People Matter: Jason Granado
Jason Granado is a Landscape Designer in our Washington, DC office! Jason has been with the LandDesign team for four […]
Jason Granado is a Landscape Designer in our Washington, DC office! Jason has been with the LandDesign team for four years, and you can see some of his handy work at the Military Sculptures Memorial at National Harbor. When he isn’t collaborating with LandDesigners across the firm, he’s living his best life with fries and Frosty’s. Keep reading to get to know LandDesigner Jason Granado.
Q: Why landscape architecture?
I was always building things when I was growing up. A wood shop was a second home for me, so I figured life as a designer would suit me pretty well. In undergrad, I studied architecture and started asking questions like, “Where does the building land?” “How does it impact the neighborhood?” “What is the network to society that this building is creating?” I realized architecture became very insular and became interested in the outward connection into our world. To me, landscape architecture is defined as a series of networks and systems that overlay on top of each other, and those connection points are the points of confluence for design to be celebrated.
Q: Favorite LandDesign project you’ve worked on?
Too many to count! But, the Military Sculptures Memorial at National Harbor takes the cake for my favorite project. There was nothing like being out there on Veterans Day when they unveiled the memorial.
Q: What drives you to create places that matter?
I look to the left and to the right of my desk, and the people sitting next to me drive me to create places that matter. This is not someone’s design, its everyone’s design.
Q: Who would you like to collaborate with that you haven’t already?
I’ve been fortunate in my career at LandDesign to have been exposed to many people across the firm, and worked with many different clients. I know I will be able to work alongside many people in the firm as the years progress, but the question being asked is who would I like to collaborate with? I don’t inherently look at someone in the firm, but think about other firms and other disciplines that LandDesign could do a joint venture with. I would love to work alongside some of the designers that create products that we spec everyday, can you image the latest LandDesign bench on landscape forms?
Q: Fill in the blank. “This Life Matters.”
I know this sounds cheesy and cliché, but in reality, life is the most important thing that matters.
Q: What would the title of your autobiography be?
“I’ll take it Neat.” It sounds weird, but if you drink whiskey there is a way to drink it called “neat.” Drinking anything neat means you are having it straight up with no ice, drop of water or any other mixes. I think the first time you are drinking anything new, it should be drunk neat — free of any other influences and pure. This is also how I look at life and want to live my life. Be a little raw, exposed and try new things for yourself, pure and uninfluenced by others, or an ice cube.
Q: If your life had a theme song, what would it be?
Is it possible to pick just one? There are many different moments in your life, in your day, that require different songs. I am going to change the question to really ask, what music has been influential in your life.
- Sublime — nothing sets the mood like sitting on the beach enjoying life with Sublime in the background.
- Rage Against the Machine — The first time you hear Tom Morello play the guitar and Zack De la Rocha scream into the mic, it gave me the idea to begin to question social norms and the idea that we do not have to fit in a box, live your life.
- Beastie Boys — this was my first introduction to the world of Hip Hop and never looked back.
- Lindsey Stirling — It’s not just the beautiful sound, but the idea that she took a traditional instrument that is so refined and “proper” and turned it on its head. Her ability to jump from something like Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” and transition to Kanye West’s “Stronger” in such an elegant way is mind blowing.
- Currently, I have been listening to a lot of Blues – Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, and such.
Music has been influential in my life and really set the stage for a lot of my life ethos.
Q: Favorite thing about living in DC?
I am living outside of the DC area in Northern Virginia, which helps lead to a balanced life. One of the best parts about living in this area are the museums and history that is all around. Also, I am an avid cyclist and there are plenty of roadways and trails to jump on. This summer, I am riding from Pittsburgh, PA to DC which will be an epic ride.
Q: Best fast food french fry?
Easy answer — Wendy’s Fries, if and only if they are used to scoop out your Frosty. If you’re asking what flavor Frosty, then you have another issue because there is only one true flavor to Frostys. But if the Frosty wasn’t on the table, then I would have to go with waffle fries as they have the best surface area for ketchup. And not organic ketchup — because really what is that?
Q: What’s the last thing you made?
Where art meets science: a left-brained journey into a creative career in landscape architecture
— Haley Dugger I came into landscape architecture through a process of elimination. I started college with a strong mindset […]
— Haley Dugger
I came into landscape architecture through a process of elimination. I started college with a strong mindset that I was going to major in math or science, particularly biology. I had grown up fawning my abilities in the more “serious” subjects in school and rejecting anything creative. My older siblings were amazing artists and believing I never stood a chance in living up to them, I ignored any creativity I had.
Once my freshman year of college started, I took an internship in a biochemistry lab while taking courses in biology, chemistry, trigonometry and art history. By midterms, I was a blob of stress and tears. It was a good indicator that I wasn’t made to spend time alone in a windowless lab with microscopes, and that science and math weren’t fulfilling me in the way I thought they would be.
From biochemistry to art history.
With an unbelievable amount of surprise, I realized the class I loved most was art history. Everything about it was exciting! I was learning about creativity and learning the logic behind it. I switched my major before the end of the semester and spent two years exploring art history.
Soon after, I met with my professor to discuss my career plans in art history. He asked me what graduate schools I was looking at and I was dumbfounded. I was the first in my family to go to college and I had no idea what graduate school was or entailed. He quickly explained to me that with a bachelor’s degree in art history, there weren’t many job opportunities and that I would need to pursue higher education to obtain a job in the industry.
I panicked! School was already taking a toll on my perfectionist mind and I wanted to start a career. This led me to take a career aptitude test (I was desperate) which came back with a variety of careers suited for me. After the harsh reality of the small job market in art history, I narrowed the results to industries where a bachelor’s degree was suitable and the industry was growing.
A balance between art and science.
The career that stuck out immediately to me was landscape architecture. I grew up with a mother who was a construction supervisor and I had always enjoyed the outdoors. The description made it clear that this path combined math, science and creativity. I couldn’t believe this had always been an option for me! I immediately dove into the topic and changed my major without a second thought.
At first, my previous insecurities about my artistic abilities got the best of me — but the art class I was required to take for my art history major ended up being the biggest eye opener. As the class went on, my skills improved and I learned that art had principles and basics like all other subjects, and with instruction and practice, I could manage it! With art history classes and this single art class under my belt, I understood art’s importance in landscape architecture. I felt more confident that if I read about it (as usual), studied and practiced (as usual) and let go (not as usual) — I could achieve my goals and convey my ideas.
Embracing the creative side of things.
My eyes were completely opened to the wonderment of drawing and design by the end of my first semester of landscape architecture when I took my first graphics class. I learned the basics of design, color palettes and the importance of overlapping lines. I was taught the principle, “needs to convey, not copy”, meaning it did not need to be perfect as long as someone could look at our plans and understand the idea. This allowed me to enjoy the process and even get excited about hand graphics! After many graphics books, trace rolls and studios, I began to love this new side of me that was creative. I was no longer determined to stay away from creativity, but ready to embrace it.
I was enthralled by classes on graphics, construction principles and environmental practices. I continued to appreciate how many subjects go into creating great places that function properly. The variety of classes worked my left brain, right brain and constantly kept me on my toes. I had found the right path was for me! I am happy I was honest with myself about not fully enjoying my first interest in biology, accepting a career in art history wouldn’t work for me, and persisting in finding a career that satisfies all my interests and needs.
–Haley Dugger is a designer in LandDesign’s Charlotte office where she is involved in all stages of the design process. Since joining LandDesign in 2015, she has immersed herself in our collaborative culture, working alongside landscape architects and civil engineers to create better communities through landscape design. Haley’s passion for landscape architecture shows through her continued involvement with ASLA.
People Matter: Tareq El-Sadi
Tareq El-Sadi is a civil engineer in our Dallas office. Tareq’s passion for civil engineering was passed down from his […]
Tareq El-Sadi is a civil engineer in our Dallas office. Tareq’s passion for civil engineering was passed down from his father and grandfather, who were both engineers. When he’s not mentoring LandDesigners and finding creative solutions, he’s a family man who enjoys spending time with his wife and three kids. Keep reading to get to know LandDesigner, Tareq El-Sadi.
Q: Why Civil Engineering?
A: My father and grandfather were civil engineers. Listening to their stories about projects they were involved in always got me excited. When I was young, my dad would point out a desalination plant (where salt is removed from drinking water) as we were driving and explain that he was involved in its construction. It gave me pride as a kid that my dad helped build it. That was probably the starting point of my decision.
Q: Favorite part about your job?
A: I love knowing that I am contributing positively to my surroundings. I may not save a life, but I am working to create living and working spaces that will benefit communities for generations to come. I also love the challenges and finding creative solutions to the problems that come up.
Q: Favorite LandDesign project you’ve worked on?
A: Projects are like my kids—I have no favorites. I love them all equally.
Q: Your biggest mentor at LandDesign?
A: Brian Dench, PE is a mentor to me. I’ve worked with him for many years.
I’ve also had the privilege to work with Dale Stewart, PE and Rhett Crocker, PLA on occasion, and it’s always exciting to learn from their experiences and to see things from their perspectives.
Q: What excites you most about this industry?
A: One of the most exciting aspects of the civil engineering industry is that you see the results of your work. Also, the development world is always evolving to keep up with consumer demands, economic challenges, development regulations and also technological advances. Being involved in this line of work gives you exposure to new ideas developers are exploring to incorporate into their projects.
Q: What LandDesign office would you want to visit?
A: Orlando. I have visited the mothership in Charlotte, and feel like Orlando has a great cross-section of engineers and landscape architects. It would be nice to see how they are collaborating and the projects they are working on.
Q: If you had one extra hour of free time a day, how would you use it?
A: Probably spend it with my wife. My wife plays the role of super-mom taking care of 3 kids (twins that are 2 and a 5 year old). We don’t get too many opportunities to just sit with a cup of coffee/tea and chat—that would be nice.
Q: What do you love most about Dallas?
A: Family, family and family. Dallas is home. It’s a great city where you can create a snowman in the morning and go swimming in the afternoon.
Q: Dogs or cats?
Q: On an average day, how many pigeons do you think you could reasonably carry?
A: What’s an average day? How much does each pigeon weigh? How large are the pigeons? How far am I carrying them? Are they trained? Can I get them to fly to where I’m taking them?
But on ‘average’, I can take them pretty far. I’ve been going to the gym again!
People Matter: James Mann
James Mann is a newly licensed (congrats, James!) landscape architect in our Charlotte office! James’s passion for landscape design was […]
James Mann is a newly licensed (congrats, James!) landscape architect in our Charlotte office! James’s passion for landscape design was sparked during a trip to Italy when he was just 12-years old. When James isn’t learning about post occupancy-evaluations—more on that later—he’s channeling his inner ‘Tim the Tool Man Taylor’ and working on his home.
Keep reading to get to know LandDesigner, James Mann.
Q: Why Landscape Architecture?
A: For as long as I can remember, I have always loved nature and had a great respect and admiration for it. I’ve also been interested in art and design since I was young.
But I think I can pinpoint my interest in landscape architecture back to a visit to Europe when I was around 12. My dad, a professor of landscape architecture, led a group of students on tours of relevant gardens, villas and various historical sites around Italy. I was fascinated by the intricate and playful designs of the villas and amazed by the beautifully functional public spaces. After visiting New York City a few years later and being absolutely blown away by Central Park, I was committed to studying landscape architecture.
Q: Favorite LandDesign project you’ve worked on?
A: Rea Farms located in south Charlotte—a large mixed use development built on a former golf course site. This was the first project I worked on my first day at LandDesign in 2015.
I can remember Shaun Tooley and Mark Kime working on loose concept sketches for it and thinking that they were designing an entire city! Working on Rea Farms, I learned an incredible amount about the various stages of a project from lots of great people. It’s amazingly satisfying to watch it evolve from colored pencil in Shaun’s office to actual buildings and parks being enjoyed by the community.
Q: Who would you like to collaborate with, that you haven’t with already?
A: I think I could learn a lot from working with Richard Petersheim. His knowledge of the real estate industry from a design and development standpoint, as well as from the financial and economic standpoint is amazing. I’ve never heard another landscape architect speak so confidently about capitalization rates and comparative market analysis.
I would also love to work with Eric Pohlmann sometime. His work ethic, creativity and enthusiasm are inspiring (hello Eric, if you’re reading this).
Q: What excites you most about this industry?
A: As cheesy as it sounds, there’s so much about this industry to be excited about. New material technologies are constantly being introduced and used by landscape architects and civil engineers. New design strategies are always being implemented to better serve the environment and community.
I have recently become interested in reading about post occupancy evaluations (POE). Basically, the measurement of what works and what doesn’t in a design. Which site features are enjoyed or disliked? Have certain materials aged well or badly? Which species of plants have died or thrived? Post occupancy evaluations are an incredible opportunity to gather data for us as designers as well as for our clients!
Q: Best piece of advice you’ve received?
A: Without a doubt the two best pieces of advice I have received pertaining to work are:
- Ask questions. Someone here once told me that “no matter how much you think you are annoying me by asking constant questions, I will be 100 times more annoyed if you don’t ask questions and then make an error that becomes multiplied exponentially as a result”.
- If you make a mistake, own up to it as soon as possible. No matter how minor you think the error is, and no matter how slim you think the chances are of it being caught by someone else…. your error will eventually see the light of day.
Q: What are you binging on Netflix right now?
A: My wife and I recently bought a house that needs a little bit of work. So we have been watching a lot of home improvement type shows lately. It’s amazing what you can learn how to do from watching YouTube videos and TV shows.
Q: You have to sing karaoke, what song do you pick?
A: Rick Astley – “Never Gonna Give You Up” (please watch the music video if you need some new dance moves)
Q: If you had a talk show, who would be your first thee guests?
A: Homer Simpson, Ignatius Reilly and Sasquatch.
Q: What’s the largest animal you think you could domesticate?
A. A giant Galapagos Tortoise would probably be pretty easy.
Q: What Scooby Doo character are you?
A: One of the bald, evil villains.
People Matter: Paula Narvaez
Paula Narvaez is a Landscape Designer in LandDesign’s San Francisco office. When Paula isn’t getting hands-on in the design process, […]
Paula Narvaez is a Landscape Designer in LandDesign’s San Francisco office. When Paula isn’t getting hands-on in the design process, she’s exploring the streets of San Fran or binge watching the new season of Broad City. She may have some serious passion for urban design, but her obsession for Disney takes the cake!
