A Dialogue with Chandi Aldena (MLA ’13)

In our Alumni Spotlights we profile distinguished graduates of the College or university of Architecture and Scheduling (CAP). We sat down with Chandi Aldena (MLA, 2013), whose story starts in Denver exactly where she invested her childhood at Denver Town Park. Chandi has traveled the planet and witnessed the juxtapositions of architecture and communities throughout the world. She melded a life span of appreciate and information of the outdoor, architecture, and group involvement into a prosperous profession

Explain to us about your track record.

I grew up in Denver, Colorado and uncovered to really like nature at a younger age. I spent my childhood outdoor actively playing in my yard and city parks and savored paying out my weekends both camping and hiking in the Rocky Mountains with my family members. Increasing up so shut to Denver’s City Park intended that I was privileged with straightforward entry to lots of functions that shaped my childhood. I rode my bicycle to the park with friends, attended Jazz in the Park on Sundays, and spent a great number of afternoons jogging via the fountain outdoors of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. My time at the park genuinely helped form my enthusiasm for nature

How have your encounters formed your design and style point of view?

I was born in India and adopted by a loved ones in Denver exactly where I grew up. I have traveled all across the United States and visited countries about the planet, but I have generally named Colorado my house. Just after high school, I lived in Fort Collins though I completed my Bachelor’s of Science in Landscape Architecture at Colorado State College (CSU). Though my permanent home has constantly been in Colorado, I took just about every option to travel.

In faculty, I participated in the Alternative Split System wherever I participated in/co-led college student services excursions to communities throughout the United States, Panama, and Kenya. The most impactful summer season of my higher education many years was when I invested three months studying overseas in Italy and France for the landscape architecture software. Strolling by the piazzas of Venice and Rome, and drawing in the gardens and parks of Paris all deepened my love for neighborhood spaces.

My worldview and viewpoint of public house is equally formed by my trips back to India. All through my second journey again, I joined my mom for five months in southern India the place I was born. The journey was instantly after my review abroad encounter, and the juxtaposition of European architecture and historical Indian temples was fascinating. I witnessed the devotion place into the generation of sacred, general public spaces and the daily use of web-sites hundreds and countless numbers of yrs aged. Each individual trip shaped my own definition of what neighborhood usually means.

I moved again to Denver immediately after college or university and stayed to pursue my master’s diploma at the University of Colorado Denver (UCD). The metropolis was speedily transforming as the economic climate recovered from the great recession and I witnessed a surge in development and advancement. I experienced studio jobs that reimagined the areas along the South Platte River in the Globeville neighborhood, wherever the abandoned warehouses sat vacant behind chain-joined fences, ripe for growth. 8 many years afterwards, I went back again to that exact same spot alongside the river to love the freshly opened River North Park. Coincidentally, I landed my dream job at The Have confidence in for Community Land in Denver, one of the important associates in defending that vacant large amount for the town to develop a new park. Right now, I keep on to are living in the Mile High Metropolis although working with communities across Colorado.

Explain to us about your professional endeavors.

My initial introduction to landscape architecture took place whilst I was volunteering as a teenager at the Denver Zoo. At the time I was contemplating about pursuing a occupation in wildlife biology or zoology. But, that all modified when I saw the layout options and idea drawings for a new exhibit. It was then that I acquired I could use my enjoy of animals, nature, and art into a job coming up with higher high quality exhibits that present enriching residences for the animals, though educating folks on the importance of wildlife and character conservation. At seventeen I uncovered myself on a path to getting a landscape architect.

This introduction led me to the landscape architecture software at CSU. When I walked into the studio on a campus tour and noticed sketches hanging from the partitions and models sitting down on the drafting tables, I understood that this was the plan for me. However, I graduated in the excellent economic downturn and was faced with competing for entry stage positions against experts with more than five a long time of experience. It may perhaps have been simpler to transform professions, but I was to be a landscape architect. Keeping that goal in head I made a decision to continue on my education and learning at CAP in the Grasp of Landscape Architecture application. This decision ended up remaining a turning position in my job.

Although doing work on my masters at CAP, I expanded my curiosity in landscape architecture and was drawn to designing general public destinations that serve the community. I figured out about the participatory style approach for neighborhood engagement and the constructive impacts general public spaces have on local community identity and development. Just one studio in certain, taught by Lois Brink, gave me the encounter of working with students, workers and moms and dads at an elementary school in Chicago to envision their schoolyard as a spot for equally engage in and learning. The expertise of performing with them in-human being and observing the possession all those younger students had in the job impressed me to uncover a task exactly where I could continue to have that form of individual affect in communities.

Munroe Elementary college students painting a mural with Chandi Aldena

Just after graduate university, I pursued my aspiration work at The Believe in for Public Land in the Parks for People today Plan that was brought on to the Colorado workplace in 2014. Above the final seven and a 50 percent yrs, I have experienced the privilege of implementing my enthusiasm for park design and style with my abilities in participatory design to have interaction communities in palms-on workshops to make the eyesight for community parks, trails and schoolyards.

What are you functioning on right now?

