Through all my years of working on WaterShapes, one of the most persistent frustrations I’ve encountered has had to do with the ongoing lack of access would-be watershapers have to college-level education on the subject. And it’s a frustration shared by landscape architects, many of whom have told me how rankled they are by
the fact that all of their “education” in watershaping has had to come well beyond the confines of their college classrooms.
This lack of attention to water-related topics seems to be systemic in the halls of academe: There’s almost a complete blank when it comes to water in the seminar halls of the American Society of Landscape Architects, a professional organization devoted to continuing education of its membership. Indeed, ASLA seems to wear institutional blinders when it comes to the subject of water when it’s not about irrigation, wastewater management or waterway restoration.
Yes, there are a few junior colleges that offer courses in aquatics, and California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo has devoted a much-heralded research facility to the study of plaster problems and pool-water chemistry. Those exceptions aside and to my knowledge, however, there has never been a bona fide college course on watershaping (or what some are calling “water architecture”) that has been part of a structured, multi-year undergraduate or graduate degree program.
This is why I am so happy to report that in one case at least, the situation is finally changing: At California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, the landscape architecture department is now offering undergraduates a semester class that focuses on watershaping and, specifically, on what landscape architects need to know to work effectively with water in the course of their careers. And I am pleased to note that the class is being prepared and taught by my friend Mark Holden, a long-time contributor to WaterShapes.
For several years now, Mark has been a regular guest lecturer in classes taught by others at Cal Poly Pomona, his alma mater. Based on the response to those lectures and probably more so on his dogged advocacy of the issue with the landscape architecture department, he has now seized the opportunity to build a full-fledged college course for the semester that began in January 2007.
For years, Mark has been a huge advocate of the approach WaterShapes has taken in attempting to help fill this informational and educational void, and he’s also been an instructor since the start of Genesis 3’s educational endeavors. But now he’s taken his campaign to a higher level – and I’m pleased to report he will be sharing course specifics with all of us in these pages in the months to come.
In this issue, we start the discussion with a brief article (click here) in which Mark offers his rationale for the course and some basic information about the path he will follow. For the next year and beyond, he will write articles on specific topics he’ll cover in the classroom, his hope (and ours) being that this groundbreaking work will serve as a model for similar programs at other colleges and universities.
It still remains to be seen, of course, whether his approach will catch wind in its sails and spread to other institutions. For now, we’ll do our level best to promote this sort of water-focused, university-level education for landscape architects with the idealistic thought that, in the process, a whole generation of superbly prepared professionals might emerge and lead our industry to even great heights.