Q: Why Landscape Architecture?
A: With a multi-disciplinary background, I was interested in using my design and technical skills to creatively think through synergizing different mediums and to inspire design decisions within a collaborative setting. I’ve developed a deep interest for cityscapes and urban design wanting to grasp the overall “picture” while wanting to enhance social interactions. My curiosity for understanding the urban fabric has lead me to seek solutions of how users experience both the natural and built environment.
Q: Favorite part about your job?
A: Working on a day-to-day basis with the most creative and inspiring trio here at the SF office!
Q: Who would you like to collaborate with, that you haven’t with already?
A: Top Three:
- Herbert Ryman, a true visionary for his work of illustrating what many know as “The Happiest Place on Earth.
- Tinker Hatfield, an innovator who revolutionized footwear to go beyond just practicality.
- Farshid Moussavi, female industry trailblazer, spreading theory of melding both practice and technicality through form and function.
Q: Favorite LandDesign project?
A: Town Center Corte Madera – a bit biased but it was pretty extraordinary to see the South Entry go from CDs [construction documents] into completion. I’ll never forget planting day where K.C. [Farrell] and I went on site to oversee the layout of the planting scheme. We were going back and forth getting our hands dirty to make sure everything was perfect.
Q: What LandDesign value resonates with you the most?
A: I would say it’s a combination of both passion and culture. In our social climate, it is hard to deny the need for understanding of a variety of cultures outside of our origins. Passion is the fuel that serves our curiosity to move forward. Without passion, it is hard to give our time and dedication to a cause. These values help to create a world around us that connects and unifies people.
Q: Favorite thing about San Francisco?
A: The urban fabric of the city! The way the streets frame certain views—in each corridor you’ll see something absolutely impressive. Walking down Post Street, you can see the Salesforce Tower—being the tallest building in SF, you can only see the top half of the structure as the hills of SF obstruct the bottom half—the elevation changes are so radical! This city has so much charm, from the Victorian homes, to old working trolley cars—it’s something to experience that you will get nowhere else (well, perhaps Lisbon, but it is still very unique)!
Q: If you had a pet duck, what would you name it?
A: Ducky. That’s a no brainer.
Q: What are you binge watching on Netflix right now?
A: Terrace House: Opening New Doors – I’m a sucker for this series. This Japanese show will give you a different perspective on reality TV outside the U.S! And, Broad City – I’ve seen the show so many times, I can recite most episodes word for word.
Q: If you were a holiday, what holiday would you be?
A: A perfect mixture between Halloween and Christmas. I love both holidays – the excitement, the décor, the changing of seasons, pumpkin spice everything followed up with peppermint everything?! In fact, I begin decorating for Halloween in September and Christmas decorations go up on October 31st while watching The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Q: Fill in the blank, “This ______ Matters.”
People Matter: Mike Cipolla
Mike Cipolla is a Studio Leader in LandDesign’s Orlando office! With over 13 years of experience, you could say he’s […]
Mike Cipolla is a Studio Leader in LandDesign’s Orlando office! With over 13 years of experience, you could say he’s got this civil engineering thing down pat.
When Mike isn’t watching UCF Football or hanging out with his two Dachshunds, he’s working to create places that matter in Orlando’s resort market. Keep reading to get to know LandDesigner, Mike Cipolla.
Q: Why Civil Engineering?
A: I wanted to be an Engineer to follow in my grandfather’s footsteps, but I was never really sure what kind. I ended up selecting Civil Engineering going into college and I never looked back.
Q: Your biggest mentor at LandDesign?
A: Brian Forster. Brian and I have been working together for approximately 13 years and we have been working side by side for most of that time. It has been Brian’s leadership and guidance over the years that has helped me become the engineer that I am.
Q: What other LandDesign office would you like to visit?
A: Charlotte because that is the location that started it all.
Q: Favorite part about your job?
A: Working with my colleagues every day. We have a good group of people which can make work fun.
Q: Can you fold a fitted sheet?
A: Does folded into a ball count?
Q: Would you rather fight a hundred duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck?
A: Probably 100 duck-sized horses. That would actually be funny to see.
Q: If you weren’t an engineer, what would your dream job be?
A: If I wasn’t an engineer, I would probably be involved in construction in some aspect. However, I would enjoy teaching if I were to take a totally different direction.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about Orlando?
A: Orlando is where I have put down my roots. I moved around a lot when I was growing up and Orlando has been my home ever since I left for college. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.
Q: If you were a groupie, what band would you follow?
A: I am too old for this now, but Blink 182 was one of my favorite bands in my younger years.
Certified Best: Who Says?
Our people do! And honestly, it makes sense, because they are the ones that make it so great. As the […]
Our people do! And honestly, it makes sense, because they are the ones that make it so great.
As the marketing team for the firm, we’re uniquely skilled at noticing what makes something special, and telling that story. So we’d like to take a minute to highlight what we think is so great about working at LandDesign, accompanied by real feedback from our people.
A culture of caring
We are actually friends! Some might even say family. And it transcends the organizational hierarchy, departments and offices. There is no leader who is too busy to have a conversation with someone, whether about work or life.
“The leaders get into the trenches with all employees. There is a sense of ‘you have our back’ when it comes to challenges that may arise. It forms the culture and builds trust.”
Beyond these walls
We thrive in a culture that is supportive, fun, healthy and engaging. That means having time to make our lives meaningful, both within these walls and out, within our families and our communities. There is a strong commitment to work-life balance and support for peer-organized volunteerism.
“I believe LandDesign is always striving to be the BEST it can be in our community, and especially, for employees. Having a work/life balance is a very hard thing in this world, but LandDesign does work with employees to try to create a good balance.”
Always moving forward
We are truly a design-driven firm who is always looking ahead! We are never satisfied with the status quo and always question ‘what’s next?’. While we celebrate our victories/talent, we are always striving to be better…
“Working for LandDesign has been an important time in my career. It is a place where people are valued and ideas are encouraged at every level of skill. We are an innovative, forward-thinking, ever-evolving company. It is really great to see leadership constantly plugged into where the firm is headed and the people who are going to get it there.”
We are who we are
And that’s something to be proud of, as proven by the eager response to our recent employee swag rollout! In all seriousness, employees seem to know that any ask will always be given consideration–be it a project they want to be involved in, an initiative they want to start or a new tool they need or want to do their job better.
“I truly believe that this organization, more than any I have worked for, gives me the challenges I want in work, the projects I am most passionate about, the tools and resources to be successful, and the balance in life I need and never had prior to starting here. I absolutely have no reason to not recommend LandDesign to any colleague of mine, nor brag about my employer to anyone who will listen.”
All hands on deck
The reality is, our culture isn’t a top-down approach–it’s really about letting the employees make LandDesign what they want it to be, and giving them the freedom to do just that.
“Everyone has a part. LandDesign is made of a hardworking group of people who are completely dedicated to making this a great place to work.”
LandDesign was recently named one of the Best Places to Work by the Charlotte Business Journal, and has consistently received Best Places to Work awards across our offices. Our culture is shared down our long hallways across the firm, and is part of what makes us so proud to be a part of this beast!
People Matter: Sean Haviland
Sean Haviland is a Designer in our… satellite office in New York! Sean kicked off her LandDesign career in our […]
Sean Haviland is a Designer in our… satellite office in New York! Sean kicked off her LandDesign career in our Washington DC office, but soon found herself working remotely in the Big Apple. Let’s just say she really has this “one firm, long hallways” thing down!
Sean’s passion for animated, illustrative renderings can only be matched by her love for the Clemson Tigers. Keep reading to get to know LandDesigner Sean Haviland.
Q: Why landscape architecture?
A: My 5th grade boyfriend’s dad was a landscape architect, so I followed him around on shadow day in elementary school and it just kind of stuck!
Q: Your biggest mentor at LandDesign?
A: I have so many – no way I could choose just one.
Q: What drives you to create places that matter?
A: Good ole appreciation for outdoor space and how it clears the mind.
Q: Favorite LandDesign project you’ve worked on and why?
A: Greensboro Pop Up Park – It was a simple, low budget interim park that really drew crowds. Proof that people love their outdoor space – no matter what shape or form it comes in.
Q: Best piece of advice you’ve received?
A: “Ask for forgiveness, not for permission” – My mom.
Q: Favorite thing about living in New York?
A: Spontaneous Broadway shows.
Q: If your life had a theme song, what would it be?
A: 1-2-3-4 1-2-3-4 CLEMSON TIGERS!
Q: Best fast food french fry?
A: (Ignoring the french fry lol) I have gone an hour out of my way to get to a Chick-fil-a. I’m obsessed. And in case anyone is wondering, I have perfected the order to get a taste of everything..
Chicken Sandwich (entrée not the meal) with an 8 pack Nugget Kid’s Meal that comes with fries, a drink (lemonade, duh!) and then you trade in the toy for an ice cream. Boom.
Q: You just became a member of the Spice Girls, what is your Spice name?
A: Girl who’s spicy, but really, really can’t sing
Q: What’s the last thing you made?
A: A cocktail.
People Matter: Adam McGuire
Adam McGuire is a Senior Associate who leads an awesome landscape architecture design studio at LandDesign with a focus on retail […]
Adam McGuire is a Senior Associate who leads an awesome landscape architecture design studio at LandDesign with a focus on retail repositioning, mixed use and multi-family projects in the Southeast region. Although he’s accomplished a lot since he joined our team in 2012, we’d rather talk about how cool he is! Ultimately, his passion for design and impeccable facial hair go hand-in-hand, but if you really want to get into his head…
Q: Why landscape architecture?
A: That answer has probably evolved a lot since I was mowing lawns in high school… but the ability to partner with developers to impact the design of peoples living, working and recreational spaces while at the same time being a steward of the environment (both built and natural) is such an opportunity and keeps each day exciting.
Q: Favorite LandDesign project?
A: Other than that lift station Dale [Stewart] and Robb [Klauk] did last year…
Q: Favorite trend that is happening in your industry right now?
A: Not sure if this qualifies as trend, but the surge in adaptive re-use that we are seeing throughout the country is awesome. Those projects can be some of the toughest, but also some of the most rewarding.
Q: Who is your biggest mentor at LandDesign?
A: Dale Stewart – we’ve technically never worked on a project together, but watch him get a cup of coffee (more likely re-heat it, not a trait I’ve picked up…) and you’ll watch a true gentleman interact with kindness and genuine interest in at least three other people along the way.
Q: Who would you like to collaborate with, that you haven’t with already?
A: In the firm – Mack Drzayich. Otherwise – Tony Stark.
Q: How do you eat an Oreo?
A: With my 3-year-old, preferably.
Q: On an average day, how many pigeons could you reasonably carry?
A: Are we talking alive? Probably three in each arm. Otherwise – 20-60 (depends on what species of pigeon – there’s a wide range in their weights).
Q: If you were a groupie what band would you follow?
Q: What’s the largest animal you think you could domesticate?
A: Water Buffalo – easy.
Q: How would your team describe you?
A: That’s dangerous. They’d probably only do it in secret.
LandDesign Receives Charlotte Business Journal’s Healthiest Employer Award
We’ve done it again! We are proud to announce that we have placed in the top 5 for Charlotte Business […]
We’ve done it again! We are proud to announce that we have placed in the top 5 for Charlotte Business Journal’s Healthiest Employers for the second year in a row.
LandDesign continues to strive to be an employer of choice. This is not something that is achieved only by our wellness program (hey, it helps), but by our culture, benefits, growth opportunities…and the list goes on.
Wellness is a huge component of what makes LandDesign great. And we’re not talking just the physical stuff–we’re talking everything. We balance the physical, social, emotional, financial and nutritional components to foster a sense of belongingness and connection to each other, our work and the firm.
We could easily list out every single program we’ve implemented over the past few years, but that would just get boring and we’re not really into boring. So instead, we’ve listed and explained five wellness programs we’ve implemented during 2018 (thus far). Enjoy:
- Donations to Charity – We continue to partner with Plus3, a unique social media platform that generates dollar amounts to each wellness activity logged by our employees. This year alone, we’ve donated $3,880 to six charities within our local and national communities.Fun facts: In 2018 alone, we’ve logged over 11,000 activities, have taken over 21 million steps, and have burned over 900,000 calories. Fitness goals achieved.
- Ergonomics – Ergo-what? Ergonomics is the science of fitting the work environment to the people doing the job, not fitting the people to the work environment. Great concept? We think so. We’re not immune to our employees sitting at their desks for a large chunk of the day to get their work done. Why not introduce tips and tricks to help keep them healthy while they sit?Our ergonomics lunch and learn session was led by a licensed occupational therapist that demonstrated the proper work setup to allow for an efficient range of motion without straining the body. The therapist also included simple micro-break exercises that could be done while sitting and standing at one’s desk. We recorded the presentation and it now lives permanently on our company’s intranet for all employees to access.
- Massage Day – A huge and recent hit. Within minutes of sending out the sign-up email, the document had been locked by people flooding it to get a spot. A Charlotte-based chiropractic group sent two massage therapists to our office to provide employees with a 15 minute chair massage. Popular feedback suggested we should make it a weekly habit. We’re looking into it.
- Walking Wednesday + Run Day Monday – Walking Wednesday came out of a wellness initiative from the Charlotte Chamber’s Healthy Charlotte Council which we participated in a couple of years ago. Since then, we’ve brought it back for months at a time during spring, summer and fall.Each Wednesday, we send a note out to our staff encouraging them to join a member of our social committee for a 20-30 minute walk. It is a nice way to get to know people within the office that you might not have already met.Run Day Monday was an employee initiative that started about 3-4 years ago. We have a few avid runners within each of our offices. Each Monday, employees get together after work to run. We’ve had people use this as an opportunity to train for 5k’s, 10k’s and even marathons. Similar to Walking Wednesday, this creates yet another social opportunity for our staff to get to know one another. We’ve continued to implement this during the summer months each year.
- On-site Nutritionist Visits – This is another great benefit that we are able to offer employees. We are fortunate to have a medical benefit policy that covers nutritional visits as a preventive service regardless of a medical diagnosis.Our on-site nutritionist visits the Charlotte office every six weeks giving employees adequate time to implement suggestions made by the nutritionist. The sessions are one-on-one so employees can feel comfortable sharing their wellness journey with the counselor.
