Feature Article - May 2019
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Purposeful Places

The Latest in Landscape Design

By Joseph Bush

Landscape architects should be visionaries as well, said Brown, able to create plans with the future in mind.

"Facilities should no longer be designed as though community needs are static or that economic and environmental conditions will remain the same as when designed," she said. "Can the site accommodate changing climate conditions, such as rainfall intensities and durations, or increased temperatures? Can the facilities function and remain maintained when repair and maintenance budgets are reduced?"

Figurski has three guiding principles:

  • Not every park needs to be everything to everyone. "As designers and clients, we need to look at the physical and social context of the sites proposed for recreational purposes and prioritize those activities and components that best fit that physical and social context."
  • Do no harm. "As designers and clients, we need to do our best to ensure that developments build with the positive aspects and strengths of a site and result in the greatest benefit to the greatest number."
  • Bring people and nature together by design. "Directly and subtly at the same time, it's about providing connections between the urban and wild."

As an example of the last principle, Greenworks is working to provide nature-centric recreation for a 460-acre master-planned community in Hillsboro, Ore., including a 23-acre greenway with 12 acres of stormwater facilities, several parks, a trail system and a nature learning center. One park features an oak grove for relaxation, an open lawn and meadow for play, and a trail that connects to the rest of the community. Another park, named Discovery Park, will provide STEM programming for Hillsboro schools by way of educational stations set along the greenway. Students, residents and visitors will be able to study wetlands, forest habitat and pollinator habitat.

Figurski said the future of his discipline is anyone's guess.

"Who knows?" he said. "The evolution of recreation in the future depends a lot on a combination of population, economic, social and environmental issues. As landscape architects, it is important that we pay attention to these trends and respond appropriately in ways that address and improve environmental and social issues."

One thing is for sure, with climate change a topic at the forefront of today's and tomorrow's news, sustainability will continue to be a priority for landscape architects and designers.

Crawford said water management is at the heart of his firm's sustainability work. "It very much is top of mind, and it's an approach we take with every project regardless of the client perspective, mainly because a lot of it just makes sense from a cost standpoint and a performance standpoint," he said.

Crawford said in parks and recreation design, rainwater management is key. Managing the amount of rain that leaves a site and its quality can be done with a variety of ecological-based approaches. If a site needs irrigation—the bringing in of water—Crawford said being able to capture rainwater during large rain events and store it in a cistern or lake or pond to draw upon is a much more resilient and sustainable approach than simply piping the water offsite when it falls on the site during a rain event and then drawing from the domestic tap to irrigate.

"The water management side is a pretty intuitive way for parks to be more sustainable, and that starts with design of what actually goes into a park," he said. "We try to develop for any project what we call a water budget on the front end, meaning, 'It costs this much to build, but in order to maintain it the water budget is this. You're going to need this much water on an annual basis, and rainfall will generate this much water, so how can we capture this rainwater to offset your ongoing costs related to water consumption on the property?'"

McCauley puts it succinctly: "Sustainability and green design are inherent to professional landscape architecture. If it's not, I don't think you'll be doing a decent project."