C., August 18, 2017 – In response to President Trump’s executive order intended to streamline the environmental approval process for major infrastructure projects, Nancy Somerville, Hon. ASLA, executive vice president and CEO of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), released the following statement:

“ASLA is deeply concerned with the executive order’s roll back of the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS). This order ignores both existing risks of flooding and future impacts of climate change, thereby increasing the risk of loss of property and lives. Responsible planning and development must address issues of floodplain management and incorporate green infrastructure in order to improve the resilience and security of our communities.
“We need the kind of infrastructure plan that helps our nation thrive, grows jobs and improves community health and resilience. ASLA priorities for the nation’s infrastructure, outlined in “Landscape Architects Leading Community Infrastructure Design and Development,” center on green infrastructure solutions in four areas:
  • fixing our nation’s water management systems;
  • upgrading to a multimodal transportation network;
  • recognizing public lands, parks and recreation as critical infrastructure; and
  • designing for resiliency.
“We will continue to work at the intersection of design and smart policy, working with legislators and stakeholders on green solutions that work. ASLA intends to remain at the forefront of this conversation, especially through our upcoming Blue Ribbon Panel on Climate Change and Resilience, which will take place September 21-22 at the ASLA Center for Landscape Architecture in Washington, D.C.”
About ASLA
Founded in 1899, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) is the professional association for landscape architects in the United States, representing more than 15,000 members. The Society’s mission is to advance landscape architecture through advocacy, communication, education and fellowship. Sustainability has been part of ASLA’s mission since its founding and is an overarching value that informs all of the Society’s programs and operations. ASLA has been a leader in demonstrating the benefits of green infrastructure and resilient development practices through the creation of its own green roof, co-development of the SITES® Rating System and the creation of publicly accessible sustainable design resources.

ASLA-NY Members Help Students Build a Rain Garden in Brooklyn

Adobe Spark (1)On June 27, members from ASLA-NY and the Trust for Public Land (TPL) joined students at JHS 218 in Brooklyn to talk about landscape architecture, planting and stewardship then added new plants to their rain garden. Students learned how to prepare the soil by adding air and breaking up compacted areas and landscape architects assisted them with plant selection, layout and planting. The Greenbelt Native Plant Center on Staten Island donated most of the plant material, all grown from locally collected seeds and many of the plants will support pollinators in the garden.

Thanks to our great volunteers: Tiffany Briery, Taylor Drake, Coe Hoeksema, Katya Khan, Tricia Martin, Ruth Nervig, Jennifer Nitzky, Linh Pham, Maddalena Polletta and Ashleigh – the students will certainly be inspired to be stewards of their new garden! See the slideshow below for a photo recap of our event.

Stay tuned for our next project soon. If you are interested in volunteering on our team, sponsoring the program, or donating supplies, please contact Jennifer Nitzky at [email protected] or our Executive Director at [email protected]

In 2016, ASLA-NY honored Mary Alice Lee from TPL and ASLA-NY member Melissa Potter-Ix of StudioHIP for their 20 years of service inspiring elementary students to be landscape architects during their 10-week participatory design program. Learn more about the Trust for Public Land’s NYC Playgrounds Program on our video here:

American Society of Landscape Architects, New York and The Trust for Public Land Announces New Student Stewardship Program

JHS 218K planting day _10.01.13_JK 007NEW YORK, NY— The American Society of Landscape Architects, New York Chapter (ASLA-NY) and The Trust for Public Land (TPL) announce a unique partnership where we work directly with elementary and high school students to develop career discovery in landscape architecture and participate in garden stewardship projects at their schoolyard. Since 1996, The Trust for Public Land’s NYC Playgrounds Program has designed and/or built 189 school and community playgrounds across the five boroughs. Through an interactive, participatory design process, TPL works directly with students in the site analysis, planning and design of their schoolyard with an end result that transforms mainly asphalt schoolyards into vibrant, green community playgrounds (see our video:

Many of the schoolyards built have tree beds and gardens that benefit from ongoing stewardship. This program pairs landscape architects with school groups to provide guidance on programming, plant installation and maintenance while engaging students in garden stewardship.

The first project in the program is the re-establishment of a rain garden at J.H.S. 218 in Brooklyn scheduled for June 27, 2017 from 10:00 to noon. ASLA volunteers will be working with TPL staff and a group of 35 student stewards to plant, weed, and mulch a rain garden and extended tree pit.

The J.H.S. 218 Community Playground was designed by students, staff, parents, and community members through The Trust for Public Land’s NYC Playgrounds Program. This playground was the second to be opened in our partnership with the DEP, DOE, and School Construction Authority, and includes trees, a turf field, rain garden, pervious pavers and other green infrastructure elements that will capture up to an inch of rainwater in storm events.

