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It’s time for this year’s annual meeting of landscape architect and allied professionals, and as ASLA President Shawn Kelly notes in the president’s letter, several things have changed. For one, the name. Now known as the 2019 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture (formerly ASLA Annual Meeting and Expo) the new name reflects the rising status of the profession in public discourse and a desire, perhaps, to announce the discipline to the world with a newfound pride.

With practitioners like Walter Hood and Kate Orff being selected for prestigious MacArthur Fellowships in recent years and landscape architects being called on to conceive major urban master plans, coastal infrastructure projects, sustainable parks and greenways — not to mention equitable and inclusive playgrounds — this may well be the second coming of a profession that found it’s voice in the late 19th century through visionaries like Frederick Law Olmsted, but until recently remained largely obscure to the general public. We’re glad that’s changed.

Also amended at this year’s conference is the schedule, which runs Friday, Nov. 15 to Monday, Nov.18 and is more relaxed than in year’s past. Day-long field sessions, half-day workshops, and shorter education sessions begin Friday, Nov. 15, with the Emerging Professionals Reception and Landscape Architecture Foundation benefit held at night. The EXPO opens its doors on Saturday, Nov. 16, with free coffee served from 9:00-11:00am and plenty of time in the morning and between afternoon sessions to check out new products, services, and technological applications from exhibitors. Saturday activities close at 6:00pm. If your schedule is tight, you can also visit the EXPO on Sunday, Nov. 17. Complimentary breakfast is served from 10:00am-12:00pm, and the floor is open until 2:00pm.

While there, come visit us at booth #2711 to say hi and enter our giveaway contest. This year, we’re doing things a little different at Goric, too. In past years, we’ve held a contest involving the Dancer, a rocking platform that contains an enclosed ball labyrinth. In this year’s contest, we’re introducing the Crazy Maze, an exciting play piece that transfers the coordination challenge of the Dancer from the feet to the hands and adds a social dimension. Working individually or in teams, users of any age can navigate the ball through the maze. A step-up version of the Crazy Maze allows children and adults of different sizes to play together, and the inclusive design easily accommodates wheelchair users. We encourage you to give it a try, or several tries. And if you have the fastest time getting the ball from start to finish among conference attendees, we’ll give you a free model.

Our contest only scratches the surface of the diversions and professional experiences to be had at this year’s EXPO. There are opportunities for schmoozing and networking at a Saturday night alumni tailgate; a guided EXPO walk and presentations with the Professional Practices Network (PPN); PPN Live presentations and group discussions; on-site job interviews; an emerging practices portfolio review booth; exhibitor-led learning labs where you can earn professional development hours, an ASLA bookstore; and a media table where you can meet the editors of Landscape Architecture Magazine and other professional publications. You can even get a free professional head shot taken by photographers from Portrait Studio. Check out the full EXPO details here.

“Pearls,” designed by Carve, at San Diego Waterfront Park

And don’t worry, there’s also plenty of time to fill your notebook – or your harddrive – with ideas. Spread across four days, 120 educational opportunities allow attendees to fulfill their professional development requirements in one long weekend. If you can squeeze it into your schedule, we highly recommend the Friday full-day field session (8:00am-5:00pm) to San Diego’s waterfront and urban parks led by Glen Schmidt, president of Schmidt Design Group. At the 12-acre Waterfront Park opened in May of 2014, you’ll find a marvelous new playground featuring the above-pictured “Pearls,” a constellation of connected climbing globes designed by the Dutch landscape architecture firm Carve. Also incorporated in the design are Goric’s Jumper and Turning Point, stainless steel balance toys finished to match the look of the Pearls perfectly. A Friday field session (7:15am-4:30pm) or self-guided tour of Balboa Park, the cultural, botanical, and history heart of San Diego, is another great option.

Balboa Park, San Diego | photo via Tech Up Xone

On Saturday, don’t miss the education session “Parks Equity: Fostering Access to Great Pubic Parks for All,” from 11:00am-12:15 pm led by Laura Marett, associate principal at Sasaki and featuring Boston Parks and Recreation Commissioner Chris Cook. Later that day (3:00-4:00 pm), check out “Green Schoolyards: Local Urban Transformation to National Prototype,” led by Adrian Benepe, director of National Programs for the Trust for Public Land. Benepe will lead a timely discussion of how cities like New York and Philadelphia, in partnership with nonprofits, are transforming neglected schoolyards into models of green community playgrounds. We’re tremendously excited for both of these panels.

Sunday’s line-up is equally intriguing. Be sure to leave room in your schedule for “The Transformation of Inclusive Design: Evidence-based Research Supporting Inclusive Design,”an afternoon session (2:00-3:00pm) led by Chad Kennedy, principal landscape architect at O’Dell Engineering. Presenting new research on the fundamentals of play, Kennedy and his colleagues will explore how park and play space design can support social competence and sensorimotor, social, and cognitive development. You can find the full session schedule here.

Brace yourself for a four-day whirlwind. We’re excited to see you in San Diego!