You can check out last year’s blog post here, which takes a deeper dive into our view on wellness.
In Memoriam // Stephanie Powell
Stephanie Powell was a humble trailblazer. She joined LandDesign in 2000 as chief financial officer. It was a new position […]
Stephanie Powell was a humble trailblazer. She joined LandDesign in 2000 as chief financial officer. It was a new position the firm created specifically for her. In 2003, she became LandDesign’s first female, and only non-design, partner.
On March 25, Stephanie left this world following a long and valiant battle with gynecologic cancer. She leaves behind colleagues and a community whose lives she changed for good.
The decision to bring Stephanie on board as CFO was a game-changer for the firm, explains LandDesign President Rhett Crocker. “Stephanie brought a much-needed business management mindset to a firm filled with creative professionals. She helped us understand how to build a better business while still doing great design work and to recognize that we needed to be financially healthy to grow.” In 2007, when the great recession hit, it proved to be wise advice that carried LandDesign through when many other firms stumbled or failed.
Stephanie’s analytical left brain was a good complement to her partners’ right brain creativity. “She brought balance to the table, gave us a different perspective to consider and made accounting bearable,” said Rhett. “LandDesign is definitely a better business and a better place because of Stephanie.” Her colleagues agree.
Beyond the financial contributions, Stephanie also left her mark on LandDesign as a mentor and advocate for women at the firm.
Heba Root, Director of Human Resources
To Heba, Stephanie was a “remarkable gift” who began mentoring her in the early days of her career 15 years ago and guiding her through the big decisions and turning points in her life. From Heba’s HR viewpoint, Stephanie was unique among CFOs. “It was not simply about the bottom line for her. Along with maintaining a healthy company, she also took into consideration what was in the best interest for the employees.”
Dawn Cagle, Director of Financial Services,
Dawn worked alongside Stephanie from the day she joined the firm. “She was a great mentor. I learned so much from her and miss her greatly.” Stephanie is the reason Dawn went back to school to earn her MBA. She also credits Stephanie with encouraging employees to make work/life balance a priority and paving the way for women to advance to leadership positions at LandDesign.
Beth Poovey, Director | Greenways, Parks + Open Space
Beth is one of the beneficiaries of the leadership path that Stephanie blazed. “For me, her biggest impact was as a role model for woman partners in a profession that traditionally has fewer women than men in leadership positions. In recent years, we would talk about how the women of LandDesign could support each other.” Beth misses those conversations with Stephanie, but is inspired to pay forward the encouragement she received by helping other women at the firm grow in their careers.
Stephanie’s life also had impact outside the office.
Lydia’s Legacy is an organization dedicated to funding research and raising awareness about gynecologic cancer. When Stephanie moved to Charlotte, she contacted the nonprofit about volunteering. “She was very clear that she didn’t want to just use her business skills to help with financial or administrative things, she wanted to be in the community fellowshipping with people like her who were going through or had been treated for a gynecologic cancer,” said Managing Director Carin Ross Johnson.
The organization dedicated its annual charity golf tournament this year in memory of Stephanie. “She made family through Lydia’s Legacy, and we made family through her. We love Stephanie and will miss her dearly.”
People Matter: Beth Poovey
I believe a person’s past forms who they are. Beth Poovey’s years of wanderlust became the journey that led to […]
I believe a person’s past forms who they are.
Beth Poovey’s years of wanderlust became the journey that led to her role as Director of Greenways, Parks and Open Space for LandDesign. Recently, Beth shared her passion for parks as places with other park and recreation professionals as a speaker at the National Recreation and Park Association annual conference in New Orleans.
“I believe a person’s past forms who they are.” It can also help someone discover their passion.
Beth grew up in a small town, yearning to experience a big city lifestyle and the diverse mix of people that came with it. She found it at George Mason University and in nearby Georgetown. However, her studies were cut short when she left school to care for her terminally ill mother.
Afterwards, not ready to return to college, Beth moved to the Netherlands to be a nanny and learned to love gardens and bikes. “I realized I had been born in the wrong country! I was supposed to grow up biking to bakeries and buying fresh flowers on the street. But all good things must come to an end, and I had to go back to school.”
It was the best setting for me to combine my love of community with learning about the planning and design of space.
It was at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, where Beth learned she liked process and people. “I changed my earlier studies in economics to psychology, and took the required sociology class. That was it for me.” Studying sociology uncovered Beth’s desire to understand the nuances that make a community unique. “I would study people in public places, watching and interviewing them to learn how they experienced these open spaces.”
After graduation, Beth moved to Toronto to study landscape architecture, captivated by the city’s internationally diverse neighborhoods, urban fabric and natural ravines and waterfronts. “It was the best setting for me to combine my love of community with learning about the planning and design of space.”
Getting dirt under your nails matters.
Beth’s first job was a park gardener for the City of Toronto’s Parks and Recreation Department. “One of my all-time favorite gigs! It helped me appreciate the demands placed on park and recreation staff to maintain these public places, which is very important to understand when you are designing them.”
Open public spaces matter.
In 1999, Beth joined LandDesign. Today, she is the firm’s Director of Greenways, Parks and Open Space, where she leads a studio focused on the creation of public places that matter.
I love them all.
Combining her sociology and landscape architecture degrees, her passion has evolved into the planning and design of urban open spaces that authentically integrate community assets with environmental stewardship opportunities. She is also responsible for producing construction documents for urban streetscapes, greenways and park facilities.
When asked to pick a favorite project, she responds like all good mothers. “I love them all.” However, there is one in particular that has spanned nearly her entire career at LandDesign, involving numerous clients and contracts: Little Sugar Creek Greenway and its extension, the Cross Charlotte Trail.
In 2000, the Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation Department hired LandDesign to master plan the development of a linear greenway along an environmentally degraded creek corridor that spanned 16 miles from uptown Charlotte south to the South Carolina border. The plan included opportunities for stream restoration, recreation and place-making all at once, providing an amenity for the community that also has become an economic development tool.
“This has been an awesome legacy project to work on in terms of the planning, design and implementation.” Fast forward 17 years and many related projects later, and the City of Charlotte’s transportation department has joined with Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation to provide public funding to accelerate the development of additional stretches of the greenway to the north, understanding the economic value it brings to the community.
For her presentation to the National Recreation and Park Association, Beth was joined by HR&A Advisors to explore how the park and recreation community can secure public funding for open park spaces by partnering with other departments, such as economic development or transportation. Using Little Sugar Creek Greenway and the Cross Charlotte Trail as a case study to frame the discussion, they explained the importance of viewing linear parks and greenways in their own communities through the lens of different departments and then leveraging these projects to produce partnership funding to get them built and implemented.
On Nov. 15, Beth will host a mobile workshop on the greenway and trail system with the National League of Cities City Summit in Charlotte. The tour will combine recreation and transportation to show city leaders how public-private investment in projects like the Little Sugar Creek Greenway and the Cross Charlotte Trail spur new development and sustainable growth.
Designing a Better Lifestyle for our Employees: LandDesign Recognized as Healthiest Employer
By: Alexis Rosamilia, HR Generalist LandDesign is in the business of creating places that matter, places that contribute to peoples’ […]
By: Alexis Rosamilia, HR Generalist
LandDesign is in the business of creating places that matter, places that contribute to peoples’ health and happiness. One of our priorities in HR is to design a wellness program that contributes to and facilitates the health and well-being of all our colleagues. Recently, LandDesign was recognized by Charlotte Business Journal’s Healthiest Employers of Greater Charlotte for our commitment to wellness and our above (national) average wellness initiatives. With our wellness score exceeding the national average, LandDesign was awarded 4th place in the mid-size business category (100-499 employees).
Wellness is more than just exercise and diet, it’s everything that contributes to our daily happiness. At LandDesign, we incorporate the social, emotional, financial, physical, and nutritional components that people need to be well-rounded and content with their lifestyle. A successful wellness program begins with listening to the most important asset: the employee. We listen to their needs and their feedback. Our approach is simple – go directly to the source (our employees) and ask them what they want. What type of program would benefit them the most? And most importantly, what do they want to learn and takeaway from such programming? After all, a wellness program can only be as successful as the people it supports.
There are many components that make up our program but I’ll highlight two of the more prominent ones. The first one being to foster social connectivity within our culture. It can be intimidating to find yourself in a new place with new people. But how great does it feel when you find the person sitting next to you values the same things you do? We give our employees the autonomy and the resources to promote and participate in various activities inside and outside the office. Why? Because it encourages them to get together and establish non-working relationships with each other. We have bike riders who ride together, runners who run together, musicians who play together, foodies who lunch together, adventurers who explore together, humanitarians who volunteer together, and that’s only to name a few.
Another component of our wellness program is community engagement. We are lucky to be a part of a culture that loves to give back. At LandDesign, we participate in various volunteering efforts around our offices to engage with the community. We even offer 8 hours of paid time off for employees to use towards volunteering efforts. Even when our employees are not physically volunteering, they can still consistently participate in a charitable effort through Plus3, an innovative social platform that hosts our wellness clubhouse. The system converts points assigned to logged wellness activities into currency which is then donated by LandDesign to charitable organizations. The program adds another layer of linking community engagement with wellness; and as a nice bonus, we found that the charitable factor acted as an additional incentive for our employees to participate. During hard times, you always wonder, what can I do; I want to help but how? We essentially gave that power to our employees. A way to help get involved with a good cause by doing what they already do so well, by being healthy.
It goes without saying, but you cannot have a successful wellness program without the support of the leadership team. We are extremely thankful to have a leadership team that embodies wellness in their own daily lives and finds the value in promoting and participating in wellness initiatives throughout the firm. All of our wellness initiatives are 100% funded by LandDesign.
We have come to a point in time where employees are seeking more than just a competitive salary. They are seeking flexibility of a job, positive work culture, supportive management, social connectivity, a robust benefits package, community engagement, and other great initiatives that we are able to provide. At the end of the day, we work for a company that values wellness and understands that it is not simply a physical component, but rather a balance of physical, social, emotional, financial, and nutritional components. Feeling connected to ourselves, our culture, our team, and our work is what we aim to cultivate within our wellness programming.
People Matter: Dale Stewart
Two weeks ago, employees from LandDesign’s Charlotte office built a learning garden for Idlewild Elementary School, designed as part of […]
Two weeks ago, employees from LandDesign’s Charlotte office built a learning garden for Idlewild Elementary School, designed as part of a firm-wide partnership with REAL School Gardens. The organization is a labor of love for LandDesign Partner Dale Stewart who is creating a lasting and positive impact on two of the most compelling issues that matter today: education and the environment.
I think the kids are our future.
Even before Dale was a father of four with two grandkids and more on the way, environmental stewardship projects that benefit children have long held a special place in his life. “I think the kids are our future.”
It all began 30 years ago with a competition by the YMCA of Greater Charlotte to create a new wilderness camping experience for its summer program. LandDesign won the competition, in part by deftly determining the location of the undisclosed 2,000-acre site. “I think they were impressed, in part, by our sleuthing skills.”
The new camp, which now serves 300 kids a week, typifies Dale’s passion and LandDesign’s mission. “This is one of the places we’ve helped create that truly matters; to our community and to the kids who go there and the memories they create for a lifetime.”
Land Stewardship Matters.
Early in his career as a civil engineer, Dale developed an attitude of servant leadership, focusing his community involvements on advancing environmental stewardship, from member of the first board of directors for the Catawba Lands Conservancy to the board of the Conservation Trust of North Carolina. Later, he was involved in the creation of the Catawba River District (CRD) that sought out and enticed developers to create sustainable projects. “Our goal was to spur land development that was more respectful of the natural environment.”
When the recession hit, the CRD organization pivoted from development to environmental education, transforming to the Green Teacher Network. Working with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, they created learning gardens and orchestrated teacher workshops. “The idea was to engage kids in an experiential education that got them out of the classroom and gave them exposure to how food actually grows, and to inspire teachers to use the gardens.”
In July 2016, the organization merged with Washington, D.C.-based REAL School Gardens, a nationally-recognized nonprofit that creates learning gardens at low-income elementary schools and provides teachers with the resources to incorporate the outdoor classroom into their overall curriculum to improve academic achievement and lift up poor performing schools. Dale is now on the national board of REAL School Gardens and serves as board chair for the Carolinas Region.
Community Service Matters.
At about the same time, LandDesign began offering a new benefit of one paid day off a year for employees to give back to the community and, as a firm, chose to partner with REAL School Gardens to deploy all of its assets, from design expertise to sweat equity.
At LandDesign, we apply our skills and knowledge in service to both our clients and the community to create places that matter.
The firm’s skill-based pro bono support includes designing the outdoor garden classrooms and working closely with REAL School Gardens’ design/build team, to providing office assistance, event support and social media development.
Last month, employees from the Charlotte office joined other volunteers for a day-long “Big Dig” at Idlewild Elementary, a high-poverty, high achieving neighborhood school of 1,100 students that was recently named the best magnet school in the nation. The outdoor garden they built will help Idlewild students for years to come learn how to grow vegetables and eat nutritionally while supporting the school’s STEM and language arts curriculums.
Dale views LandDesign’s partnership with REAL School Gardens as a legacy project for the firm. “At LandDesign, we apply our skills and knowledge in service to both our clients and the community to create places that matter. That means not just turning dirt and building the next project, but creating successful schools that improve the quality of life for an entire community.”
Long term relationships and mentoring staff matter.
Beyond his social good, Dale is a soft-spoken, yet powerful, force for creating relationships and people that matter for LandDesign.
Your sense of satisfaction in your career is going to be greatly enhanced if you become engaged in your industry and community.
“One of the things I’m pretty proud of in my career, and encourage our staff to aspire to, is cultivating long-term client relationships.” He points to his association with the Harris family and Crescent Resources that, over 30 years, has produced projects such as Ballantyne and Phillips Place, a groundbreaking project in the mid 1990s that was among the first true mixed-use developments. Currently, his work with Crescent Resources and Lincoln Harris includes a 1,400-acre regional development involving one of the last greenfield sites in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County.
