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Paving the Way for Naturalistic Planting Design

Confronted by the jewel-like intensity of Piet Oudolf’s Lurie Garden or Tom Stuart-Smith Studio’s 2019 Chelsea Show Garden (pictured above), you might assume that these plantings are individual works of genius. Around you, masses of plants ebb, water-like, tumbling into each other and between. Seedpods thrust skywards. Fuzzy stems glitter with morning dew.  These gardens seem such a stark contrast to the ordinary landscapes—static and banal—that most of us accept as part of our daily routines. They’re like wild landscapes—but richer, more colorful, more condensed. What features distinguish these contemporary plantings from more traditional approaches to planting design? My piece “Learning the Language of Contemporary Planting Design” offers an introductory vocabulary. In brief, these plant...Read More

Plant Stuffing [Land8x8 Video]

From urban farming to forest bathing, there has been a growing desire to connect with the natural world. In an effort to bring nature to urban settings, some landscape architects are turning away from conventional horticultural practices, where plants are organized in orderly rows and treated as separate, distinct clumps, in favor of a freer aesthetic that reflects the wildness of nature and is attuned to ecology. During her presentation at the Land8x8 Lightning Talks in Austin, TX, Jennifer Orr, a founding principal of Studio Balcones, discussed the importance of designing “wild” landscapes in the public realm to help restore ecological diversity in urban settings. Orr advocates for crafting landscapes that work with nature instead of trying to control it. This plant-driven approach for p...Read More

Altering Human Habits [Land8x8 Video]

Spending time outside not only makes us feel healthier, it also impacts our long-term wellbeing. Studies have shown that people with high exposure to green spaces yield significant physical and mental health benefits. Yet, most of us do not prioritize outdoor activity in our daily lives. According to the EPA, the average American spends 93% of their time indoors, leaving very little time for outdoor activity each day. To promote human wellbeing, we need to alter our daily routine to accommodate outdoor activity. In her presentation at the Land8x8 Lightning Talks in Houston, TX, Cynthia Dehlavi, Senior Research and Design Associate at OJB Landscape Architecture, shared how landscape architects can use design to influence human habits and increase people’s daily exposure to green space. Duri...Read More

Stories of Space in Times of Quarantine

Europe’s Last Plague May 25, 1720. The Grand Saint-Antoine, a three-masted French merchant ship, sails into the port of Marseille on the southern coast of France. Its journey has been troubled: nine passengers have died since departing from Lebanon two months earlier. Following protocols designed to prevent disease outbreaks, Marseille’s health bureau orders the ship, its passengers, and its cargo of precious silks to be held in quarantine on a nearby island. In a notable breach of protocol, however, the bureau allows the early transfer of the cargo to the mainland—a fatal decision, made under pressure from silk merchants who want to bring the goods quickly to market. June 20, 1720. A woman dies abruptly in downtown Marseille, an area of narrow streets and dense housing. She is the first v...Read More

Vectorworks CEO Dr. Biplab Sarkar Delivers Virtual Design Summit Keynote

Hundreds of design professionals were anticipating the 2020 Vectorworks Design Summit in San Diego this April when a certain virus changed our plans. As a nimble tech company, Vectorworks quickly moved the event online, where it is available to anyone on-demand, this year at no cost. Vectorworks CEO Dr. Biplab Sarkar delivered the keynote address, and despite the subdued production compared to typically showy Vectorworks stagecraft, he covered a lot in a short time, including how the company is helping design professionals during the pandemic, exciting new software developments of interest to Vectorworks Landmark users, and where things are headed in the near future. To date, over 1,300 people have watched Dr. Sarkar’s online keynote, far more than would have been able to see it in the San...Read More

An Open Letter to Graduating Landscape Architecture Students

Dear graduating landscape architecture student, I am thinking of you all as you graduate—Congratulations and well done! You have spent a lot of time and money the last several years to get your degree. You have worked hard and are entering a noble and fulfilling profession, one that can provide a good life for you. I made a career change to become a landscape architect, and I have never looked back. I have traveled and lived in ways beyond my wildest dreams. I experience my world and those around me in a more enriching way than I ever could have imagined because of my training and work as a landscape architect. This is there for you too. You are also entering the workplace in an epic time of uncertainty from the COVID-19 pandemic. Now the really hard work begins. No doubt you are anxious a...Read More