If interested in sponsoring or participating in this program, please contact Jennifer Nitzky at [email protected] or Tiffany Briery at [email protected]

About the American Society of Landscape Architects, New York Chapter

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) is the national professional association for landscape architects. Founded in 1899, the association represents over 15,000 members and features 49 professional chapters and 76 student chapters. The New York Chapter, founded in 1914, encompasses the five boroughs of New York City, Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island, and Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, Orange and Rockland counties. The Society’s mission is to lead in the planning, design and care of both our natural and built environments. While keeping pace with the ever-changing forces of nature and technology, landscape architects increasingly have a profound impact on the way people live, work and play. Learn more at .

About The Trust for Public Land

Founded in 1972, The Trust for Public Land is the leading nonprofit working to conserve land for people. Operating from more than 30 offices nationwide, The Trust for Public Land has protected more than three million acres from the inner city to the wilderness and helped generate more than $34 billion in public funds for conservation. Nearly ten million people live within a ten-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. Learn more at

Call for Presentations for the Southeast NY Stormwater Management Conference

Southeast New York Stormwater Conference

October 18, 2017 – Dutchess Manor – Beacon, NY

Call for Presentations

The 17th annual Southeast New York Stormwater Conference is set for Wednesday, October 18, 2017. The conference provides an opportunity for municipal officials and staff as well as stormwater professionals to learn about stormwater management and related subjects from experts working in southeast NY and beyond. The Lower Hudson Coalition of Conservation Districts is currently accepting proposals for presentations.  Topics should be generally related to stormwater management, and could include:

  • Strategic planning for green infrastructure implementation
  • Design/construction of green infrastructure practices
  • Maintenance/monitoring of green infrastructure practices
  • Implementing MS4 programs/6 Minimum Control Measures
  • Riparian restoration and management techniques
  • Watershed and stream management
  • Policy aspects of stormwater management
  • Erosion and sediment control
  • Flood hazard mitigation/climate resilience through stormwater management

Interested presenters should submit a proposal to LHCCD Coordinator Michael Jastremski at  [email protected] by Close of Business on July 14th, 2017.  Please use the following guidelines when developing your proposal:

  • Include a title, presenter(s) name(s) and affiliation(s), and a 1-2 paragraph abstract.
  • The target audience for the conference is municipal officials and staff, as well as design professionals (engineers, landscape architects, etc.). Please indicate if your presentation is geared towards any of these audiences in particular.
  • Case studies are encouraged where they provide regionally applicable results or lessons learned.
  • Presentations should be scalable to 30 or 60 minutes in length.
  • Presentations that are intended solely to promote a specific product or business will not be selected.
  • Presenters are offered complimentary admission to the conference.  No other compensation or reimbursement is available.

Proposals will be reviewed by the conference planning committee of the LHCCD. Notifications will be sent no later than July 21, 2017 via email.

If your proposal is selected, please note that you will be asked to submit a draft presentation and supporting materials suitable for obtaining accreditation for PEs and LAs no later than 40 days before the conference (September 8th, 2017)


Member Spotlight: Liz Pulver


Liz Pulver has practiced landscape architecture since 1997, working with national and international leaders in the industry. Her experiences with West 8, Hollander Design, Thomas Balsley Associates and David Thorne, give her unique insight into the genesis of design at varied scales from residential gardens to greenroofs to campuses and city parks. Her experience in design-build and landscape construction, provides a practical overlay that keeps her work tied to the realities of the site and application. Liz is a registered landscape architect in New York and California and has begun developing a product line for small, urban gardens. She was raised in the Hudson Valley and earned her bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture from Cornell University. We caught up with Liz this month to ask a few questions:

  1. When did you realize you wanted to become a Landscape Architect? What was your path to landscape architecture?

I first saw ‘landscape architecture’ written in the list of majors at Cornell, when I was applying to colleges, as a high school student. It sounded intriguing, and I began researching it further. The field seemed to encompass many observations and concerns I’d had about the changing landscape around me, but wasn’t yet able to fully express or verbalize. It seemed geared toward my strengths and interests in art and the environment. The more I learned, the more interesting it sounded. I wanted to learn more, and just kept following the trail further, to college, to licensure and beyond. Landscape architecture can be many things, and I continue to ‘follow the trail’ and explore where it will take me.

  1. Where do you get your inspiration? Do you have any go-to sources?

Mmmmm… see travel section, #9 below!

garden-totes-bike3. How did you first become interested in designing your own ‘Garden-Totes?’

