City of Southfield Planning Department and Lawrence Technological University (LTU) teamed up this summer to offer metro Detroit high school students an introduction to landscape architecture. The three-day camp welcomed students from seven area high schools, most of whom admitted at the start they knew little about the field. Yet, come the conclusion, their perspectives had changed dramatically. “I was surprised how broad the scope of landscape architecture is,” explained Rachael Andree, a student at Adlai E. Stevenson High School. “It’s basically everything that’s not buildings.”
Students were instantly immersed in the practice of landscape architecture with a charge to create a teen park at Carpenter Lake Nature Preserve off 10 Mile Road in Southfield. This involved analyzing the site, including assessing opportunities and constraints; developing a schematic design to illustrate the concept or “big idea;” and creating a design development plan necessary for construction. The goal? To enhance community wellbeing and environmental sustainability.
Overall, the camp aimed to advance diversity, equity and inclusion within the landscape architecture field. It was sponsored by the Michigan chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects and Southfield City Centre. Professionals from area firms eagerly participated, including Bob Ford, Landscape Architects & Planners; Mark Hieber, HED; Joane Slusky, Juno Solutions; Kyle Verseman, Landscape Forms; Chad Brintnall, Lauren Leighty and Tom Mroz all of SmithGroup; Architect Beverly Hannah Jones, Artist Hubert Massey, and Delores Flagg, chair of Southfield Arts Commission. Leading the effort were members of Southfield’s Planning Department: Terry Croad, director of planning; Souzan Hanna, sustainability planner; and Sarah Mulally, assistant city planner.
For the students, it was learning by exposure. Instructors facilitated walking tours of LTU, Southfield City Centre and downtown Detroit. In Detroit, students were exposed to examples of large-scale landscape architecture projects, including Detroit RiverWalk and Capitol Park. These designs “gave me inspiration for our presentation boards and widened my scope, my perception of landscape architecture,” said Jacob Akinbode, a student at University High School.
Students were divided into two teams and told to come up with a name for their landscape design firm. Then, on the final day, each team pitched its design to several instructors who served as their client audience. “I was surprised how much time and effort it takes to make a park,” concluded Katelyn Fletcher, a student at South Lyon High School. “Everything is thought out and designed.”