Posts by darrenshirai

As 2017 year comes to a close, the AHBE LAB contributors are taking time to look back at our year’s worth of posts. We are each identifying the most memorable post and sharing what we found interesting, informative, and inspiring. Enjoy the flashback, and let us know which post you thought was most memorable.

An AHBE Lab post I remember as particularly memorable was a piece written by my colleague Jessica Roberts. Her post “One Neighborly Prickly Pear” tells the tale of a prickly pear cactus growing over her neighbor’s fence, its growth instigating a personal journey of discovery leading to a deeper understanding of indigenous food culture and the niche edible plants can occupy in urban ecologies.

Jessica’s opinion of the prickly pear cactus adjacent to her backyard isn’t adversarial, but considered as a plant that “isn’t dividing, but uniting neighbors”. Her observation highlights even when there is a need to separate neighbors, there are still design solutions capable of mitigating alienation, deter seclusion, and bring people together. What the story highlights well is the potential efficacy of these design solutions when they are grounded in contextual and cultural relevance. It is through these shared, tangible experiences that designed landscapes can become relevant, meaningful, and beloved.

The cactus in Jessica’s post not only grows next to her home, it also produces edible fruit sold by her local market, an integral ingredient of the culinary culture of others in her community. In this case the cactus is not just an arbitrarily selected landscape element with little relevance to the community. The prickly pear cactus is meaningful to the local culture and ecology in a variety of ways, with the power to evoke a sense of connection to the natural and cultural environment that is not easy to disregard or ignored. It is through these shared, mutually-beneficial experiences where bonds between people are established and the foundation of sustainable communities are built upon.

The original post here: One Neighborly Prickly Pear

The East Courtyard, looking northward toward the San Gabriel Mountains, October 2017. All photos AHBE Landscape Architects.

As AHBE Landscape Architects’ newest employee, there is much about our design legacy that is still a bit of a mystery. Recognizing this gap in knowledge, I thought it might be beneficial to acquaint myself with AHBE’s body of work by visiting projects close to my own home in Pasadena. The projects that I visited, including the Pasadena City College Technology-Arts Building, may not be highly publicized projects, but I immediately recognized cumulatively the firm’s 30-year body of work has made a positive impact upon numerous communities and the people nearby, including my very own.

The campus of Pasadena City College is open and accessible to the public, and nearby residents love the access to its safe, well-maintained outdoor open spaces. Pasadena residents, students, and the college faculty all use the campus at all hours of the day. The paseo running along the south side of the Technology-Arts building is a popular route for joggers and power-walkers from nearby residential areas. The paseo route plays a significant role in building a sense of community, an outdoor space where neighbors get to know their neighbors across its entire distance.

Before joining the team last month, I had no idea the space was designed by AHBE. However, now more than ever, I know firsthand the work my firm has done has left a positive impact across Southern California. During my research I discovered some pictures in our project archives revealing what the initial installation looked like back in 2013. I’ve collected a few to share below, showing the states of “yesterday” versus “today”, also proud in recognizing I’ll be contributing to AHBE’s “tomorrow”.


The views of the Paseo before and after, 2013 vs. 2017.


Paseo plantings detail, before and after, 2013 vs. 2017


Concrete seat-wall, before and after, 2013 vs. 2017.


North courtyard, before and after, 2013 vs. 2017.