As the venture supervisor and Local community Schoolyards™ initiative guide for the Colorado Parks for Folks group, I operate on park, path and schoolyard tasks in communities through Colorado. I create relationships with communities and listen to their priorities for entry to quality outside spaces, and I have interaction local community customers in the style and design course of action to get their vision from thought to design. Most of the park initiatives I have concluded have been in the Denver metro space, with a lot of assignments in the Westwood community of Denver. One particular venture that I have been functioning on for the last six many years with the Westwood neighborhood is identified as the Westwood By way of Verde, a three-mile, multi-modal neighborhood greenway that connects the parks, trails, educational facilities and other community hubs. This job is a collaboration concerning regional businesses together with BuCu West, Re:Eyesight, Westwood Unidos, D3 Arts, Groundwork Denver, and Denver Streets Partnership, as very well as our city partners in the Denver Division of Transportation and Infrastructure and Denver Parks and Recreation.

Above the past two a long time, we have been employing the wayfinding prepare for the Westwood Via Verde. This system involves inventive placemaking murals intended by local artists and painted with the community and youth crew from Groundwork Denver. While our neighborhood participation has been limited by the pandemic, we have labored closely with our local community and metropolis partners to host Covid-protected painting days. This yr we are doing work with Groundwork’s Westwood Eco-friendly Team to develop a green infrastructure demonstration yard at the Southwest Advancement Council (SWIC) and Westwood Library developing.

The Via Verde Route plan
By using Verde wayfinding system

This challenge focuses on utilizing native and very low drinking water landscapes adjacent to streets and parking tons to seize the stormwater runoff and snowmelt from the adjacent developing. The objective is to interact the youth workforce and inhabitants in sustainable style practices and supply examples of inexperienced infrastructure landscapes as precedent for foreseeable future green infrastructure projects in the neighborhood. Our partnership with Groundwork supports the youth group as paid out members in tasks in their very own community and their participation in the initiatives of the Westwood By way of Verde could encourage them to contemplate landscape architecture or city setting up as occupations.

What drew you to CAP?

I was drawn to CAP mainly because I was taking into consideration a double big in both equally landscape architecture and city and regional preparing as a way to increase my opportunities to enter the workforce through the economic downturn a long time. CAP presents the opportunity to pursue these degrees simultaneously and I could still complete the systems in beneath four yrs. The capability to discover the other systems inside of CAP was a advantage for a person like me who previously had a Bachelor’s diploma in landscape architecture and desired to get my instruction even further.

What is the most considerable issue you uncovered whilst at CAP?

The most sizeable detail I learned although researching in the MLA program was how to apply a participatory design and style process for community tasks. Obtaining a background in landscape architecture going into the MLA application, I had a strong basis of the technical aspect of the occupation. Even so, I was lacking the encounter of operating on a challenge in a general public area with serious clientele and stakeholders. The schoolyard’s studio gave me the chance to study how to engage stakeholders of various ages (elementary faculty college students, mother and father, and college staff members). I acquired how to use distinctive forms of conversation to locate out what the stakeholders prioritized for their schoolyard and how to interact them in a layout charrette to conceptualize their strategies on paper. The encounter of employing the participatory design method gave me the basis for implementing authentic community engagement in my present-day operate.

My favourite memory of my time in the MLA method was the studio with Lois Brink exactly where I labored with other college students to redesign a schoolyard for an elementary school in Chicago. This studio normally sticks out in my memory for the reason that we flew out to Chicago and put in many times holding design and style workshops with learners, mothers and fathers, and employees at the university. Working with the students to recognize their tips for the schoolyard, and listening to what the worries had been for employees taught me how to develop reliable engagement in the style approach. I loved participating with the learners who had huge tips for how to make their schoolyard far more fulfilling, their ideas have been limitless. I use the classes I realized in that studio in my expert exercise doing work with communities in Colorado.

Do you have any favourite memories of your time as a scholar?

My favored memory of my time in the MLA application was the studio with Lois Brink where by I labored with other students to redesign a schoolyard for an elementary faculty in Chicago. This studio always sticks out in my memory for the reason that we flew out to Chicago and put in a number of days holding design and style workshops with college students, moms and dads, and employees at the faculty. Performing with the students to understand their suggestions for the schoolyard, and listening to what the difficulties have been for employees taught me how to build authentic engagement in the design method. I relished partaking with the pupils who experienced major strategies for how to make their schoolyard additional pleasant, their thoughts were infinite. I utilize the classes I discovered in that studio in my skilled observe operating with communities in Colorado.

On the lookout back, what experiences at CAP ended up the most beneficial in shaping your occupation?

One of the most handy experiences I experienced whilst in CAP was getting to know my professors and possessing discussions with them about my vocation plans through my time in the system. All of my professors manufactured them selves available for conversations about unique techniques of practising landscape architecture, and numerous of them have structure practices of their possess. I was capable to discuss as a result of my pursuits in practicing in a extra nontraditional environment and I experienced several professors connect me to other landscape architects who do the job in those forms of positions.

Yet another knowledge that formed my job was getting training landscape architects jury our studio projects. I discovered a whole lot from the responses I gained from the visitor jury members, particularly the inquiries that designed me floor-fact my concepts in fact. Most of our jobs ended up conceptual in mother nature, but the opinions encouraged me to imagine critically about the affect of my designs over and above purpose and sort into community advantages.