Dale shares the wisdom he’s gained from his 40-plus year career to help others at the firm mature in theirs. “You can make a perfectly good living by sitting in your office all day and turning out plans. But, your sense of satisfaction in your career is going to be greatly enhanced if you become engaged in your industry and your community. Not only will you be making the community a better place, but you’ll meet and forge relationships with a lot more people you may never have met otherwise.”
New Intern Class Kicks Off Their First Week with a Design Charrette
By: Emma Davis, Marketing Intern New people, new office, new project, and for some, a new city. This is […]
By: Emma Davis, Marketing Intern
New people, new office, new project, and for some, a new city. This is what our newest class of interns took on as they started their first week at the Charlotte office.
After some introductions, a tour of the office, and a trip around surrounding Charlotte neighborhoods, the interns went right to work on a current project in the Design District of South End. The intern class was split into two teams, each composed of seven individuals of varying fields. From civil engineers and landscape architects to urban planners and marketing majors, the interns had to bring their skills together to create a final product.
Within a three day span, the interns were responsible for creating an identity for the site, analyzing the site inventory and surrounding area, and generating detailed plans for the project’s design. Each day of work was followed by a critique provided by the charrette managers and other staff members. The experienced designers gave the interns insight to the strengths and weaknesses of both the project design and presentation. From the given advice, the interns were able to focus on what they needed to accomplish in order to improve upon their initial design concept.
Thursday arrived, and the teams hurried to complete all tasks in order to give the client and designers throughout the office a clear presentation of their unique plans for the project. Site maps, vignettes, precedent photos, objective outlines, and master plans covered the walls as the interns prepared for their presentations.
The interns were eager to show off their designs and compilations. This project would be their first chance to showcase their skills to the LandDesign staff. How did they do? Jeff Mis, a charrette leader, commended the group, “These interns were fantastic to work with, and the civil and landscape designers worked extremely well together. It is a strong group we have!” The interns not only proved their ability to create exceptional products, but also their ability to work with others of a variety of disciplines.
While the charrette could have been viewed as an intimidating task, both teams demonstrated that they were up for the challenge and ready for a summer of interdisciplinary work experience with LandDesign.
To see the final charrette presentation, check out our Facebook Live post.
People Matter: Bike to Work Spotlight
Alison participates in National Bike to Work Day each year with co-workers in what she describes as “a bike gang […]
Alison participates in National Bike to Work Day each year with co-workers in what she describes as “a bike gang of landscape architects rolling deep through the streets of Alexandria.”
Bike-friendly places matter.
Bike To Work Day is part of a national movement to make America bike friendly. What does that mean? It means a strong bike culture that welcomes and celebrates bicycling along with creating safe and convenient places to ride and park. In honor of the occasion, meet two members of LandDesign who are local trailblazers for the bike-friendly movement and help carry the torch for our firm’s bike culture.
- Alison Peckett is a landscape designer in the firm’s Washington, D.C. office. A positive attitude matters. Being socially and environmentally conscious matters.
- Matthew Weschler is a civil engineer designer in our Charlotte office. Travel and adventure matter. Complete neighborhoods matter. Freedom of expression matters.
What sparked your passion for bicycling?
For Alison, it certainly was not the repetitive bike rides around her suburban neighborhood cul-de-sac as a child! As an urban designer and environmentalist though, she’s studied the influence that innovative transportation planning can have on cities and the important role bikes play in community design. “I’m fortunate to live and work in Washington, D.C.; a city that promotes a bike-friendly lifestyle.”
Conversely, Matt grew up in a neighborhood on top of a really tall hill. “One of his favorite activities was riding to the top of my neighbor’s driveway and racing my friends to the bottom of our street. I still feel that thrill when I’m coasting down hills in Charlotte.”
What type of bike do you own?
Matt owns a Kona Dew Deluxe, a lightweight nine-gear hybrid bike with hydraulic brakes that he describes as “a nice commuter bike.”
Nothing so fancy for Alison who owns an old vintage red Schwinn road bike that is her main source of transportation. “A wise bike mechanic once told me the key to a good city bike is finding something that is dingy enough that no one wants to steal it, but also decent enough that you can use it to zip around town. Once you achieve this equilibrium, you’re golden.”
Alison also has a bike share membership (a short-term bicycle rental program). “Most mornings, I walk to a bike share, bike share to the metro station, then take the metro to work. It seems kind of nutty to most people, but it is this seamless synergy of all these modes of transportation that makes living in the city so fun.”
What is your most memorable/interesting bicycling trip?
For Alison, it was a bucket-list solo bike trip through Berlin, Amsterdam and the tulip fields of Holland. “I essentially planned the entire trip around this one single activity.” Alison was struck by the region’s biking culture where bike lanes were seamlessly integrated into every roadside and neighborhood, allowing her to navigate through several small towns to her dream destination: Keukenhof, the largest tulip park in the world where more than 7 million flower bulbs are planted each year.
Matt’s most memorable bike trip is still before him. “While it’s high on my to-do list, I have yet to undertake a bike-packing trip.” In the meantime, he enjoys interesting monthly group bike rides with fun themes as a “Sushi Roll” biking tour of Charlotte’s sushi restaurants and the “Tour-de-Dough” ride to some of the city’s many fine donut shops.
How are you active in support of making Charlotte/DC-Alexandria a great bicycling community?
Matt supports car(e)free streets including volunteering for the recent Open Streets event in his Elizabeth neighborhood. The event featured local nonprofit groups, government agencies and businesses all aimed at educating the public about efforts to make Charlotte a friendlier place for people to walk and bike. “The streets were closed to all vehicular traffic, and opened up for pedestrians and cyclists to roam free. It was inspiring to meet so many people working on this critical problem.”
Alison helps organize the Potomac ASLA’s Landscape Architecture Bike Tour that takes riders throughout D.C. to experience several notable design landmarks around the district. “This is always a fun event to see the city by bike and share the importance of what we do with the larger community.” She also participates in National Bike to Work Day each year with co-workers in what she describes as “a bike gang of landscape architects rolling deep through the streets of Alexandria.”
Bike friendly communities require a welcome and supportive infrastructure, including well-connected bicycling networks, quiet neighborhood streets and shared use trails. What bike-friendly aspects of your community do you enjoy most and why?
Allison believes bikes are an indicator of the vibrancy of an urban area, and Washington, D.C. does not disappoint. “Within minutes, I can be riding through the lush forested canopy of Rock Creek Park and then suddenly be among the monuments on the National Mall.”
She is also the rare person who loves her commute to work, often joined by co-worker Lisa Biddle. “We always look forward to beautiful days when we can hop on our bikes and ride to work along the Mt. Vernon Trail; a greenway that winds along the Potomac River. No matter how your day goes, you always know it will end with a beautiful ride home, especially the approach to city with the Washington monument and Jefferson Memorial illuminated in the background. I definitely don’t take for granted that I live in a city that allows me to do this.”
Matt also commutes to work on two wheels using a bike path behind his house, often stopping to enjoy the cooler air and quiet separation from heavy traffic. Sometimes, he takes a detour on the way home, hopping on the Little Sugar Creek Greenway, one of LandDesign’s iconic projects. “Even though it runs right through the heart of midtown Charlotte, it still feels like a break from the city’s constant movement.”
In her work at LandDesign, Alison is finding that more clients are realizing the value of “bikability,” including several municipalities that have strict requirements for bike infrastructure and parking. “There is a strong relationship between the urban projects we design and their accessibility by biking or other alternative forms of transportation.”
“Biking has the power to create mobility and accessibility for everyone as an efficient and affordable means of transportation. Our role as landscape architects is directly tied to this, where we play an instrumental role in helping transform cities into more socially inclusive and viable places to live.”
People Matter: Ashley Clark
A professional colleague once summed up Ashley Clark this way. “Cat herder. Smart as a whip. Cool as the other […]
A professional colleague once summed up Ashley Clark this way. “Cat herder. Smart as a whip. Cool as the other side of the pillow.”
Unlike some, Ashley had no idea what she wanted to be when she grew up. “I had way too many interests! I loved art, but also math. I liked to make things and appreciated quality materials.”
During high school, she considered communications, design and business programs until her calculus teacher and mentor recommended architecture school. “At the time, I had no idea what a gift it was for someone to understand that an education in architecture could expose me to all of these things.”
I struggled to understand the studio culture. We were supposed to be learning how to design places for the community, but there was a lack of interest in engaging the community.
As a first-year architecture student at University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Ashley quickly became frustrated by the culture of students who stayed up all night in the studio, absorbed by their projects. “I struggled to understand the studio culture. We were supposed to be learning how to design places for the community, but there was a lack of interest in engaging the community.”
At the same time, the American Institute of Architecture-Students (AIAS) was beginning a movement to advocate for a healthier studio/life balance and working with schools to monitor the health of its culture as part of the accreditation process. It would be Ashley’s first foray into the role of cultural change agent, but not her last.
“By graduation from architecture school, it was clear I wanted to pursue a non-traditional career path that would allow me to communicate the value of design.”
Ashley’s first job after graduation had her working directly with the leadership of an architecture firm to support client development, presentations and communication efforts. It set the foundation for her career as a marketing professional within the AEC industry.
She also continued her leadership growth with the AIA – with a focus on advocacy for non-traditional career architecture graduates – advancing from the Associate Director for AIA North Carolina to the AIA South Atlantic Regional Board, and eventually, the AIA National Executive Committee as the Associate Director.
There, she was part of a strategic planning process to change the structure of the national organization to provide better representation for the profession and better services for its 80,000 architect members. Ashley’s role involved advocating for and elevating the collective voice of emerging professionals who represent one-third of the AIA’s membership.
Ashley’s advocacy and volunteer leadership did not go unrecognized. In 2012, she became the first architecture graduate to receive UNC Charlotte’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award. She is also a recipient of the AIA National Associates Award, the highest honor given to an Associate member.
The opportunity to leverage my collective experiences as an advocate for great design and even better people is extremely satisfying.
At LandDesign, Ashley has found a place where she can share her passion within a culture that allows her to contribute. “I am so fortunate to have a position that allows me to sit at the intersection of communications and strategy for the firm.”
Ashley manages the firm’s marketing communications, including LandDesign’s 2014 rebrand, and has guided and supports the firm’s strategic vision through both large and small initiatives. She also works on a number of projects that support the firm’s strong culture, a nod to her college roots that prompted her early involvement with the AIA.
“The opportunity to leverage my collective experiences as an advocate for great design and even better people is extremely satisfying. And, it just proves that you never know how the opportunities you have to engage the profession will come back and impact your career.”
On her bucket list? Completing a home renovation with her husband who is also a non-traditional career architect. “We are fixing up a beautiful old southern home, room by room. It has incredible bones, but we are modernizing it and doing most work ourselves from reconfiguring spaces to running new plumbing and electrical. Between that and our 4-year-old, there’s not much room for other hobbies; though I’ve been trying to make time to get outside and work on my golf game.”
People Matter: Jeffrey Mis
On the occasion of his one-year anniversary with LandDesign and the start of spring, we’d like to introduce you to […]
On the occasion of his one-year anniversary with LandDesign and the start of spring, we’d like to introduce you to our favorite horticulturist.
Jeff Mis and his brother were raised in a multi-generational family in the blue collar “Region” of northwest Indiana outside of Chicago. His mom is the dean of students at an inner-city Catholic school and his dad is a retired Marine, turned chemical operator. Much of his youth involved the family caring for his maternal grandparents who passed away at a young age.
I wanted to choose a career that would honor my parents and grandparents, and do something that was going to help people.
“My parents and grandparents always instilled in us the value of a college education. But, where I grew up, going to college was a luxury. No one in my family, except for a cousin, had ever attended college.” Through scholarships and working full-time throughout college, Jeff was able to attend Purdue University.
“When I started college, I wanted to choose a career that would honor my family and do something that was going to help people.” Civil engineering was the direction he decided to take.
After one semester in the Engineering program, Jeff quickly realized he didn’t connect with the other students and didn’t feel the drive and passion he had hoped for. Then, came a chance meeting with a friend from home who was in the Landscape Architecture program.
“I’ll never forget, we were sitting at a Greek restaurant on campus. I was studying for an engineering final, and she was working on a final project for landscape architecture. I looked at what she was doing; making beautiful art that was functional, and I trying to run a program that would calculate the number of crystal sizes on the back of a stop sign.” Dawn broke for Jeff in that moment.
The very next day, he visited Purdue’s Landscape Architecture program and met with the professors there. “Two hours later, I realized that I could combine my desire for creating the infrastructure like parks and greenways, and have the creative outlet that wasn’t there for me in civil engineering.” The rest is history.
Early mentors planted the seed and cultivated his passion for horticulture design.
Jeff’s first job was with Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects in Chicago. He considers Doug Hoerr and Peter Schaudt early mentors who planted the seed and cultivated his passion for horticulture design. His work ranged from the Michigan Avenue medians that changed the way people look at downtown Chicago to multi-million dollar lakefront estates.
From there, Jeff went to work for Craig Bergmann Landscape Design, a high-end residential landscape architecture firm that also played a significant role in his career development. “Craig and his firm exponentially grew my level of horticulture knowledge and plant understanding.”
“It was mind-blowing to me the fantastic projects I was exposed to at such a young age. They were dreams come true.” In 2016, Jeff joined Land Design. It was a decision that changed the trajectory of his career.
Jeff strongly believes his understanding of plants and spatial organization that he gained from designing residential landscapes is critical to the work he does today. “Doug Hoerr once told me that if you can’t design a 10×10 patio, how are you going to design a 10-block by 10-block master plan? Creating a beautiful residence is no different that creating a beautiful greenway.”
Among the LandDesign projects that are benefiting from his horticultural focus are the Stevens Creek Nature Preserve in Mecklenburg County and the Cross Charlotte Trail along the Little Sugar Creek Greenway. “Now I’m working on legacy projects for all people instead of legacy projects for a family.”
Jeff has enjoyed sharing some of his work with his 95-year-old paternal grandfather. However, he deeply regrets that his maternal grandparents aren’t around to see what he has accomplished. For indeed, he is living their legacy; a dream where their grandson is using his college education to make his mark on the world.
People Matter: Allison Merriman
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all […]
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference. – Robert Frost
Allison Merriman’s career path is not the typical journey of a registered landscape architect. But, it has made all the difference to the perspective she brings to her role at LandDesign.
