Winning Strategies: An Interview with the ASLA 2007 Professional Awards Jury Chair
F. Christopher Dimond FASLA, AICP, chairman, planning services, for HNTB Corporation, has served on both the professional and the student ASLA awards juries in recent years. In March, he will chair the 2007 professional awards jury as they consider hundreds of entries in six different categories. He sat down recently with LAND Online to share his thoughts on the value of the awards to the profession and the public and advice for prospective entrants.
|F. Christopher Dimond
LAND: How does the awards program benefit the landscape architecture profession and the public at large?
Dimond: It clearly gives us an amazing amount of public exposure highlighting the role of landscape architects. The visibility the individuals, firms, and agencies receive and the recognition of their great talents surely have a positive impact on their business and future competitiveness. The awards program documents the significant and cutting-edge work done by landscape architects and demonstrates the remarkable diversity of projects led by LAs. To me, one of the most fun aspects of this program is the recognition our clients receive. What better way to exceed your client’s expectations than to deliver an award-winning project, garnering them some great publicity as well.
LAND: Although the ASLA Professional Awards Program is among the most competitive in the design and construction industry, drawing more than 500 entries each year since 2003, some critics claim that awards programs are little more than beauty pageants. Having served on both ASLA's Professional Awards and the Student Awards juries, how do you respond to that criticism?
Dimond: Quite the contrary. The extraordinary work submitted at the professional level is testimony to the valuable role LAs play in the built environment, in protecting the natural environment, in creating great communities, or in the urban regeneration of our cities. This list where we contribute could go on forever. This program helps to highlight this important work and elevate the value of landscape architects. While there is obviously individual recognition of the winners, the real benefit is for the profession as a whole.
LAND: If a landscape architect is on the fence about entering a project, what would you say to encourage him or her in deciding to enter?
Dimond: This awards program is a great opportunity to match your great work against the best in the industry. What better motivation could there be? Those who win can celebrate that their work and clients are extraordinary demonstrations of planning and design excellence and represent the profession at its highest level.
LAND: What advice can you give to awards entrants to help them communicate the importance of their work to the jurors?
Dimond: Superior professional photography! Great graphics! Focused text! This is a very competitive program, so the submittal must really stand out on its own.
Given the growing number of entries, the jury has an incredible challenge and responsibility to review each entry and identify those that represent award-winning recognition. Poor photography, graphics that don’t hold together, and rambling text will rarely make a great project competitive in an awards program such as this. If you believe your project is award worthy, I strongly suggest you invest in professional photography. While we have an incredibly talented and diverse jury, we are all visually oriented, and fantastic photographs will go a long way to navigate your project through the multiple stages of review. Similarly, any graphics should be exceptional and look like they came from the same design process. As important is the written portion of the submittal. Choose your words carefully, tell the story in an efficient manner, and clearly highlight how your project specifically addresses the criteria in the category in which it is submitted and why it is award worthy. Use the opening paragraph to powerfully summarize this critical information.
LAND: When the professional awards jury convenes, what are some of the types of projects you hope are among the entries in each category?
Dimond: I enjoy seeing work in all the categories. My hope is that we will continue to see exceptional planning and design projects representative of the rich diversity of work in our industry. In the past few years we have seen a growing number of international entries, further validating the prestige of the ASLA Awards Program.
LAND: Is there a particular awards category that's your personal favorite?
Dimond: The Landmark Award is my favorite, because it celebrates design excellence that has retained its integrity over a sustained period. These are significant projects that highlight the very important work of landscape architects and their contribution to the public realm.
LAND: Last year's Research Category entries improved markedly with the co-sponsorship of the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture. What are some of the topics you hope to see among the entries in this category that will help you and other private practitioners?
Dimond: There are so many areas where some real thought-provoking, risk-taking, and envelope-pushing research could benefit the industry in both public and private sector practice. Some topics on which I hope to see more entries this year are sustainable planning and design, watershed management, grayfield and brownfield reclamation, and green roof design.
The deadline for professional award entry forms is Friday, February 9. Submissions for professional awards are due Friday, February 23. For more information, please visit the ASLA 2007 Awards web pages.