A few years ago- I was on the hunt for the perfect planter for apartment gardeners living in the city, with no outdoor space, like me. I just wanted a little greenery! But the product I wanted, seemed to be missing from the market. One day, I realized- I could simply design my own planter! My experience in design-build gave me access to craftsmen, manufacturers and vendors who helped me navigate the steps required to produce the planters. I enjoy the design, testing and fabrication processes. The greatest learning curve has been in understanding the manufacturing and retail landscapes, and developing the right marketing strategies to reach my customers.  I continue to learn and adapt as I move forward.

  1. What is your favorite part about the design process?

One of the great joys of designing, is that once a project is finally built and completed, clients can be so very appreciative of how your design expertise and efforts have improved their daily life. There is a direct correlation between what you do and how they feel. There is tremendous satisfaction in being responsible for that.

  1. What projects are you working on now?

I have a variety of projects in front of me, including several residences, rooftop terraces, a pocket park in upstate New York, ongoing planter and product development and am teaching a class at New York Botanical Gardens this Spring.

6. What Landscape Architects (current or past) do you admire and why?

There are many landscape architects I admire, for many reasons: Tommy Church inspires me for his ability to link interior and exterior spaces and to captivate public interest in outdoor spaces, garden design and horticulture. Roberto Burle Marx inspires for his novel, graphic patterns, non traditional education and approach. Scape and Team impress me for stretching our profession in new directions.  Mikyoung Kim inspires for her thoughtful, sensitive approach to design and collaboration. The West 8 Team inspires for continually reimagining and customizing spaces to their locations and local communities. Cornell Professors like Marv Adleman and Paula Horrigan, inspire for the time they spent investing in me, exposing me to the wide breadth, impact and value of landscape architecture to society.

  1. What advice would you give to emerging professionals?

Ask the following questions:

  • How does your design help the client? How does it add value to their life, business, environment or community? Seek out opportunities to develop your presentation, communication and business planning skills. Design is one important part of the equation of our profession, but it’s not the only part. Work for landscape architects who are great designers, and others who are great businesspeople, and others who are great horticulturists, and others who are….You get the idea- the list goes on! There is much to know. Expose yourself to as much of it as you can.
  • The traditional design office is one approach to the profession. But there are many different ways to pursue landscape architecture and design. Try new things. Find what works for you.
  • How do you feel when you receive a long, multi paragraph email from someone? Ugh! Try to limit your emails to 5 sentences, maximum. Be clear, to the point and respectful of everyone’s time. The world will thank you for it!
  1. What do you value most about being a member of ASLA?

ASLA gives us a fantastic professional platform for broadcasting our interests and concerns and for connecting with colleagues and allied professionals. It keeps us abreast of current issues and amplifies our voice in New York City, Washington DC and beyond. The annual conference is a treasure trove of CEUs and generally lots of fun!

  1. What would you like to do more of, if you could?

fire-escape-gardenTRAVEL! I love seeing what the rest of the world is up to and connecting with new people. Traveling to new places, meeting new people, seeing new ways to do things; this is where I get the most energy and design inspiration. I love to visit parks and gardens, design offices, nurseries and garden stores while I travel. It’s fascinating to see what new projects they’re designing in Mexico City, what products and tools they’re using in Barcelona, and what plants they’re planting in Marseille. I have always been welcomed by other related professionals as I travel. Our common interests allow us to connect easily and I can experience new places more like a local, than a tourist.

Learn more about Liz at 


Are you interested in getting more involved in your profession by joining the board of the New York Chapter of ASLA?  We are now accepting nominations for our Executive Committee (i.e., board members), Trustee and Secretary.  Being a board member is a great way to promote the field of landscape architecture as well as impact the professional community.  Help guide the direction of your chapter, develop great relationships with other landscape architects and have an impact on the future of the profession in the New York metro area.  And it’s fun!
We are looking for five motivated individuals to join the board for a two-year term, as well one new Officer to fill a two-year term as Secretary and another individual to fill a three-year term as Trustee.  The board meets 10 times a year and members are encouraged to chair committees and attend chapter events.
Board members must have current ASLA membership – join or renew now by visiting Prior involvement on a chapter committee is preferred. If you have questions on roles, term length, or time commitments, please contact Kathy Shea at [email protected].
If you are interested in running for the board, or for Trustee or Secretary, please email a statement of interest (max 300 words) to [email protected].  Our Nominating Committee will evaluate the submissions and notify you about next steps.
Statements of interest are due by June 18.  The election will be held in July and your term would begin in late October, after the annual ASLA Annual Meeting.