In high school, Allison loved science, biology and art, and first learned about landscape architecture while browsing through college catalogs. While it sounded intriguing at the time, she ultimately decided to enroll in the Plant Sciences program at Clemson University.
After graduation, Allison worked at a retail garden center in Winston-Salem that also offered landscape design services. The experience renewed her interest in landscape architecture and led her to take jobs in architecture and land planning before joining an emerging young landscape architecture firm where her experience grew along with the firm’s size for more than a decade.
A foray into residential development expanded Allison’s experience, where she helped to craft projects’ visions and work closely with all disciplines from design and construction through sales and leasing. In 2009, she decided to return to landscape architecture and launched her own practice until five years later when Mark Kime and Beth Poovey approached her about an opportunity with LandDesign that was too good to refuse.
Each experience of my career has provided a different perspective on our profession and influenced how I approach a project.
Allison’s work at LandDesign is a combination of public and private sector projects where she performs conceptual design, rezonings, construction documents and administration, and more. They range from multifamily projects, hotels and a public park to several projects for the University of North Carolina’s Charlotte campus including a health and wellness center, new science center building, and an admissions and visitor’s center.
“Each experience of my career has provided a different perspective on our profession and influenced how I approach a project.” Her first job at the emerging landscape architecture firm taught Allison the skills of the profession and what it takes to run a small business. Her time spent with the residential development company gave her the opportunity to view projects from the other side of the table. And working on her own during the recession taught her to rely on the basics: work hard, be responsive, solve problems and be fearless.
I started running in college for the same reason a lot of people did. My roommate and I were eating too much pizza!
The journeys Allison takes in her personal life are as winding as her career path. And, they come in 26.2 mile increments alongside her husband. She has run more than 14 marathons in 20 years in locations as far flung as London and Big Sur in California to the storied Marine Corp Marathon in Washington, D.C. Her first race was the iconic New York City Marathon. She has run in it six times and hopes to make it her swan song marathon in 2017 if the race’s lottery system prevails in her favor.
People Matter: Engineer Spotlight
Last week, the National Society of Professional Engineers celebrated National Engineers Week; an opportunity to demonstrate that engineering is more […]
Last week, the National Society of Professional Engineers celebrated National Engineers Week; an opportunity to demonstrate that engineering is more than just solving problems using math and science and to elevate the public dialogue about the need for more kids to consider a career in engineering.
We asked several of LandDesign’s young professionals to share their thoughts on careers in civil engineering. Meet Tareq El-Sadi, David Gastel and Aly Moniaci.
- Tareq El-Sadi is a civil engineering designer in our Dallas office. Being a handyman around the house matters. Well-rounded upbringings matter. Resolving issues matters. Mentoring matters.
- David Gastel is a civil engineer in our Orlando office. An FSU graduate, he believes that hard work and transforming ideas matter.
- Aly Moniaci is a civil engineering designer in our Charlotte office. Faith, family and JOY are what matter most to Aly. Along with Texas Tech athletics!
What kind of things did you like to do growing up that led you to a career in civil engineering?
Aly was always fascinated by buildings. “Growing up, I loved using blocks and such to build and create. I was also an athlete, so I grew up being part of a team.” Math also interested Aly. She excelled in those classes more than others and didn’t mind the homework because she enjoyed it so much. “My dad encouraged me to be an engineer. I knew that civil engineering offered a wide span of options, plus none of the other engineering choices got me as excited about the work the way civil did.”
Like Aly, David enjoyed building things when he was a kid, especially 3D puzzles of the Taj Mahal and the Sears Tower in Chicago. He also relished figuring out solutions to problems, especially ones that others couldn’t solve. “I also constructed a model train city every Christmas with my father. This taught me everything from creativity and presentation to electrical (it lit up!) and structural; even painting.”
Tareq is a third generation civil engineer, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. “When I was young, my father would bring me to work with him.” The two would visit project sites including massive industrial facilities such as water desalination plants and power plants as well as smaller projects like hospitals and office buildings.
“As a kid, I was amazed to see a project go from an idea on paper to a completed project. I knew I wanted to be a civil engineer when I realized my father was leaving an imprint that would benefit his community and society, as well.”
Can you share a project that illustrates how civil engineering’s creativity and teamwork is making a difference in the world?
Tareq believes every project he’s been involved with has made a positive difference in the world. “Our work on single family subdivisions has created living spaces for families. Medical office buildings provide space for physicians to practice and provide healthcare to those who need it. While each project has its own set of difficulties, as engineers we are always looking for creative ways to effectively resolve those challenges.” He noted that often a complex project is successful because of teamwork and the collaborative efforts of all the disciplines involved including civil engineers; landscape architects; mechanical, electrical, plumbing and structural engineers; architects and geotechnical engineers.
Aly chose The Village at Commonwealth, a multi-family community in Charlotte. “Due to the site’s confines – including utility lines that were already installed within the roadways – it took creativity to figure out where to locate all of the utility infrastructure and still meet the city’s guidelines.” The project team included the client, landscape architects, the architect and civil engineers. “It took constant communication by everyone involved to stay on top of all the changes and make sure they didn’t conflict with that was previously designed. There is no way this job would have been successful without the whole team working as one to make it come to life.” The multi-use site includes apartments, single family townhomes, a co-working space and a coffee shop, all adjacent to a park. “We created a place for people to live, work and play all within walking distance.”
David considers the North Carolina Research Campus the most influential project he has worked on. It includes cancer research centers, parks, medical office buildings and college classrooms. “There were a lot of people involved in various parts of engineering to help make the project happen. It had an early impact on my engineering career.”
What would you tell today’s young people to encourage them to consider a career in engineering?
David sees STEM careers (science, technology, engineering and math) as the wave of the future. “I think a lot of schools and parents get that. I would encourage them to expose kids to the various aspects of engineering and let them discover what ignites their passion for making a better world.”
Perhaps reflecting on his father and grandfather, Tareq views the engineering field as timeless and believes the need for more kids to consider engineering is really a need for more people to consider making society better. “Engineering is essential for basic life needs such as providing potable water distribution systems, water treatment facilities, wastewater treatment, transportation, electricity and the list goes on and on.”
Aly also points to the limitless need for engineers, with infrastructure like roadways and utilities always requiring updates. Plus, her enthusiasm for the profession is contagious. “The best thing about engineering is that you get to use your creativity and knowledge to create spaces and buildings that others will use for a very long time. It is not just about sitting at a desk and drawing up the same plans all day, every day. I always love driving by a project that I have worked on and watch it being built and when it opens to the public.”
Finally, we asked Aly, David and Tareq to list the top 3 reasons they love engineering.
- I am always learning, and no two days are the same. Every space is different, so I have to think of new ways to make it work, and I am always learning from everyone around me.
- I really enjoy the teamwork aspect. I am constantly communicating with others on a project team and collaborating with architects and other consultants.
- There are so many opportunities to grow as a person. I am always being challenged to reach beyond my comfort zone. It keeps me on my toes.
- The experience of getting to work in new places and see new things.
- The satisfaction that comes when we complete a project. There’s nothing like it.
- The challenges that keep me engaged.
- Interacting with other engineers and architects and collaborating to produce the best results we can.
- The “magic” of transforming an idea on paper into a reality.
- Knowing that the work I do has a positive impact on society.
People Matter: Jason Granado
Jason comes by his aptitude for architecture naturally. His father and grandparents were involved in the carpentry and construction fields. […]
Jason comes by his aptitude for architecture naturally. His father and grandparents were involved in the carpentry and construction fields. They even built the South Florida house where Jason grew up. “I was always fixing things and building things.”
His high school interest in automotives – “taking cars apart and putting them back together” – led Jason to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering. But, while working part-time in an auto shop, he realized the work was not as much fun as the hobby. Then, a chance opportunity to shadow a friend’s father who was an architect proved to be serendipity.
In his senior year, Jason started over, taking prerequisite classes at a community college before transferring to Florida A&M University where he graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Architecture. Wanting a more urban setting for graduate school, he chose Virginia Tech’s satellite campus in Alexandria, Va. and opted for a Master of Landscape Architecture degree.
There’s the way an architect thinks, and there’s the way a landscape architect thinks. They approach the same project with two different points of view.
“What drew me to architecture was not so much design work, but my tangible urge from childhood to build things. I knew how to stack bricks and put on a roof.” Landscape architecture gave Jason the chance to broaden his understanding. “You’re no longer thinking about one building, but entire city blocks and large open spaces.”
Serendipity once again intervened to bring Jason to LandDesign. While grocery shopping with his wife who is also an architect, they ran into Matt and Gabby Clark. The chance introduction led to a job offer a few weeks later.
His dual degrees give Jason a unique perspective on the work he does. “There’s the way an architect thinks, and there’s the way a landscape architect thinks. They approach the same project with two different points of view.”
We’re rebuilding a city and literally shaping the landscape, both physically and metaphorically.
Jason considers himself a utility player at LandDesign, applying his twofold abilities to projects like Tyson’s where he is involved in everything from the entitlement process to construction document detailing. “We’re rebuilding a city and literally shaping the landscape, both physically and metaphorically. People are now staying in Tyson’s. Living here and working here. It’s no longer a transient community. LandDesign has been a big part of changing that and it’s pretty amazing.”
I’m still learning every day from my peers. It is so powerful and meaningful.
Making and mentoring matters.
While in graduate school, Jason taught wood shop and metal shop. “I loved every moment of it.” Today, he continues to teach the crafts of wood and metal making as a volunteer with TechShop, a workshop and fabrication collaborative that provides access to the tools, equipment, education and other resources for everyone from artists and entrepreneurs to tinkerers and DIY enthusiasts.
His philosophy on mentoring is that the benefits include both teaching and learning.
“It is so important, especially in our field, to learn both old and new skills from each other, and to pass them down and allow people to become the greatest apprentice they can be. I’m still learning every day from my peers. It is so powerful and meaningful.”
Good whiskey matters.
Outside of work, Jason’s newest hobby is aerial photography. He’s also a whiskey aficionado who enjoys it best while sitting on the balcony with his wife and watching life go by. He believes you can tell a lot about a person by what they drink. “To me, a good whiskey is smooth and laid back with a lot of thinking involved in making it. And, I think that’s the type of person I am.”
People Matter: Mellissa Oliver
Mellissa Oliver knew by the time she was in middle school that she wanted to work in the AEC field, […]
Mellissa Oliver knew by the time she was in middle school that she wanted to work in the AEC field, inspired by the grandness of built environments and a love for art.
Growing up in Greensboro, North Carolina, she remembers taking car rides with her mom, and “looking out the window and seeing all these great structures – tall buildings and bridges.” By high school, Mellissa had decided to study civil engineering. “I just knew that I wanted to be a part of something that creates places that we, as individuals, would use, but also would endure for a long time.”
Pride in what you do matters.
Mellissa joined LandDesign’s Charlotte office in 2013, working under Nate Doolittle, primarily on projects in the Uptown Charlotte area. She enjoys the challenges that come with designing projects with limited urban space. “How are we going to create something on this small piece of land that both benefits the community and provides a place they want to enjoy?”
There are many people involved in a project, and when we all come together to make it happen, it’s just wonderful.
It seems car rides are a reoccurring muse in Mellissa’s career. Discussing what excites her the most about her work, she tells about driving around Charlotte with her in-laws.
“They came for a visit and we were driving to dinner. On this one street, there were three projects I was involved in. Now, I realize there are many people involved in a project, and when we all come together to make it happen, it’s just wonderful. But, to be able to tell my husband’s parents I was part of creating that was an amazing feeling.” Just like she imagined it would be all those years ago, driving around Greensboro with her mom.
Getting involved in the community matters.
From a young age until now, mentors and role models have been important influences in Mellissa’s life and she is passionate about paying it forward.
It’s something that my heart tells me to do.
Three years ago, she began volunteering with the ACE Mentor Program of Charlotte, working with students from Ardrey Kell High School. ACE is an after-school program for young people interested in exploring career opportunities in architecture, construction and engineering. Each year, teams compete to present their final projects.
“I remember the first year, sitting in the audience and watching all the teams present their projects. At the end, they announced the winner. It was Ardrey Kell. Driving home that night, I just kept thinking, ‘They won!’ I was so excited.”
CREW Charlotte is another organization that is benefitting from Mellissa’s commitment to volunteerism. In December, she received the organization’s annual Rising Star award that honors an up-and-coming member who has made an impact in the organization.
René Whitesell was Mellissa’s first mentor – an assigned lunch buddy in elementary school – and the two have remained close. Driving home from the ACE competition. Mellissa called René in tears, overwhelmed to be part of her students’ success, just like René was there for her. “It’s something that my heart tells me to do, and René was a big part of that.”
What Goats and Native Plants Have in Common
By: Kaitlin Craig, Landscape Architect Design Intern My original theory to replace lawn mowers in America and solve the issues […]
By: Kaitlin Craig, Landscape Architect Design Intern
My original theory to replace lawn mowers in America and solve the issues of lawn management, consisted of everyone buying goats. However, it turns out goats don’t really like to eat just grass and prefer brush and weeds, too. Following this little fact came more issues with my livestock vegetation management theory. Then it occurred to me, “Why don’t we just use less lawn?”
Let’s face it, lawns are high maintenance – you have to mow them and use lots of water (if you don’t water it regularly and evenly you get these beautiful brown patches). According to studies by the research group, Milesi in the United States, there is more surface area “devoted to lawns than to individual irrigated crops such as corn or wheat.”
I will admit, there is a purpose and place for everything. Lawns are great for recreational fields, golf and for people to walk, lay and/or play in. However, road median lawns and lawns in front of commercial businesses, residential front yards and parking lots, don’t have much logical reasoning. I see lawns as a place for people (or pets) to use, but they are are not actively using the lawn, then why have it?
A lawn does create a nice plinth for our lovely architecture and planting beds; however, that doesn’t mean it’s the only solution for creating an eye resting surface. Try selecting plants that are native or well-adapted to your local environment. This will lead to less water use and maintenance. I emphasize the less maintenance because I don’t know about you, but sometimes plant management is hard to fit into a busy schedule. Some of my favorite plants in the Texas region that I recommend are the Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella tenuissima), the line flower commonly used in floral arrangements called Liatris (Liatris spicata) and the Pink Buttercups (Oenothera speciose). You can learn more about the benefits of a native garden from this visual case study by the Santa Monica Office of Sustainability and the Environment here.
