Using a delicate balance of art and science, our designs embrace complex social, civic, and ecological processes to create dynamic, engaging, and functional landscapes.
Explore our unique design approach below
ENCOURAGE THRIVING COMMUNITIES
For us, fostering community includes facilitating a range of experiences: from intimate family gatherings to interconnected metropolises to dynamic ecosystems of soils, plants, and animals.We emphatically believe that outdoor spaces—their forms, the arrangements of their components, their connectivity, and the flows they facilitate—form the foundation for building community at multiple scales. By taking a community-focused approach, we consider the diverse users—both human and non-human—of the spaces that we design to encourage more inclusive engagement within civic realms and the outdoor world.
Echinacea purpurea, photo credit: Arianne Wolfe
Plants are the foundation of the global food chain and one of our primary design media. Through careful plant selection and placement, we infuse the outdoor spaces that we design with productive plant species that introduce food and habitat for native and migratory birds, pollinators, and other desirable wildlife while protecting these spaces from intrusion by more destructive species and pests. Our expertise in careful plant selection often offers people the opportunity to grow their own food, further connecting them to the outdoors and providing them more control over the products they consume. We also work to reestablish natural hydrological and ecological systems to reduce the impacts of development on the natural world, both within the urban context and in surrounding conservation lands. Understanding the important functions of plants, hydrology, soils, and animal species helps us to build ecosystem services while also further engaging human communities with the other species inhabiting our world.
Many of the issues that plague contemporary humans—carbon dependency, dirty air and water, species die-off, vulnerability to climate events, flooding, poor nutrition, limited access to healthy food, lack of mobility, obesity, anxiety, depression, apathy—are products of the spaces that we inhabit and stem directly from our centuries-old divorce from the natural world and its myriad interconnected processes. As an increasingly urbanized species, most peoples’ primary experiences of natural elements occur within the confines of a constructed environment. As designers of these spaces, and thus facilitators of these interactions, we have a powerful responsibility to infuse the built environment with natural elements and processes that are inspiring, functional, educational, and supportive of a more harmonious relationship with the other species inhabiting our world. When people spend more time outside, they begin to notice subtle elements of their environments: the smells of spring flowers, the color cycles of leaves, the songs of birds. By designing spaces that encourage people to take a walk instead of drive or to have coffee in the courtyard instead of their cubicle, we hope to instill respect for natural forces and promote a culture that is both aware of and engaged with them.
Vaccinium corymbosum, photo credit: Jeff Blake, Audubon
INVIGORATE UNDERUTILIZED SPACES
The most successful systems—both in natural and urban environments—are those that efficiently utilize all components and provide multiple layers of function and services simultaneously. We love discovering the “leftover” or underperforming spaces within existing cities, communities, and homesites and infusing them with life. Through programming, enhanced connectivity, and careful design detailing, we help ensure that every cubic inch is either enhancing the existing uses of an outdoor space or adding an opportunity for new experiences.
When conceptualizing a city, more than buildings, walls, and bridges, we consider the spaces between the rigid structures and infrastructures: the softer spaces where people interact and navigate, the places where plants grow, where birds migrate, where puddles gather, and where weather happens. Soils, plants, habitats, geographic formations, and climate are both the constraints of our projects and the media with which we strive to create inspiring places. Our designs, in turn, offer great potential to absorb acute and chronic stresses: streets and parks designed to flood during major events to protect buildings and people; greenspaces designed as usable parks when the weather is dry but capable of gathering and filtering stormwater and tidal inundations to protect marshes and rivers; rooftops infused with plants to host pollinators and migratory birds and preserve the biodiversity of our native ecosystems. Because our fundamental role is to design outdoor elements infused with living organisms, we necessarily anticipate that these systems will grow and evolve throughout the seasons and their individual lifecycles. This awareness of chronological and ecological change enables us to design more resilient cities at all scales. Every tree that we specify offers an opportunity to select an organism that will soak up water in a flood prone area, or thrive with submerged roots and poorly drained soil, or offer habitat for a specific bird or insect. In the context of landscape architecture, resilience is more than creating physical spaces that help sustain existing systems and practices; it is also about developing systems that are adaptable, diverse, and responsive, three key components of any resilient system designed to soften the blow of inevitable natural and manmade disruptions.
BRING THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT INTO BETTER BALANCE WITH NATURE
Traditional practices of land development disrupt and often eliminate natural processes to impose human infrastructure. While the reestablishment of pristine ecosystems within the context of the built environment is unlikely, the reintroduction of key species and combinations of species into these disrupted environments can help support biodiversity, clean our water and air, and reduce the impacts of climate change on human civilization. As landscape architects, we are trained to weave living organisms into the built environment to reestablish valuable systems lost to centuries of short-sighted development. In addition to infusing the urban landscape with ecological processes, we encourage the conservation of interconnected wilderness surrounding our cities to ensure proper migration, genetic robustness, and biodiversity while absorbing carbon and protecting the built environment from both acute and chronic climactic stresses.
Gulf fritillary larva on Passiflora incarnata leaf, photo credit: Jennifer McCarthey Tyrrell, Audubon South Carolina