The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) hosted it’s first LGBTQIA Pride Happy Hour to celebrate its lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, and asexual or allied (LGBTQIA) members and their remarkable contributions to the profession during LGBTQIA Pride Month. To open the Happy Hour celebration on June 25th, Landscape Architecture Magazine editor, Brad McKee, interviewed Land Collective’s founding principal, David Rubin, for a broad discussion on practice, empathy, and inclusion in the design of public spaces. David has since been acknoweldged as an ASLA Featured Diverse Leader.
Images © Sahar Coston-Hardy
Land Collective is a nationally-certified LGBT Small Business Entity (SBE), joining a handful of design studios who have affiliated with the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). Following the interview, collaborators Rachel Spencer and Mackenzie Wendling shared their thoughts on their own experiences as young practitioners, and the work in which they engage at Land Collective.
Mackenzie Wendling, MLA graduate from Kansas State University, shared his thoughts on what it means to him to be a part of Land Collective, and he reminds us of the work that still needs to be done:
“Working in a supportive environment with queer role models, mentors, and colleagues has given me license to express myself creatively and authentically. As an employee of an empathy-driven studio that designs for and with diverse communities, authenticity is critical to our process. Although society has come a long way, it is important to remember that many designers are denied the privilege – or better yet, the right – to express their identity in the workplace. In most states, including my home state of Kansas, it is legal for privately-owned businesses to refuse training, deny promotion, or fire employees for identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer. At Land Collective I can express myself without repercussion, unfortunately, this is the exception. The fight for LGBTQ equality is not over.” (Mac’s quote, which was constructed in advance of his participation in the ASLA event, was responded to on June 15th by the Supreme Court in a major milestone decision. Our Mac is prophetic!)
Rachel Spencer, a Landscape Designer and MLA graduate from the University of Oregon, voices her commitment to empowering others as she looks for equitable design solutions in her own work at Land Collective:
“My lived experiences have positioned me with a unique perspective; one that situates me at the intersection of queerness, blackness, and gender. In a country, where we have been struggling to hear from marginalized voices, it is important to acknowledge that the gay liberation movement was started by protests led by Black members of the LGBTQ community. More than ever we need to listen, make space to empower and amplify the voices of underrepresented populations. Working for a firm centered around human-centered design thinking, our practice of community engagement requires active listening and a humble approach. Demonstrated by our current work in a historically Black neighborhood in Old Redford, Detroit, MI, we are collaborating with community members at all levels to solve problems, from community-led initiatives to co-creating an overall design strategy. This level of engagement, where multi-faceted plans are driven by input from the voices of a community, is one way we can take action in cultivating a more equitable future.”