By all means, if you want still want to buy a goat, they are FAUN-tastic animals but, make sure to do your research beforehand. They are notorious escape artists and need a good size backyard. Nevertheless, it can be said for both goats and lawns that there is a purpose and place for everything.
Wandering, Wondering: Musings of a Hoosier in the Land of the Pines
By: Katie Klug, Landscape Architect Design Intern Aside from an exceptional firm, a unique location was one of the qualities […]
By: Katie Klug, Landscape Architect Design Intern
Aside from an exceptional firm, a unique location was one of the qualities I was looking for in an internship experience. A born-and-raised Hoosier, I was seeking to expand my boundaries outside of the Midwest this summer. LandDesign has provided me with the opportunity to check both of those boxes on my internship list.
Charlotte is a geographic gem!
Seasoned travelers often preach about the power of traveling and wandering, as it exposes and opens one’s mind to the outside world. Beyond exploring new landscapes, immersing oneself in different cultures is refreshing. As a student of landscape architecture, I may be biased, but I agree with Yi-Fu Tuan’s theory of topophilia, or in other words – people’s natural bond with, or affinity for, place. Charlotte and the surrounding regions have an excellent sense of place. So much so, that it is easy to feel connected here.
Today, it’s easy to get swept into the current of a fast-paced, plugged-in world. As contemporary designers, we shouldn’t forget about the lessons of our ancestors. Take Lawrence Halprin for example, who drew much inspiration from hikes in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and preached about the ever-changing and cyclical nature of nature.
In the short time I’ve had to explore my new City, I have been able to fuel my wanderlust and travel to some notable areas with breathtaking landscapes. I have visited Crowders Mountain in Gastonia, NC; Wilmington Beach in Wilmington, NC; Historic Downtown Charleston, SC; Sullivan’s Island in Charleston, SC; Raven Rock in Linville, NC; Black Balsam Knob and Skinny Dip Falls in East Fork, NC; Blue Ridge Parkway in Canton, NC; and Catawba Falls in Old Fort, NC.
My adventures in the Southeast have been much more than just weekend getaways to the nearby beaches or mountains, they have been inspirational experiences that will inevitably influence, inform, and grow my designs in the future…all while feeding my affinity for nature. #winning
Never Stop Innovating
By: Shelby Harden, Landscape Architect Design Intern As landscape architects, we will embody many roles over the course of our […]
By: Shelby Harden, Landscape Architect Design Intern
As landscape architects, we will embody many roles over the course of our careers: designer, environmental steward, urban planner, storyteller and innovator. Particularly in the tech-driven world we live in today, embracing innovations is paramount to good design and successful careers.
One of my favorite aspects of landscape architecture is placemaking. To design a successful place, with its own unique character, we must be able to understand its history, sense of scale, and feel the space’s potential to be something great. During my internship at LandDesign, I have had the opportunity to work on both local and international projects. While a biergarten project in Fairfax, Virginia might be a short drive from the office, it’s a bit more difficult to send everyone in the studio over to Mexico to understand how the mountains dwarf the urban landscape in the valley.
This is where emerging technologies become invaluable tools for designers. Virtual reality headsets, such as the Samsung Gear VR, allow you to take a 3D-model from SketchUp or Lumion and virtually stand inside the model. You can turn your head and see more of the space that has been rendered by the headset to allow the user to see depth and get a sense of scale. While it does look silly to see someone in the office with a headset on twisting around in a circle to look at a virtual skyline or pointing at something only they can see, I have seen firsthand how it helps us understand the space better, thus be better designers.
The Gear VR uses a smartphone cradled in the headset to render the 3D-model. Other mobile technology, such as augmented reality (AR), is already starting to integrate into a normal lifestyle for many. Pokemon Go, an AR mobile game, has been a tremendous phenomenon since its launch several weeks ago. The game uses GPS and aggregated location data (much like landscape architects employ when using a program like GIS) to populate a map with points of interest to travel to. These points of interest, or Pokestops, are real-life locations, generally monuments, historic landmarks, local business, or public art.
My experience with the game has been overwhelmingly positive. The psychology behind playing a game is the instant gratification one gets by leveling up or capturing a new creature in the game. Pokemon Go has turned this into an incentive for people to explore their city in a new way. Instead of taking the quickest route to my destination, I have found myself taking a different detour while playing the game and finding hidden gems around my neighborhood that I would have never bothered to explore on my own. Since the game has launched, I have noticed an increase in people walking around my neighborhood, gathering by landmarks, and interacting more with each other and the landscape.
Designers must be flexible and open to new ideas, techniques and technologies to continue creating successful spaces. By understanding and utilizing new tech like virtual reality and augmented reality, we are able to gain new perspectives and think differently about how we design. This innovative shift in how we interact with our environment is the cusp of a new paradigm, one that designers must stay abreast with to continue creating places that matter.
A Day in the Life of a LandDesigner Intern
By: Lauren Delbridge, Landscape Architect Design Intern Interning with LandDesign has taught me so much about the field of Landscape […]
By: Lauren Delbridge, Landscape Architect Design Intern
Interning with LandDesign has taught me so much about the field of Landscape Architecture, but even more about what it’s like to be a part of collaborative and enthusiastic firm culture. Each day spent in the office, I learn what working as a LandDesign intern means to me.
Working for LandDesign means:
- Coffee or tea at 8:00am (and often many more refills throughout the day).
- Bringing a sweater or space heater because good work clearly takes place in freezing temperatures.
- Learning AutoCAD commands that make your life so much easier.
- Learning shortcuts for any program that make your life so much easier.
- Grabbing lunch from the local Harris Teeter.
- Knowing ‘cruise industry news’ forward and backward.
- Learning the lengths of the longest cruise ships.
- Knowing everything about cruise ships.
- Researching precedents that I’ve never heard of before.
- Knowing how to change the roll of paper on the plotter.
- Getting to know the other great LandDesign interns.
- Froyo birthday parties.
- 4th floor nerf gun wars.
- Asking questions.
- Researching how to grow coconut palms.
- Become a master at scanning.
- Asking more questions (usually about AutoCAD).
- Learning all that you can from the people around you.
- Learning that relationships matter.
Although my months spent with LandDesign have been short, I am grateful for the opportunities this internship has given me. I’ve enjoyed experiencing a new city and work culture and I am thankful for the warm welcome LandDesign has given me and all of the interns.
On the Run in a New City
By: Griselda Ruan, Civil Engineer Design Intern I check the weather, lace up my sneakers, and put my headphones in. […]
By: Griselda Ruan, Civil Engineer Design Intern
I check the weather, lace up my sneakers, and put my headphones in. It’s a good day when it’s 7:00 PM and Florida’s daily thunderstorm has passed by, meaning it’s time to wind down with a nice run around town. Shortly after moving to Orlando to start my internship with LandDesign, I knew I had to find at least one good running route that I could rely on. I know, I know – running? It’s Orlando! As a Floridian, I’ve enjoyed Orlando as a tourist plenty of times, but I wanted to experience it as a local. What better way to integrate myself as a local than getting to know my new city through a daily run? And so, my new routine began.
My first run (in a long time) was near my apartment at a versatile park with a dog park (need I say more?) Many recreation fields, an outdoor hockey rink, a skate park, and the cutest pups were the main attractions. The family-friendly park definitely satisfied my expectations and allowed me to get back on track as well. I wanted more though: a more scenic trail with more than one or two runners. On my way home after work, I drove passed a lake just outside of downtown. It caught my attention due to the amount of running enthusiasts surrounding the park. It’s always nice to be around people who share the same interest as you and encourage you to keep going, so I gave it a try. Lake Underhill Park includes a fitness course along the trail – probably the closest I’ll ever get to a gym, honestly. Running 2-3 laps around the 1.5 mile loop trail, smelling the trees, and seeing downtown Orlando peeking out above the horizon of the lake – it was paradise.
A few weeks into my internship, I learned through a friend about a running group that meets every Wednesday just blocks away from LandDesign. Running for Brews (RFB). Yes, there is beer dangling at the finish line just waiting to be engulfed by thirsty runners. Well not literally, but a group of people do meet downtown, run a 5k, and then mingle over a few cold ones. Sounds amazing, right? My thoughts exactly. The route, located in downtown Orlando, varies every week, and running with a large group makes it even more challenging as there are regulars who seem impossible to keep up with. The route usually starts or ends at Lake Eola (which, fun fact, is actually a sink hole). Ah, nature is amazing. I will always choose to exercise outdoors over indoors…unless there’s a torrential downpour happening at 7:00 PM. I’ve met the most wonderful people through RFB, and not only do they motivate me to not give up when I’m burning out towards the end of the route, but they’ve allowed me to build these new relationships that make me feel like I’m home.
Working with LandDesign, I am able to be a part of creating developments like these that bring communities together. As a civil engineering intern, it is important for me to not only understand the technical aspects of land development design, but also the gratifying experience that public places, such as these beautiful lakes and parks, provide. I think it’s safe to say, my new running habit has helped achieve that.
More Than Just a 9 to 5
By: Andrew Breit, Civil Engineer Design Intern Thursday night. To some it may mean one more day until relaxation begins […]
By: Andrew Breit, Civil Engineer Design Intern
Thursday night. To some it may mean one more day until relaxation begins or to some – even reliving their college years with “Thirsty Thursday.” But to those at LandDesign who are part of the team, Trivia Matters, it means trivia night at The Local.
Within my first week of working for LandDesign, I kept hearing the buzz about Trivia Thursdays and that I should definitely attend. Starting in a new city and not knowing anyone, I thought I might as well see what it was all about. After work, everyone meets up in the lobby and makes the hop, skip and a jump to The Local (crossing our fingers that it doesn’t rain the whole walk). Once we get there, it is usually a mad dash to secure one of the larger tables, due to the fact that we usually bring enough participants to make a small village. As soon as we nail down prime real estate, we order drinks and appetizers and the games begin.
There are four rounds of trivia with random themes for each round, such as things that start with M, Famous Movies and the dreaded Family Feud round that causes some heated debates. While we wait for our scores in between rounds, we converse about family back home, life stories and even unusual facts about someone like not being able to burp or an odd obsession with croissanwiches. Once the scores are all tallied up, we cross our fingers to see if we make the final Jeopardy round. If we do, we pick someone that has the best luck at answering a nearly impossible question like “What is the 4th largest city in North Dakota?” I’ll let you in on a little secret, the strategy is usually bet nothing and hope other people bet more and get it wrong. If we are lucky enough to be at the top of the scoresheet, we win the beloved grand prize of a discount on our bill for next week. While we can’t say we’re reigning champs on a weekly basis, it is something I look forward to every Thursday.
I had no idea the sense of family and community everyone shares at LandDesign, both in and out of the office. There has never been a moment I have felt overwhelmed or alone. To me, Trivia Night wasn’t about knowing “who and what order the top 15 active passing yard leaders are in the NFL,” but it was about spending time getting to know people I enjoy being around and cultivating friendships that will extend past this internship. This was especially meaningful for me when I had a family emergency this summer. I am so appreciative of how understanding LandDesign was in a difficult time for my family and I. So I have to say thank you, LandDesign, for making me feel right at home in Charlotte this summer and providing me the opportunity to drop some knowledge every Thursday.
Why Landscape Architecture? Why LandDesign?
By: Mack Drzayich, Landscape Design Intern My first exposure to landscape design was in the private residential sector. It was […]
By: Mack Drzayich, Landscape Design Intern
My first exposure to landscape design was in the private residential sector. It was great being able to work one-on-one with homeowners to beautify their surroundings. I loved it. But I still yearned to create spaces that were meaningful on a larger scale – places that reached beyond the backyard and benefited communities at large. A great deal of the individual experience is influenced by the bigger picture, and I wanted to help paint that picture. So naturally, my wife and I packed our bags and moved across the country for graduate school in landscape architecture at Penn State University. Two years and two kids later, I’ve found myself in Charlotte, NC, interning with LandDesign!
Wait, hold on. Let’s rewind. Why landscape architecture? And why LandDesign? (And while you’re probably wondering Why two kids in grad school?!? I’ll just stick to the first two).
Landscape architects bring a unique skillset to urban design, and as the world’s population continues to transition to urban living, I sense that we will play an increasingly essential role. There are a lot of players involved in shaping cities, including urban planners, architects, engineers, environmental scientists and developers, to name a few. Landscape architecture in many ways is a blend of all of these fields – art, ecology and sociology all in one. And I’ll never forget what world-renowned architect, James Wines, said in a lecture at Penn State, “Landscape architects are the true heroes in city sustainability.” Green matters, and we have the chance to be social and environmental advocates in urban developments – notoriously harsh environments. Landscape architects aren’t just minimizing damage, but reversing it, and yes, I wanted to be a part of it.
So why LandDesign? LandDesign’s ethos – creating places that matter – struck a chord with me. While simple, it embodied my earlier desires of doing something that actually had a positive impact on broader society and the environment beyond one person’s backyard. Thankfully, I’ve come to find out that this notion of creating places that matter isn’t just a slogan. I experience it at the drawing table, I hear it in the way my coworkers talk and I see it reflected in the work that goes out the door. In our Charlotte office, we are truly elevating Charlotte’s culture and quality of life through meaningful design, and I’m lucky to take part in it. I will also add that I am grateful for the culture at LandDesign. They value not only design and professional development, but community involvement and family, because well, you know…two kids.
The Tools, Tricks and Techniques behind Landscape Architecture
By: Natalie Spinola, Landscape Design Intern As landscape architects, designers and engineers, we understand the importance of being able to […]
By: Natalie Spinola, Landscape Design Intern
As landscape architects, designers and engineers, we understand the importance of being able to express our ideas both accurately and creatively. We use a wide range of software programs from Adobe products, AutoCAD, Revit, Sketchup and Lumion as forms of communication in this profession. However, sometimes the most effective way to express our ideas, concepts and design solutions is through hand drawing. At LandDesign, I had the opportunity to see how all forms of expression are used in professional practice while also learning new tools, tricks and techniques.
