Black Lives Matter Update – Fall 2020
As 2020 comes to a close, West 8 is taking some time to reflect on the year that has gone by. There was much work to be done – reflection, questioning ideals, shifting priorities, and listening – lots of listening. Our team, along with many others in the design profession, has been grappling with the reality of racial inequality, our role in its continuance – but also our role in promoting equality. Below is an update on what we have learned thus far, and how we have applied it to our practice and work. We believe we have a long road ahead, but we appreciate all who have joined us in our efforts to make Landscape Architecture more accessible, inclusive and anti-racist.
Miami Beach Remembers Juneteenth at Pride Park, Miami Beach
This year, Juneteenth (June 19th) marked the 155th anniversary of the day slaves in Texas were notified of the end of legal slavery – years after the Emancipation Proclamation. For the first time in Miami Beach’s history, the city recognized this event by hosting a ceremony at Pride Park, designed by West 8 and completed in 2020. The ceremony included the planting of a rainbow eucalyptus tree to symbolize and celebrate the contributions of African Americans to Miami Beach and an 8 minute and 46 second moment of silence to reflect on the past, present and future. West 8 Project leaders Ashley Schwemmer and Daniel Vasini (photo below), along with others in attendance, wrote positive words and messages on stones and placed them under the tree in a gesture of solidarity and collective dedication to growing a more inclusive community. West 8 feels proud that Pride Park was the selected site to host this important event.
How Can We Do Better? The West 8 Team Gathers to Discuss Race and Equality
West 8 held an open online discussion to give all employees an opportunity to share thoughts on our firm’s plan and statement and collectively brainstorm for initiatives that could further the statement’s objectives within our professional spheres and project work. This event also introduced an online ‘living’ reading list, created by and editable for all team members, containing a range of sources facilitating a better understanding and awareness of the issues underlying the Black Lives Matter movement, inclusivity, and decolonisation in design. More than half of West 8 staff attended. The forum was an open dialogue where colleagues could share goals, actions, and criticisms in a safe and productive environment.
West 8 Joins Fellow LA’s in Cut|Fill Conference to Share, Learn, and Brainstorm how Landscape Architecture can better Address Racial Injustice in Practice and Design
This summer, seven members of our design team and director Adriaan Geuze participated in the discussion-based Cut | Fill Unconference alongside fellow landscape architects from across the US to unpack the challenges of our field that have been augmented this year by a global pandemic and widespread civil unrest. We identified opportunities for collective action as well as strategies for individual action that can help break down barriers within our profession. A 5 minute summary of the conference is available here.
Update on BLM Action items
In addition to updating our hiring policy, a number of West 8 staff across both offices have individually engaged in mentorship actions in line with promoting access to the profession.
West 8 founder and director Adriaan Geuze visited Curaçao to meet with KREA, a “multidisciplinary collective of young engineers from Curaçao sharing a common passion for creating our built environment” to share knowledge and networks. West will 8 continue to offer KREA ongoing support and exchange of resources and ideas.
In conclusion, we understand the efforts outlined in this update are the first steps in the larger work towards equality, opportunity, and the accessibility of design. We look forward to continued learning, listening, and collaboration.
More information will be continued to be updated on our Diversity and Inclusion page.