Land8 Virtual Conference 2020 [Webinars]

The Land8 Virtual Conference sponsored by Anova Furnishings was held on April 20 – 23, 2020. View recordings here: Kona Gray (EDSA) – “Design Thinking – Utilizing Hand Graphics to Explore Ideas” | View > Barbara Deutsch (Landscape Architecture Foundation) – “Landscape Performance to Demonstrate Impact” | View > John Surico (Journalist and Urban Planning Researcher) – “Revitalizing Urban Parks After COVID-19” | View > Gina Ford (Agency Landscape + Planning) – “Cutting Against the Bias – A Talk About the Strategic Advantage of Gender and Design” | View > Kurt Culbertson (Design Workshop) – “Spatial Equity in the Time of Covid 19” | View > Catherine Saunders (TBG Partners...Read More

COVID-19 Op-Ed by Ernest Wong

This week will be a month since we closed our office and sent everyone home to work remotely. It’s given me time to reflect on the impact of this pandemic on all of our lives. Recalling prior events such as 9/11 and the 2008 recession that impacted how we viewed the world, this Coronavirus event will certainly be life-altering in ways we can’t even imagine. As resilient as we are as a society and a human race, we also are susceptible to pandemics, natural disasters and even our own ignorance. This incredibly dangerous event has me thinking about our future. As one of the high-risk individuals of being a baby boomer with a history of respiratory problems including a recent bout with pneumonia, I also have a dog that must be walked daily. I’ve been trying my hardest to abide by the social di...Read More

Managing Risk [Land8x8 Video]

The work of landscape architects work involves complex decisions and responsibilities — detailing and designing projects, observing construction, achieving owner satisfaction, and ensuring the health, safety, and welfare of the public. Landscape architects are subject to professional liability as a direct result of the higher expectations placed on us due to our specialized education and training. When a project doesn’t go according to plan, owners can file lawsuits against the design firm. Risk are inherent in the landscape architecture profession, but we rarely talk about it. During the Land8x8 Lightning Talks in Austin, TX, Marissa McKinney, Principal at Austin-based landscape architecture firm Coleman & Associates, discussed the many ways in which design professionals expose ...Read More

Learning the Language of Contemporary Planting Design

Many landscape architects resist planting design. It’s complex, time-consuming, and site-specific. Results are highly intertwined with implementation and maintenance. Planting is also exactly what your dad’s friends think you do – “Come over, tell me what to do with my yard. And why don’t you mow the lawn while you’re at it.” However, over the past 20 years, it’s become increasingly apparent that landscape architects can’t continue to rely on landscape contractors to “shrub up” their beautifully-rendered designs. Functioning and maintainable plantings are essential for projects to deliver the ecosystem benefits that landscape architects claim to value. High-profile projects like the High Line in New York demonstrate the power of good planting to capture the public imagination and con...Read More

Creating Better Places [Land8x8 Video]

The research is clear: Spending time outdoors, especially in green, natural settings, is good for our health. A growing body of research is demonstrating the positive measurable effects spending time in nature has on our well-being – from reducing mental distress, increasing physical activity, and extending our life span. In fact, spending time outside is so vital that doctors around the world have begun prescribing time in nature as a way of improving their patients’ health. Unfortunately, natural settings are not readily accessible to everyone, and the quality of our outdoor environments are not always conducive to human well-being. Understanding that how we shape our environment impacts our health, Stephen Cook, Principal at the Planning and Landscape Architecture firm Hitchcock Design ...Read More

AIDS Garden Chicago: A Garden Design That Will Heal and Inspire the Chicago Community

AIDS Garden Chicago, designed by Design Workshop, is a realization of a design idea, close to Alderman Tom Tunny’s heart, for a garden championed by him and a number of community organizations. The garden surrounds a 30-foot-tall sculpture designed by the late artist and activist, Keith Haring and donated to the Chicago Park District through the efforts of Ald. Tunny and support from the Chicago Parks Foundation. The sculpture, a self-portrait of Keith, was installed in November 2019. The AIDS Garden Chicago will be Chicago’s first public space to memorialize the early days of Chicago’s HIV epidemic, and to honor those who continue to fight against the disease today. Anticipated to be completed in 2020, the 2.5-acre garden is located along the magnificent shoreline of Lake Michigan just so...Read More

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