Landscape architect honored as leader, mentor – Finance & Commerce
Landscape architect Lydia Major recently received a Career Excellence Award from the Minnesota Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.
Major is the Head of LHB’s Landscape Architecture and Planning Studio, where she oversees a team of mostly women in the Minneapolis and Duluth offices. Her leadership and mentorship on this team, unique in the industry, helped Major win the award, she said.
His work has covered public, residential and commercial spaces, including the Wayzata Parkway, the Minnehaha Watershed District Comprehensive Master Plan Document and the Central Riverfront Regional Park Master Plan, according to a press release from LHB.
Over the past year, however, Major has seen public expectations of public spaces like sidewalks, streets and parks change due to the pandemic and the transformation of social justice, she said. declared.
Major started at LHB in 2007, after a former colleague asked him to join the Minneapolis-based firm. She began her career with Westwood Professional Services after earning a Masters in Landscape Architecture from the University of Minnesota and a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“I sometimes feel like I use my major in English only in day to day communication and the way we kind of describe [design] to people, ”she said.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: The reason we’re talking today is that you recently received the Lob Pine Award from the Minnesota Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects. What does the award mean to you, why is it awarded and what impact does it have on your career?
A: The Lob Pine is an award for professional excellence. I kind of checked in the mirror to see how much gray hair – it’s often given to people approaching retirement. So it was certainly a great honor. The Lob Pine Award is named for the large trees that travelers and others used … to navigate when they moved around this part of the country. … The idea of the award is that the recipients have, in a way, acted as a navigation aid for others in the field.
And I think there are probably a number of reasons why I received the award. But one of the main reasons I received the award, honestly, is that I lead a team of landscape architects that have been predominantly all-female over the years. And that’s a very unusual thing in our industry. And it wasn’t intentional – obviously I’m not hiring based on gender. However, over time, the people who came to see me when I posted positions were often women.
Once they are at LHB I think there are a lot more of them than what other companies maybe find because we don’t operate like coming to work means you have to quit your life outside of work. , entirely outside of work.
Q: You are passionate about mentoring and leading women in the industry. Why did this passion start? Did you have a female model early in your career or is this a need in the industry?
A: I see it as a need in the industry. There were certainly women who were strong forces in my life, but there haven’t been so many women in leadership positions in local businesses until recently. Now there are more and it is definitely improving. But it’s really hard to see what it’s like to be a successful woman in this career when you don’t have these people in front of them doing it and doing it really well.
Seeing models who really live as parents or have other interests outside of work and do so successfully besides being a leader – I think that’s something that we really still have to show as than industry.
Q: I wanted to pivot here and talk about the landscape architect industry as a whole. First, I know you work in public, residential and commercial spaces. How have customer expectations for these places changed, if at all, in recent years?
A: This is certainly another area where the pandemic has made a big change. Because I think even though people have long understood how important our public spaces are… the pandemic has just underscored how essential it is to have large public spaces. And these spaces must be both for gathering but also for personal reflection. They are important for mental health. They are important for economic health. And so many of my clients have really developed an even greater appreciation, especially for parks… but also for public rights-of-way. So a public sidewalk: what can it be like coffee? Or how maybe our roads aren’t so much for cars anymore, and now maybe we want to be more there as pedestrians [and have] a lot more biking, things like that.
Q: Since green spaces and public pathways are in high demand right now, how does this change the design process?
A: It speeds it up a bit. We do more. I think a lot of communities have a long history of trail network plans that maybe contained an analysis of gaps in the system or where they needed to improve safety at intersections. And, suddenly, there was an increase in safety incidents as usage increased on our trails. And so I think there was a strong emphasis on securing our trail networks. Emphasis is also placed on making them more accessible to users of all kinds, to make sure that we really follow all of the ADA rules. … I think our trail systems were ready to go, somehow, [since] we had already done some of that planning. And now it’s like, OK, we’ve got to do this.
Q: You also mentioned that the perception of public street uses is changing with the new sidewalk and restaurant spaces. I’m guessing it’s something the pandemic has caused, but it looks like maybe it’s something recent social changes have caused as well. Can you tell me more about this?
A: Because there are just a lot more people there too. People want to use their sidewalks more and they want to eat on the sidewalks. They want to walk and cycle on these sidewalks. And I think in a lot of cases they are standing on a narrow sidewalk and looking at a big street and not seeing as many cars as they used to be. I think a lot of commuting has decreased, so our streets are a bit more accessible than they were before.
And, on top of that, there has been a great push to view our streets as public property in a way that may previously have been viewed as car property. And that, I think, really manifested itself in some of the demonstration activities that we have seen, and in particular in some of the memorials that have been put up in Minneapolis and in other communities. And people really take ownership of these spaces; and that can be a real struggle with the residences or the local businesses and the people who want to have these memorials. But, in some cases, it’s also a great place for the community to come together and have important conversations.
One of the things that I think we need to consider carefully is how can we build streets that can function in different ways, including as spaces for First Amendment participation? And we’ve designed newer streets that don’t have curbs or are easily blocked by bollards. And then also thinking about how they would fit into the overall infrastructure so that cars could move around and still patronize businesses or drive home – so that we could really use the strengths in a variety of ways without disrupting the crucial things. We need to recognize that we need to be able to get security vehicles, of course, to all of these places, and we need life to go on for those delivering [or] work in these areas as well. And yet, protect the necessary healing that I believe can occur in our public spaces, including our streets.
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