Coming from a master’s program where my peers and I had different undergraduate degrees, that for the most part were not related to design, architecture or art, we were all slightly intimidated by technical programs like AutoCAD, ArcGIS and even our own ability to hand draw. We had to learn the very basics in a short period of time. However, the more I use these programs, practice hand rendering and receive advice from others, the more I learn and grow as a designer. The experienced professionals at LandDesign are continuously providing new shortcuts, tools and tricks on how to get the job done faster and more efficiently. I also had the opportunity to learn Land F/X, an AutoCAD plug-in program that allows you to create construction details and specific planting plans without the headache of altering and counting acres of vegetation. Where has this program been the past two years of grad school?!
As diagramming is heavily stressed by my professors, it is great to see it is used in the professional environment. Basic diagramming can be a very successful way to communicate concepts to a client or to show an understanding of existing versus proposed conditions. It has been especially useful over the past two months when working on larger scale master planning projects to help illustrate and understand pieces of landscape such as water systems, park and green space systems, spatial relationships and connections and land use. I also had the opportunity to work on a few illustrative renderings using a mix of Photoshop and Google Sketchup. I found that brushes really go a long way to create textures that make your image look much more realistic and appealing.
I am eager to take these new tools, tricks and techniques that I have learned throughout my internship and apply them to my own work as I finish my last year of grad school and continue pursuing a career in landscape architecture. I have found that by keeping up with technology and having the thirst to learn new innovative and creative ways to express your ideas, will not only save you from being overwhelmed and prevent you from falling behind in this competitive market, but it will also save you time and money in the long run.
Advice from an Intern: Get an Internship
By: Hannah Thomas, Landscape Design Intern As a student in the field of landscape architecture, I think that at times […]
By: Hannah Thomas, Landscape Design Intern
As a student in the field of landscape architecture, I think that at times the profession can seem daunting and intimidating. Will I remember all of this information? Are my renderings up to par? Will I be working 80 hours a week? I’m here to squander those negative, naïve questions running through your head with one simple piece of advice: Get an internship.
Trust me, you won’t regret it. Any professional experience will help bring your academic work into perspective, and give context and reason to why your professors are making you do the crazy things that you’re up all night doing. At any firm there is always an opportunity to learn from anyone and everyone. But at a diverse and innovative firm like LandDesign, not only will you learn a lot, you will also be given hands-on experience with real projects, become familiar with new design programs, and meet a lot of welcoming, inspiring design professionals. Looking at your future-self as a Landscape Architect shouldn’t be scary, it should be exciting and an opportunity for you to make a difference in the world by creating a place that matters.
To me, this is one of the most exciting aspects of being a landscape architect – our profession’s ability to make a positive change to our Earth’s landscape. We have the capability and skills to make the landscape a more habitable and enjoyable place to live, not only for humans, but for native plants, animal species, and natural resources. This realization has led to my professional goal to enhance the health of all living, ecological and natural assets through creative design. Hence, why I was drawn to LandDesign, a firm that prioritizes a community’s culture, natural context and ecological resources, despite varying project scales and types, to create a place that matters.
LandDesign Gains New Associate
We are pleased to announce that Adam Martin has been promoted to an Associate of the firm in the Charlotte […]
We are pleased to announce that Adam Martin has been promoted to an Associate of the firm in the Charlotte office!
From growing up in the Coastal South and tinkering in his grandparent’s old barn, Adam realized his appreciation for the landscape at a young age. Later while working and traveling the world with the US military he came to understand the importance of equitable place making in urban environments. As a former US Army Ranger with 4 combat tours, Adam believes service and duty can be shown through socially conscious design for our communities. Hailing from Mississippi State and UNC Charlotte’s Masters of Urban Design program, he has continued to push boundaries in the studio since he began working at LandDesign in 2012. From complex urban mixed-use projects such as OneDurham, to the RailTrail Framework Plan, he most enjoys crafting a great story about great places.
Adam is involved in the design and management on a range of projects from intimate courtyard amenity spaces, multifamily housing and commercial projects, to master planned communities and open spaces. His primary focus is on holistic land development solutions and coordinating urban infill projects with commuter infrastructure. He is most frequently involved in the visioning of urban infill projects; and campus projects for LandDesign’s Charlotte based academic clients. Nearly all of Adam’s projects involve creating physical and social connections to public amenities and transit infrastructure while integrating them with built and natural environment.
We can expect many inspiring moments from him in the coming years, as well as a solid mentoring of incoming staff in our culture and craft. Congrats, Adam!
Take Back the Streets [and Other Public Spaces]
Imagine a world where cities were designed for the pedestrian; where both 8-year-old children and 80 year old grandparents could […]
Imagine a world where cities were designed for the pedestrian; where both 8-year-old children and 80 year old grandparents could walk or bike safely; where every child has the luxury of a park or play area within a quarter mile of their house; where adults over the age of 65 felt inclusive in their community. This dream is possible and it’s the notion behind Gil Penalosa’s, internationally renowned urban expert and founder of 8 80 Cities, speech at the Knight Foundation Leadership Breakfast. Gil spoke to a room full of politicians and planners, designers and developers about the imperative sense of urgency behind initiatives and implementation strategies relating to urban public space to plan for a better quality of life and tomorrow’s progress.
Two hundred years ago, human life expectancy was 39-years-old. Technology, medicine and other factors have contributed to extending the life expectancy well beyond that figure. Half the people, in the world’s history, over the age of 65 are alive today. Our world has seen an exponential human growth rate: 200 million people were alive in 1900; 3.5 billion in 2015; and 7.0 billion are estimated for 2050. Yes, we will double our world’s population in a 35 year time period. This isn’t science fiction, folks. This is pure growth projection.
You may be asking, well how does this affect Charlotte, NC? Charlotte ranked highest in population change in the last 20 years and is estimated to grow by 70% in the next 30 years. The numbers are astounding. Mecklenburg County had 90,685 residents over the age of 65 in 2012 and that number is expected to be 204,653 residents by 2030—a 126% growth! Our cities must be designed for people of all ages, not just for the healthy, athletic 30-year-olds.
So, what can be done to improve the quality of life for everyone? If you answered expand the highway network and add more cars on the road, well I’m sorry to say but you answered wrong. You see, 27% of all trips are less than a mile. That’s a great reason to walk or bike to your destination, by incorporating alternative, healthy modes of transportation into your daily life. The unfortunate and alarming news is that 1 in 3 people in the United States are obese; 60% of people over age 65 are obese; and 28% of Mecklenburg County falls in that category. Now let’s focus on how design and planning decisions can make change happen to alleviate this epidemic.
Step 01. Walking is inherently human. Birds fly, fish swim and humans walk. It should be safe for all people to walk in a city. I mean every trip begins and ends with walking, right?
Step 02. The biggest tax cut we can give to city residents is the luxury of creating a place where families are not required to have a second car.
Step 03. Streets encompass 15-20% of cities and 70-90% of public space. The way we design our streets is critical to changing the urban landscape and quality of life for our community. People should be the first priority, not cars.
Step 04. Slow down the speed limit. Pedestrian and bike crashes are at an all-time high in the last 13 years. If someone were to be hit by a car traveling 20 mph, the death rate is 5%; 40% at 30 mph; and 80% at 40 mph. The numbers speak for themselves.
Step 05. Safety first. A minimum grid of protected bike lanes is a must. Also, giving the pedestrian and cyclist a 5-second headway allows a head start when crossing a road and helps deter confusion with drivers.
Step 06. Design for all in mind. Adults over the age of 65 are the largest portion of the demographic sector that use parks. Less than 20% of parks have a walking loop, which is the single most important feature in a park. Benches are second, then programming. Alongside children, the 65+ group is a great resource to tap into; we must provide places that cater to intergenerational mixing, creating a city for all people.
To conclude, Gil stated, “We are too focused on the urgency of today, but we must be looking at the issues for tomorrow.” We must plan accordingly and create vibrant and healthy cities. Gil mentioned there are 5 elements of change:
- Sense of urgency
- Political will
- Citizen engagement
These changes contribute to decisions that are not technical or economical, they are political. Gil stressed this is not a Democratic or Republican issue — we must work together to create a city for the people, not for the issues. “Citizens are paying every two weeks for our government to get something done, not to create excuses.” If we care about each other, we care about our city.
By: Amanda Zullo
A Tale of Two Lectures: From Carolina to California
“We’re both enabled and burdened by that which has come before us.”—Stefanos Polyzoides Two lectures occurred in the same […]
“We’re both enabled and burdened by that which has come before us.”—Stefanos Polyzoides
Two lectures occurred in the same week in Charlotte. Both were conducted from bi-coastal lecturers, and both were a forum on public space, housing, and the comprehensive need to understand historical context and precedent, and proper infill development.
Tuesday’s Eye on Development—Civic by Design forum’s topic rested heavily on how infill development is changing historic neighborhoods in the Queen City. Sure, swanky rooftops, structured parking and contemporary facades are en vogue; residents are flocking to these residential blocks like their building is the latest trend, until the novelty wears off when the next new development is built. However, Tom Low, a local architect and urban planner who organizes the free discussion series, advocates that what’s not being properly addressed is maintaining the quality of the public realm. Which would you prefer—a building that provides a blank parking deck on street level or ground floor restaurants and retail? The answer, although inherently obvious, does not always make its way to the drawing table. This is a hot topic in our local development context as redevelopment is reshaping and redefining the character of our beloved neighborhoods. With the City’s zoning ordinance being severely outdated (last time it was updated was back in 2000), City Council is preparing to embark on a rewrite. Stronger design standards and higher barriers to entry are two ways in which development could help create a more viable neighborhood, with paying particular attention to the public realm.
Thursday’s Housing and the Architecture of the Missing Middle lecture advocated to make room for the middle, by providing helpful reminders on maintaining balance in design. Stefanos Polyzoides, renowned architect and urbanist of Moule and Polyzoides, stressed that there is “a constant conflict between that which is historic and new….One must balance between development and preservation.” By understanding history, Stefanos advocates to aim high and not repeat the mistakes from the last fifty years of development. He discussed how “Crayola zoning is a great thing for five year olds” and how the “FAR mechanism is the work of the devil.” FAR, or floor area ratio, is calculated as Gross Building Area/Lot Area and is determined by the amount of land in a development. This proportion of FAR to land is the fundamental issue which has spawned the development we see today. Moule suggests instead of letting FAR dictate design, designers should focus on typology and density. Tower buildings and single-family are two ends of the residential development spectrum. We should focus our efforts on the middle types of housing, as it is middle density that makes a great city. Stefanos offered a plethora of precedents, all stemming from his work in California. The main themes and takeaways of his middle model work:
- Density can be achieved without destroying the neighborhood. Mix up the housing typologies; don’t make your design homogenous.
- Make housing look like part of the urban fabric by fitting your building into the neighborhood character.
- Be unconventional and unique, differentiate your building from those in your context. Make it diverse.
- Ensure that the building signature changes, having no run of 100 feet or more be the same.
- If you make a place right, people will find it and will want to live here.
- Take density and tame it.
- Unique, unconventional building types ultimately add value within the housing market and can be very financially lucrative. The chance is worth the end payoff.
Stefanos’ closing comments to the group reiterated the importance of historical precedent, urban fabric and learning when to say “no” to a development project. “Flex your muscles and eat your pride depending on the job as an architect,” he stated. With the correlation between Tom’s and Stefanos’ lectures, it’s evident that these development stresses are not only felt in our local context, but on a national and even global scale.
By: Amanda Zullo
A Neighborhood Living Room – What’s All the Buzz About?
Knight Foundation. 8 80 Cities. Varian Shrum. NHLR, or Neighborhood Living Room. If you haven’t been on social media lately […]
Knight Foundation. 8 80 Cities. Varian Shrum. NHLR, or Neighborhood Living Room. If you haven’t been on social media lately or watched the news, these buzz words have generated a lot of attention in the Charlotte community. Varian Shrum won a $5000 grant from the Knight Foundation to create her vision—an outdoor living room in South End. “I’ve lived in South End for two years and I’ve noticed there’s not much public space,” Shrum said. “We have lots of new development, thousands of new residents, but nowhere to just gather and connect. I wanted to create a place for people to come together where you don’t have to pay to sit outside.”
The NHLR was stationed in the Dilworth Artisan Station, adjacent to the LYNX Blue Line. The LYNX Blue Line’s spine spurred design projects culminating in one of LandDesign’s very own Rail Trail project. As Richard Petersheim states in relation to the NHLR, “It’s nice to see the momentum building from our Rail Trail efforts.” The Rail Trail has received a $412,000 grant from ArtPlace America, along with an additional $20,000 grant from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Community Foundation, gifted towards public art installations along the 3.3-mile trial. In a game of find and seek, patrons were able to witness one of these art installations during the NHLR weekend—delicate discrete dresses, made of leaves, were hidden and hanging in the trees accompanied by little plastic toys and homey space installations, staged at the base of trees and shrubs. The art installation was meant to evoke a fairy like presence in nature, centered on the delight of discovery.
Several LandDesigners felt passionate about offering their services to help Varian’s dream come to life. Kate Pearce began the conversation advocating that it would be beneficial to have some LandDesigners help out with this amazing community initiative. Amanda Zullo, aka “Albert Design-stein” served as designer and renderer extraordinaire on Varian Shrum’s Strike Team—a core group of individuals who met weekly over a three month period to construct, create, plan and project manage the NHLR. Monica Mitevski, mastermind of all things graphic, and Lori Race, designer and contact for LandDesign’s landscape pop up projects, were consulted for their services.
NHLR’s pop-up space was open to the public from October 15th to October 18th. Gil Penalosa, founder of 8 80 Cities and renowned urban speaker/expert, spoke at the Knights Foundation Leadership Breakfast earlier in the week and kicked off the NHLR grand opening ceremony with a speech geared to excite and educate the public on the impact of these efforts. The entire weekend was planned with various programs to cater to the community: pop-up coffee shops, food vendors, beer samples and boutique shopping by local restaurants and entrepreneurs; live music that all ages could appreciate; a special Dilworth Artisan Station art crawl, which only occurs four times a year to the public; outdoor morning yoga to connect with oneself and with one’s community; storytelling and pumpkin painting for children; and even a concluding Sunday afternoon Panthers tailgate.