Can you title a unique architect or follow that influenced you?

The observe of land artwork and the perform of Andy Goldsworthy has influenced my enthusiasm for landscape architecture because college. I obtain myself drawn to his temporal function that is professional only in the times of generation like his get the job done with drinking water and ice. I value his use of area resources discovered on the web page of his artwork, an intentional way to harness the inherent electric power of spot. The thought that artwork has a immediate relationship with time and area where the working experience is part of the artwork by itself inspires me to feel about the impression of my perform with communities. The jobs I get the job done on are concentrated on a distinct spot and time, but the influence of inhabitants collaborating in the design and style process and the done park, trail or schoolyard project has neighborhood gains for several years to arrive.

What are some of the most important troubles in the discipline these days?

One particular of the largest challenges in the industry nowadays is the underrepresentation of individuals of shade and people today from institutionally oppressed identities in style and design professions. 1 way that this lack of representation has a immediate impression on our field is in our get the job done to reply to the local weather disaster. As the landscape architecture and scheduling professions do the job to deal with the pressing local weather disaster, the communities that are the most impacted are not represented in the design professions. If we hope to locate sustainable and equitable solutions to local weather change that generate resilient communities, we have to have to pay attention to the individuals most impacted and consist of them in the generation of the remedies. In my experience with doing the job with traditionally less than-resourced and disenfranchised communities, people know what the most urgent challenges are for their neighborhood. When we collaborate to uncover alternatives at a neighborhood scale, we can deal with lengthy-expression climate troubles (this sort of as flooding and city warmth), although giving fast rewards (environmentally friendly streets and risk-free, multi-modal routes to universities).

Chandi talking to a group at the Westwood Via Verde Community walk
Chandi chatting to a group at the Westwood Through Verde Local community Walk

I imagine that we as landscape architects and urban planners want to put higher values on the lived encounters of folks in the communities we are operating in. What’s more, we must devote in residents and supply paid out chances for them to take part and interact in public assignments. Our jobs are much better with group support and compensating residents for their know-how and know-how in their community creates ownership and individual investment in the result. If landscape architecture and city scheduling are heading to diversify the job, we require to make investments in and hook up younger people to our initiatives. Most of the youth I engage with on jobs know little to nothing about landscape architecture and city scheduling as careers. To engage much more youth in style and design we will need to comprehend what obstacles might be maintaining them from pursuing a occupation in landscape architecture or city planning. To make an equitable prospect for younger men and women of colour we will need to make the instruction and career pathways more available and reasonably priced.

In which do you go to sense impressed?

I come to feel the most encouraged when I am in my neighborhood participating in dialogue with people about why the outside need to be obtainable and welcoming to everyone. I have the opportunity to pay attention to men and women from distinct backgrounds, geographies, and ages in the perform that I do and I take pleasure in when I obtain a shared passion around building equitable access to the outdoors for all people. I discover inspiration from the BIPOC leaders in the environmental subject who are doing work tirelessly to heart community and equity in outside areas. I am an active ally and accomplice in the Next 100 Colorado Coalition, a coalition of businesses and people today dedicated to the institution of a just and inclusive parks and public lands program. This coalition has produced a space wherever people of colour and grassroots organizations that mostly work with men and women of colour can locate group and inspiration. The Next 100 Colorado group conjures up me to go on to do the challenging work to make the outdoor much more inclusive and obtainable for all individuals.

What would shock us about you?

Most persons in my experienced networks do not know that I grew up singing in the school choir. I liked singing from the time I was a minor child. In elementary university I participated in citywide choir and in fourth quality I auditioned and was cast in the children’s chorus for Fables, a nearby theater generation at the Denver Heart for Doing Arts. I put in a semester executing in the participate in and had the working experience of a life time. I ongoing to pursue singing chances and in high school I auditioned and was picked to take part in the Colorado All Point out Choir my junior and senior many years. It was an honor to be a section of the Women’s and Combined Choirs and inspired me to proceed to sing in university when pursuing a degree in a wholly distinct industry. I continue to really like to sing, but you are more probable to capture me singing with my good friends at karaoke.

What was the last meal you cooked for by yourself?

I love cooking! I want getting a range of foods all over the week so I commit numerous of my evenings in the kitchen area. Most recently, I utilized some of the jalapeño peppers from my back garden last summer months to make Colorado model inexperienced chili. We had so many peppers in our yard we I experienced to freeze most of them to use afterwards. I am now grateful for the abundance because it manufactured for a delectable homegrown addition to this recipe. I do not make environmentally friendly chili normally so it was a exclusive take care of to go with breakfast burritos on these cold winter season mornings.

What are your regular Sundays like?

My regular Sundays are expended with my husband and our two dogs. We keep points lower-critical to rest and delight in our time collectively just before starting off an additional hectic operate week. You can usually find us walking our dogs in the neighborhood, cooking supper with each other, and ending our working day catching up on our beloved Television shows.

To get in contact with Chandi Aldena, hook up with her on Linkedin.