Posts from the Editorial Category

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.

It was my colleague Katherine’s photos of buckwheat that first grabbed my attention. What is this wirey, yet elegant star dancing on a hillside stage set by summer’s dry conditions?

I was still new to Southern California when I read Katherine’s post, In Praise of Buckwheat. I was immediately drawn to the plant’s presence and beauty that endures at a time when other plants go dormant. Inspired by her post, I began my own hunt to document native buckwheat while hiking and strolling around Los Angeles afterward.

Upon further reflection, I thought deeper about the beautiful subtleties summer dormancy – during the time when most people say, ‘everything is dead’. I began noticing how even the land of endless summer has seasons that manifest in plants like buckwheat. The questions I was left pondering with this new insight about this native plant: How can we as designers use these stars of our dry summer to create a beautiful, natural, and sustainable landscape? How can we best convey the beauty in dormancy?

The original post here: In Praise of Buckwheat

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.

Looking back at 2017, the AHBE Lab post I found most inspiring was authored by my colleague, Wendy Chan. Titled, Finding Peace and Serenity in Ittekikaitei – A Drop of Ocean Garden, the post is a thoughtful reminiscing about a visit to one of Japan’s dry landscape gardens resting just outside the Komyozenji Temple.

As an artist and someone who loves to explore new places, Japan has long been at the top of my list of places to visit. Reading about Wendy’s experience and photos, I felt momentarily felt immersed into another world – one filled with the peace, serenity, and calm thoughtfulness Japanese gardens are renowned for. Granted, looking at a photograph is nothing compared to a firsthand experience, but a picture is worth a thousand words. The picture below particularly caught my attention:

I am continually inspired and fascinated by the way Japanese designers accomplish their intended design using a limited palette of materials, a minimum amount of space, all carefully composed  to artfully frame the view. They demonstrate a clear artistry and mastery of their craft of placemaking. I’d like to continue learning how to skillfully compose designed landscapes in such a way to appropriately immerse people into the experience of the place, and transcend what is right in front of us.

The original post here: Finding Peace and Serenity in Ittekikaitei – A Drop of Ocean Garden

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.

Photos by Jennifer Zell

One of my favorite AHBE Lab bloggers is Yiran Wang. Her posts tends to weave together a thesis out of seemingly disparate elements, causing the reader to reevaluate ideas about a subject. Her posts, The Magic of an Isometric Perspective, is particularly memorable. She essentially claims isometric representations – as diverse as traditional Chinese paintings and the obsessively detailed drawings of Architecture Drawing Studio – determine how cities get built.

In a post by Gary Lai titled, Signs from the Beginning, a similar theme is explored, one where representation isn’t the spatial and physical destiny of the city, but becomes the vehicle of his professional destiny. In the process of telling his story of building a model in high school for a design competition, he discovered his professional destiny—sustainability.

Both of these Lab posts reminded me of a model I made in graduate school. In building the model, I was trying to discover how to make something that did not represent the landscape as a surface, but as a whole. Something that could not be viewed from one perspective, but needed to be picked up by hand and studied from multiple angles to be understood.


My grad school model was more interesting in its ambition than execution, but it shares a theme with both Yiran and Gary’s blog posts. As designers, how we represent places, buildings, and landscapes express our world-view, and in-turn the built environment.

The original posts here: The Magic of an Isometric Perspective and Signs from the Beginning

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

Why cities are full of uncomfortable benches: When designing urban spaces, city planners have many competing interests to balance. After all, cities are some of the most diverse places on the planet. They need to be built for a variety of needs. In recent years, these competing interests have surfaced conflict over an unlikely interest: purposefully uncomfortable benches. Enter the New York City MTA. They’ve installed ‘leaning bars’ to supplement traditional benches & save platform space. But designs like this carry an often invisible cost: they rob citizens of hospitable public space. And the people who experience this cost most directly are those experiencing homelessness.

Los Angeles Is Ready for the Next Mobility Revolution: “Seventy percent of Los Angeles commuters still drive to work, but the civic zeitgeist is shifting—and the city is positioning itself as a laboratory for transportation startups.”

An animated map of every Los Angeles commute: “Stuck in traffic on the freeway, drivers’ angry first thoughts are probably, “Where are all of these people even coming from?!” Now, thanks to these lovely commute maps, we can see the answer for ourselves. The maps, created and provided to Curbed by “data enthusiast” Mark Evans, use US Census data from the American Community Survey to plot the commutes of workers who travel between 20 and 100 miles to work in various counties across the US, cays CityLab.”

Narrow Streets Do More With Less: “Narrow streets confer aesthetic benefits too, not just safety benefits. You can have a canopy of trees overhanging the entire street. In Florida in June, let me tell you, that “jungle” feeling in older neighborhoods like mine is a godsend. With narrow streets and generous foliage, you can pack in quite a bit of population density, too, in a way that doesn’t feel “dense” and “urban” to people, and is thus perhaps less objectionable to aesthetic sensibilities.”

What if everything you know about the suburbs is wrong?: “Infinite Suburbia, is built for an alternative discourse that can open paths to improvement and design agency, rather than condemning suburbia altogether. Our goal? To construct a balanced, alternative discourse to architecture and urban planning orthodoxy of “density fixes all,” and in doing so ask: Can suburbia become a more sustainable model for rethinking the entire urban enterprise, as a vital fabric of complete urbanization?”