The NHLR programmed space provided the opportunity for all ages to come together and interact in a comfortable setting. The moveable furniture was key to the dynamic ebb and flow of the personalized space. “It’s interesting to note how the public space was really enlivened and engaged when there were program events occurring simultaneously. It makes you think about how the success of a space relies heavily on adjacent uses, providing another opportunity to attract people,” stated Lauren Cline, a fellow LandDesigner who attended the NHLR all four days.
Varian’s biggest takeaway is “the importance of letting people own the vision with you. People will participate in a movement like this if they feel invested. People will feel welcome to linger in a space if they see themselves reflected there. The main reason NHLR was a success was that the people it intended to serve were involved from the beginning.”
“I love how the NHLR has brought people, children and pets together; this connection is very important to a community,” said one patron. Another remarked, “Varian’s vision is a take on what Europe has been doing all along; by creating a piazza for the people, communities can come together. I look forward to the next installment, but hope this generates enough momentum to create a more permanent place.” Varian has the long-term in mind, too. “I hope the positive experience my neighbors had in this temporary public space will inspire them to advocate for permanent ones,” she said. “Giving input to the Planning Department’s re-write of the Zoning Ordinance would be a great way to guarantee these kinds of places are included in future development.” She intends to use the rest of the grant to create another pop up location in Charlotte sometime next year, after she and the Strike Team get some rest. Stay tuned by following the Charlotte Living Room at:@CLTLivingRoom, CLTLivingRoom.com, and #CLTLivingRoom.
By: Amanda Zullo
Draw Back the Curtain, the XCLT Show Is About to Start
Opening Bite: Alternative transportation in this town is on everyone’s radar. Gone are the days when funds were only allocated […]
Opening Bite: Alternative transportation in this town is on everyone’s radar. Gone are the days when funds were only allocated to the highway and road system, while insignificant funds went towards other viable options. Light rail transit, bike lanes and greenways have become the new mode of transportation to navigate around Charlotte. Main Characters: Staff from City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, LandDesign, Toole Design, Kimley Horn, STV Group. Plot: It certainly hasn’t been an easy road to get to our multi-modal network. This effort takes patience and perseverance, planners and politicians to come together to decide how our city will grow sustainably and offer better quality of life for its citizens. Climax: Hard work pays off. The City of Charlotte is partnering with the County to create the 26-mile trail and greenway facility that will stretch from the Town of Pineville, through Center City and on to the UNC Charlotte campus and Cabarrus County line. Conclusion: Progress is made when people work together to make visions happen. You’ve read the preview, now let’s get on to the actual show.
Today wasn’t just another Saturday in October. It was a pivotal moment in this long-standing history of alternative transportation; today unveiled the Cross Charlotte Trail (XCLT)’s Master Plan to the public. Three tents were set up: one main tent showing both segments of the trail at Elizabeth Park for public interaction and comments on the alignment, cross sections and other displays set up to educate the public; one tent at Cordelia Park visited by riders on the north bike tour, which displayed the Uptown to UNCC segment of the trail; and one tent close to Park Road Shopping Center, visited by riders on the south bike tour, which displayed the Brandywine to Tyvola segment of the trail. With the most optimal fall weather conditions, Charlotteans had the opportunity to take a walk or bike tour on Little Sugar Creek Greenway (LSCG) with City staff members and Beth Poovey, who represented LandDesign’s valuable consulting role on the project.
While on the tour, participants learned about the continuity that will occur between LSCG and XCLT; how art pieces, such as the bronze statues, help tell Charlotte’s history along the trail; how lighting, although not initially prioritized in a greenway’s budget, plays an important role to the safety of the trail and how XCLT will accommodate this amenity; and how there is a desire and need for separate zones, especially in high traffic areas, to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians comfortably.
The north tour highlighted the challenges associated of working with existing highways and infrastructure, the importance of trail safety and perceived safety (people need to be safe but also feel safe), and how the trail should spur economic development and housing opportunities outside of the existing neighborhoods. Connectivity between Optimist Park and Toby Creek Greenway, close to UNCC, was mentioned having a few potential routes.
Participants on the south tour were able to witness how blurred edges between public and private realms exist, like at The Metropolitan, and how this is extremely successful to the trail’s livelihood; programmed areas adjacent to the trail, such as retail and restaurants, attract many people and provide an incentive to stop, shop and linger. Using this experience as a precedent, it is the hope of XCLT to create great placemaking opportunities, allowing users to meander between the two realms freely.
Although continuity will exist between LSCG and XCLT, participants learned about the contrasts as well. In addition to bike and pedestrian separated zones, XCLT will be wider than LSCG in some areas to accommodate more users. When the trail is adjacent to a roadway, a vertical buffer will separate the cyclist from the automobile for added safety. Key nodes, such as fountains and kiosks, along LSCG are located in the center of the greenway to slow traffic down; on XCLT, these features will most likely be constructed off to the side so as not to disrupt the traffic pattern.
The unveiling was received enthusiastically by participants. The general consensus was participants were really engaged, interested and wanted to learn more. Several participants asked what they could do to help speed up the process, what did they need to vote on, etc. City and County staff, alongside LandDesigners who worked the event, were thrilled with the feedback and support. Looks to me like the XCLT Master Plan unveiling was a huge hit at the box office. But don’t throw away your popcorn just yet, stay tuned for previews of the grand finale by following #XCLT on Twitter.
By: Amanda Zullo
PARK(ing) Day from Two Different Cities’ Perspectives
Charlotte’s 2015 PARK(ing) Day By Amanda Zullo It’s a Friday morning in the fall. The air is crisp, the sun […]
Charlotte’s 2015 PARK(ing) Day
By Amanda Zullo
It’s a Friday morning in the fall. The air is crisp, the sun is slowly rising and the morning commute has started making its way into Uptown Charlotte for the final day of the work week. North Tryon is already a hustle and bustle as morning patrons stroll the street with their morning coffee, their phones glued to their ears, going about their morning as they do always. But, this is not a normal Friday morning. Bystanders stop and stare, give the second glance back to the street as they see a subtle shift in their city’s streetscape: where once a parking space had lived, little parklets are in process of being put together. Today is PARK(ing) Day.
PARK(ing) Day is an annual worldwide event where artists, designers and citizens transform metered parking spots into temporary public parks. The project began in 2005 when Rebar, a San Francisco art and design studio, converted a single metered parking space into a temporary public park in downtown San Francisco. The mission of PARK(ing) Day is to call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate critical debate around how public space is created and allocated, and to improve the quality of urban human habitat … at least until the meter runs out!
The Charlotte LandDesign office teamed up with 505Design and Metrolina Landscapes to create our parklet. The setup crew began at 7 a.m., delivering four truckloads of supplies and team volunteers to setup shop between 6th and 7th Street on North Tryon, across from Duckworth’s Grill & Taphouse. With the platform in place, our team quickly devised a strategy to lay the pavers and prop the “Park” spray-painted palettes on the back wall. Even the crew from Metrolina was impressed with our brick laying abilities! With a plethora of plantings, our once bland parking space transformed into an active urban plaza, fully equipped with vibrantly colored site furnishings from LandDesign and 505’s offices. The addition of an oversized Instagram picture frame and a palette-turned-chalkboard element allowed bystanders to socially engage in our space beyond just occupying and observing.
The parklet was active throughout the day, as various employees volunteered their time as site ambassadors, answering questions to the public and monitoring the space from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The team received a lot of great feedback and compliments; several people mentioned they saw our parklet photos on various social media platforms and that incentivized them to come check out the space. Others were just walking by, not aware about PARK(ing) Day and eager to find out more.
The judges stopped by after lunch, as we were the sixth and final parklet in the competition. They were impressed by the juxtaposition of industrial contemporary character of the palettes and vibrant color furnishings, with the traditional pavers and soft addition of plantings. They appreciated the use of pavers, as opposed to faux grass, as it provided a sense of richness and thought to materiality. The judges had fun with the social media/community activism piece, as they each stopped to take their photo and write a message on the chalk board. Lastly, the judges appreciated the character and mood of our space, as our site was fortunately nestled under the tree foliage for most of the day, providing a comfortable, cool place to spend time outdoors. In the end, the judges chose the team from Stantec | Neighboring Concepts | We Love CLT as the winner of the Best Parklet Competition. Although we would have loved to win, it was great to see so many companies advocating this cause and creating awareness for the mission of PARK(ing) Day.
Washington DC’s 2015 PARK(ing) Day
By Alison Peckett and Jacob Bennett
The mission of PARK(ing) Day is to not only re-think the use of public space but to imagine how we can creatively re-purpose materials for these places. As we reflected on our parklet from 2014, the decision was made to minimize our impact on creating additional waste, and think of creative ways we could re-use things we routinely collect or throw out around the office. This instigated the great printer tube collection of 2015: a joint effort between LandDesign and our printing partners at ABC Printing. As months passed and tubes began to accumulate, we realized that there is a fine line between collecting a few tubes for their creative re-use and that abrupt moment when you realize you’ve accumulated hundreds of printer tubes. One thing led to another and the next thing we knew we had HUNDREDS of tubes piling up in our office with PARK(ing) Day only weeks away. How many tubes is too many tubes? What would we actually do with these tubes?
The next logical step was to brainstorm all of the fun, crazy ways that we could re-use the tubes. We had ideas and models that transformed the tubes into planter walls, rocking chairs, ring-toss games and even musical instruments! We ultimately decided that we wanted to take this seemingly utilitarian object, the printing tube, and create a bold and artful piece of furniture. The structure itself would only use two simple materials, printing tubes and paper clips, allowing the assembly of the tubes and clips to be the focal element that ultimately eludes to the construction and materiality of the design. On the day of construction- we went back and forth on the best method of construction and eventually decided that using paper clips was, surprisingly, the strongest and fastest method to secure the tubes to one another. Five hours later as we clipped the last tubes together with blistered fingers, we saw the chair really come together.
Early Saturday morning, there was a great group effort to get everything mobilized and to our spot in front of Raul’s Menswear on King Street in Old Town Alexandria. A quick assessment showed us that in several truck loads all of our elements would be moved to the site. Rolling out the carpet of green turf quickly claimed the parking space. The tube furniture being constructed in modular sections allowed us to quickly organize our parklet. The final touches came with the last truck load of plants lent to us by KT Enterprise, social media signs and lots of cushions. Everyone enjoyed spending a beautiful day visiting the LandDesign Park on King Street in Old Town Alexandria. Visitors stopped by to lounge in our modular seating structure, eat lunch, take pictures and ask us questions about how we collected so many tubes. It was great to get out of the office for an hour or two, enjoy the weather and have conversations with inquisitive tourists and locals alike.
As landscape architects, we have a responsibility to not only think creatively about the built environment but how to do so in an environmentally-conscious way. It was apparent this year that by reducing the labor and waste of our design, the overall experience felt that much more rewarding. Pedestrians passing by were not only in awe but also inspired by the simple ingenuity of our parklet and how we used materials in an eco-friendly way. As we packed up our parklet and moved back into our normal grind, it is nice to have our 2015 PARK(ing) Day remind us of the important (and fun) role landscape architects have in informing and influencing the public (design) realm.
Plays Well With Others
By: Heth Kendrick I used to have a t-shirt that had the phrase “Plays Well With Others” written across the […]
I used to have a t-shirt that had the phrase “Plays Well With Others” written across the front. I always liked wearing it as it always resulted in smiles, and was a small way of letting others know I was approachable and willing to engage in conversation. Reflecting on my decision to move my family to Dallas and lead efforts to develop a LandDesign presence there, I realize how much this mantra has stayed with me, and how it truly is a reflection of how LandDesign approaches our relationships with our clients and collaborators, as well.
A recent example of this was my attendance at the AIA (American Institute of Architects) 2015 National Convention in Atlanta. Although this conference is targeted to Architects, some of our best work is in collaboration with a number of architecture firms from across the country. I valued the opportunity as a Landscape Architect to attend and meet the AIA professionals and learn about the topics of interest to them. I was impressed by the comradery amongst friends, even those at competing firms, and was surprised to learn how many of the topics resonated with me and our body of work. It was a great reminder of why it is important for us to continue to step outside of our own walls and stay in tune with others.
We understand that creating places that matter is about more than just my part, your part, the architect’s part, the structural part, etc… It is about understanding that our work demands collaboration, cohesiveness, and a unified effort to develop an award winning development for our clients and for the betterment of our communities. This is why it is important to know what other firms and organizations within our communities are doing, and to play well with others who are willing to engage in thoughtful dialogue for the greater good.
The Nation’s Greatest Springtime Celebration
By: Deborah Miller LandDesign stepped into spring this year as Presenting Sponsor for the National Cherry Blossom Festival‘s premiere fundraising […]
LandDesign stepped into spring this year as Presenting Sponsor for the National Cherry Blossom Festival‘s premiere fundraising event. The Cherry Blossom Festival engages and entertains more than 1.5 million people each year. In the midst of thousands of beautiful cherry blossom trees, the three-week, citywide event schedule is anchored by four weekends with premiere programming and is a major media focus for the region. Most events are family-friendly and free and open to the public, ranging in size from very large to intimate.
This year’s theme, Celebrating Nature, focused on the importance of parks and gardens and the underlying importance to our communities. This theme resonated well within LandDesign and we committed our resources in the promotion of the event through design and sponsorship. As Presenting Sponsors for the Pink Tie Party, this fundraising event is primarily to ensure that the celebration and numerous events throughout the city remain free of charge the visitors to enjoy the nation’s springtime event.
LandDesign committed to sponsor this event by contributing its design expertise to the event in creating a memorable and meaningful experience for the 800+ guests. The guests at the Pink Tie includes the leaders of our region and supporters of the Cherry Blossom’s ever-reaching missions to our community and beyond. The National Cherry Blossom Festival organization advances the content, quality and creativity of the country’s greatest and most vibrant springtime celebration. It is equally committed to delivering real economic, cultural, environmental, and social benefits to the local, regional, national, and international communities and stakeholders it serves.
Our firm’s ambitious design for the event was supported by numerous friends of the firm providing underwriting sponsorship for the event. Their contributions made possible to further support the community effort which is central to the Festival’s mission:
The Festival strives to enrich the lives of those it touches by coordinating, producing, and supporting creative and diverse activities that promote:
– Natural beauty and the environment
– Traditional and contemporary arts and culture
– Community spirit and youth education
This truly was a collaborative of many and we should all be so proud to have shone yet another big light of LandDesign on the scene!