Intern Perspective: The ASLA Florida Conference


You may have seen on social media that our landscape architecture team attended the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Florida Conference earlier this month in Orlando—an annual gathering of design professionals from across the state.

Curious what this experience entails? Our summer landscape architecture intern and UGA landscape architecture student Devin Butler penned a few words about the parts of the conference that were most impactful and memorable for her—from discussions on diversity and cultural integration in the industry, to designing a Hawaiian water park in the conference’s student charrette.

Read on to hear Devin’s take on her first ASLA conference!

From July 11th – 13th, I had the opportunity to travel with ELM to attend the Florida ASLA Conference. I have never had the chance to attend an ASLA conference and this was a truly memorable experience for me. During the three days, several events stood out to me and made my experience personally impactful—the Thursday and Friday Keynote lectures, and the Saturday Student Charrette.


The first Keynote Lecture, “Beyond Diversity – Integrating the Unique Cultural Needs of Communities in Design,” was led by Kona Gray, Diane Jones Allen, and Kofi Boone. During this lecture, they talked about how diversity is more than having a diverse office space; it is also about the projects we take on and acknowledging the less-glamorous history of our profession. They talked about how important it is that cultural backgrounds have the most important role in design, and that no two spaces are exactly alike. This discussion meant a lot to me, because it talked about the issues I try to address when working on school projects—I have always tried to examine the history and culture of a project before starting my design ideas. I have also used the organizations I am involved with at UGA as a way to create a comfortable environment to discuss diversity as it relates to any profession. It was empowering to know that my efforts in my classrooms and on-campus are aligned with their advice and encouragement needed to aid in the diversity of our profession.

The following day, the Keynote Lecture, “Urban Spaces as a New Kind of Public Sculpture,” led by Walter Hood, talked about using landscape architecture as means of creating impactful cultural environments that lead to discussions and contemplation, in conjunction with designing for functionality and beauty. Our profession has the unique opportunity to create spaces that have meaning, while preserving and respecting the identity and culture of those who lived in the area before us.

The most impactful part of his presentation was the International African American Museum being built in Charleston, South Carolina. This museum will be located on the site of where enslaved African captives arrived at the United States before being sold to other locations. The new museum has so many layers that make people think and contemplate where they are, what happened there, and what it means to history. I can’t wait for this museum to be built, and I will definitely be visiting upon completion. I enjoyed how he took history that is hard for some to acknowledge or talk about, and uses it in every aspect of the design in order to encourage visitors to think about and respect what happened to people on this land many years ago. 

Lastly, I attended the Student Charette, “Shaping Water: An Imaginary Waterpark Landscape.”  During this charette, we were assigned to create a theme park in Hawaii that would appeal to both visitors and locals, while relating to a part of Hawaiian Culture.  My group chose to create a theme park that worked with the topography and river of our site, while relating our park to the story of the Goddess Pele, the goddess of volcanoes and fire (and the creator of the Hawaiian Islands). 

Our park illustrated her journey with two water rides, a fast and exciting ride to illustrate her fights with her sister, the goddess of the sea, and a slow ride relating to her death and taking her place as a goddess of Hawaii. I enjoyed the fact that each person in my group came from a different school, so we each had a different process, graphic style, and way of thinking about the project. At the end of the charette, we each presented our designs and were judged to name a winner. I had a lot of fun with this exercise and it was interesting to see just how different everyone’s ideas for the park were.

Throughout the conference, I had the chance to meet so many people and learn so much about the profession. It was an amazing experience and I am extremely grateful to have been able to attend and learn more about how the conference, our profession, and products all work together and impact each other. I am excited to attend future conferences and look forward to what I can learn in the years to come.

Erin Weinberg