Posts tagged design

Photo: AHBE Landscape Architects for Ojama images

Photo: AHBE Landscape Architects for Ojama images

Landscape architecture is often described as one part art, one part science. On the science side, contemporary landscape architects are challenged to become knowledgeable beyond the traditional context of landscape architecture, versed in subjects as varied as hydrology, energy, and biology. The art side of the profession seems more intuitive to the way many of us think as designers. However, this creative side is no less complex, since we are designing environments which must account for human activity and experience.

Photo: AHBE Landscape Architects for Ojama images

Photo: AHBE Landscape Architects for Ojama images

As landscape designers we use public art, video, and other creative media as avenues of exploring concepts about design and environment. An example: for the public art installation Ojama AHBE Landscape Architects used straw wattles to explore the idea of urban interruption within Downtown Los Angeles’ Noguchi Plaza. Later, Calvin Abe co-curated the art and music festival, LA Bloom, collaborating with artist Hirokazu Kosaka, transforming this same plaza into a temporary Zen garden and performance space.

City Lounge/Pipilotti Rist (artist), Carlos Martinez (architect), City Lounge, 2005, - Switzerland, Canton of St. Gallen, St. Gallen – Creative Commons Photo: Kamahele

City Lounge/Pipilotti Rist (artist), Carlos Martinez (architect), City Lounge, 2005, – Switzerland, Canton of St. Gallen, St. Gallen – Creative Commons Photo: Kamahele

We also explore through the work of other artists and designers. Examples include London artist Ben Eine, who used street art as a way of engaging a community in Philadelphia. Or artist Pipilotti Rist and collaborator Carlos Martínez Architekten, who worked together on City Lounge, transforming an entire section of St. Gallen, Switzerland into a temporary intervention — covering everything boldly in red! — in order to alter how people interact within a public space.

As landscape architects we are curious about what moves people emotionally and also what connects them to a physical space. We are also curious about people living in urban environments and their awareness of natural habitats within this context. We explore our own individual perceptions about open space and beauty in order to clear any preconceptions, while also opening up possibilities for how we approach our work.

Our next series will focus on our inquiries about the art of our practice.

Lately my thoughts have wandered to my gardens as they’ve begun to display their spring buds. They are spaces I enjoy on weekends, usually in the early mornings when you can hear birds greeting the day uninterrupted by other sounds of the city. My gardens were not designed in advance of their implementation. Instead, I prefer to think of my process as “composing on the fly.” Upon reflection, I probably did begin with a general idea of where I was ultimately headed, but the journey was filled with trials and errors (lots of them), with changing garden layouts and impulse purchases along the way.

I discovered the garden is a wonderful place to experiment, and I did just that over several years of “tinkering.” So what if the broken concrete I had planned to use for a stacked wall ended up as a garden path? My hands-on gardening approach revealed my lack of skills in the craft of dry-stacking but also, ironically, my dislike for digging soil. I solved the latter by planting smaller nursery stock – a less expensive option, but one requiring a bit more patience.

But that is the luxury of designing your own space. You do it at your own pace and as your mood dictates. Along the way I learned about both patience and horticulture, investigated soil structure and beneficial insects, and observed many birds and butterflies visiting my gardens. Luckily, the plants I placed in the ground took root and filled up my gardens, despite my neglect for weeks at a time.

March 22nd was World Water Day, an annual celebration designated in 1992 by the United Nations General Assembly in celebration and awareness of water around the globe. My social media page flickered as facts and opinions about water were posted and shared. I read, for what seemed like hours, about water consumption, water poverty, drought and flood conditions, environmental justice and so much more, filling my brain with information and drawing connections to my own behavior as a concerned citizen of this planet. World Water Day raised public awareness about global water issues.

So now what? Awareness is good as long as it is well informed and results in farsighted strategies. As designers of gardens and public spaces, our work has relevance from a water perspective.

  • How do we focus our work for the challenges ahead?
  • What questions should we ask when beginning our design process?
  • Who do we call upon for input so that our inquiries remain well informed and at the edge?

Our expertise is discovering and revealing the essence of place. We are designers, not scientists. We cannot, after all, create water out of air. Or can we? Now that is a fun idea to explore for the landscape!