Frogtown: Designing Strategies for a Resilient, Placed-based Economy on the Los Angeles River

Over the last century, the Elysian Valley community adjacent to the Los Angeles River has had various names: Gopher Flats, Little River Valley, and by the 1930’s, Frogtown. The name is intact today, but the neighborhood is in danger of being gentrified by outside investors seeking to capitalize on planned green infrastructure along the LA River, including development of the key G2 parcel directly across the LA River. The G2 parcel is projected to be a key green infrastructure projects along the LA River. While it will likely bring revitalized ecosystems and new interactions with the river; critics worry that such a large-scale development project will bring the negative externalizes of ‘green gentrification,’ including increased development pressure on the working class surrounding neighborhoods; potentially displacing residents and small businesses. Frogtown deserves to be developed with the involvement of its users and residents to preserve its character and place-based economies.


The development pressures in Frogtown are both unique to the neighborhood and similar to many others in burgeoning Los Angeles County. Economies worldwide grow in complexity as technological advancements and sharing abilities break conventional industry barriers and expand consumer bases. This wave of globalization can often lead to commodified urban experiences. Visitors and investors flock to cities across America in search of the ‘next big thing’ to experience it, share it, and ultimately consume it.  Unfortunately, this process can lead to inequitable and unsustainable development, fueled by investments which do not prioritize community needs.  Historically underrepresented communities lacking organizational mechanisms and marketable identities are often swept up and rebranded by greater powers in ways insensitive toward existing residents and users.


This project explores how an expanding cultural desire for urban experience may be harnessed through various strategies to achieve place-based economic viability in which community members participate with stakeholders to develop an equitable and sustainable product and place for all.  Design and planning scenarios visualize how place-based economic interventions can unfold over time in Frogtown. These include capitalizing on its unique character and burgeoning development pressures to organize existing resources, acquire capital, and encourage healthy development.


Goals and Objectives

This project leverages Frogtown’s public and private amenities to generate place-based economic purpose and consumer driven equity using physical intervention, social organization, and policy reform.  The main goals are to develop a new economic identity for the Frogtown using incremental and catalytic techniques to build equity and resiliency in the community while maintaining its unique character and marketing the community from within, as a unique urban experience. 


Community Analysis

The project used a combination of analyses to understand the neighborhood. Data triangulation combining U.S. Census analysis, an online survey of residents, social media engagement campaign, and on-site observations provided a convincing and accurate understanding of Frogtown’s people. Key findings include:

●     The majority of site users surveyed considered themselves active in the community;

●     The household median income is relatively low for Los Angeles;

●     Thirty-seven percent of household income is used for housing;

●     The majority of users considered small businesses a high priority in the community;

●     There are a number of opportunities and constraints for place-based interventions near the LA River, including:

○     Limited access;

○     Vacant lots and parking lots;

○     Declining industrial real estate;

○     Dead-end streets.


These findings point to a community that has been historically underserved and underrepresented.  However, the neighborhood holds great potential based on its unique physical character, rich cultural ties, and diverse residents.


Design and Planning Approach: Implementation of Place-based Economies

The project uses a progression of three planning scenarios to visualize possible community futures, while presenting a complex set of strategies that support Frogtown’s character.  These scenarios consist of three toolboxes assigned through community engagement structured to maintain the unique neighborhood character and increase economic and use-value. To effectively deploy these planning scenarios, the project includes two design techniques: connecting the neighborhood to the Los Angeles River Trail and using consumer behavior analysis techniques to implement tactical urban layouts.


Three Planning Scenarios Implementing Three Toolboxes

The project has three scenarios which allow for strategic unfolding. The scenarios are implemented over five years and act as a adaptable framework which the Frogtown community can use to encourage economic development while protecting their community character and resources. The scenarios are guides that envision a field of possibilities—feedback loops that create placed-based economic and social resiliencies providing value over time.

These three scenarios include, in order:


1)    Building on existing community resources;

2)    Ephemeral interventions and organization; and

3)    New development and adaptive reuse.


Each scenario uses three toolboxes: economic activation, local food economy, and small-scale manufacturing. These combined scenarios and toolboxes create nine total strategies. The nine strategies are:


Scenario One: Building on Existing Community Resources

a.    Organize a Community Business Association (economic activation)

Community-based non-profit organization which brings together local business owners and stakeholders for collaboration and mutually beneficial relationships.

b.    Develop Community Gardens (local food economy)

Community gardens provide a place for the community to grow its own food, creating a viable source of income and fresh, healthy food.  Community gardens form the first link in the chain of place-based food supply. 

c.     Organize a Community Based Organization for Manufacturing (small-scale manufacturing)

The first step in promoting small-scale manufacturing and artistry requires the formation of a local non-profit organization that is capable of acquiring funding for the purchasing, redevelopment, and management of existing industrial real estate.  This organizations primary function is to act as a facilitator between local businesses, existing property owners, larger organizations, and government agencies.


Scenario Two: Ephemeral Interventions and Organization

a.    Implement Way-finding + Pop-up Storefronts (economic activation)

Temporary or permanent use of outdoor space to create more useful modes of commerce for local businesses.

b.    Designate space for Food Trucks (local food economy)

Interstitial spaces along trail and adjacent areas are set aside for food trucks by expanding the existing public right of way along the Los Angeles River Trail.

c.     Los Angeles Small-Scale Manufacturing Development Fund (small-scale manufacturing)

The second step in promoting small-scale manufacturing requires organizations to use their influence to address contingency in the industrial real estate market.  The City of Los Angeles should develop a new fund which awards grants to mission-driven organizations aiding in the equitable use of industrial spaces for small-scale manufacturing.


Scenario Three: New Development and Adaptive Reuse

a.    Develop Business Incubators (economic activation)

These organizations focus on catalyzing new business growth in the community by providing early, pre-revenue companies with space and resources to succeed as well as hosting space for more mature businesses and providing necessary services.

b.    Develop Food Cooperatives and Commissaries (local food economy)

A hybrid of local producer and consumer owners form a

multi-stakeholder cooperative.  This cooperative provides a legal structure which offers a low-cost of entry and strong bargaining power for owners.

California state law requires that food preparation must be done within a designated food truck or a registered commissary.  Commissaries provide food preparation space and parking, hookups, water and propane refills, grey water disposal, and a physical business address for food truck owners.

c.     Develop Light Manufacturing + Artist Hubs (small-scale manufacturing).

By forming a non-profit and acquiring funding from the new Los Angeles Development Fund, businesses can purchase declining, large scale industrial buildings and convert them into multi-tenant light manufacturing/artist hubs.


Design Techniques to Deploy Planning Scenarios

The project maximizes Frogtown economic interactions by attracting pedestrian activity using two main techniques: connecting the neighborhood to the Los Angeles River Trail and using consumer behavior analysis techniques to implement a tactical urban design. Paths and spaces are re-imagined to take advantage of the catalytic potential embedded within them through radical incrementalism and active contingency planning. Together these design techniques will help create viable, place-based economies and spaces as the nine strategies unfold in Frogtown.


Chris Reed | Plaza at Harvard

Chris Reed is Founding Director of Stoss Landscape Urbanism. He is recognized internationally as a leading voice in the transformation of landscapes and cities, and he works alternately as a researcher, strategist, teacher, designer, and advisor. Reed is particularly interested in the relationships between ecology and landscape and infrastructure, social spaces, and cities. His work collectively includes urban revitalization initiatives, climate resilience efforts in Boston, Dallas, Abu Dhabi, China, and throughout the Midwest, speculative propositions, adaptations of infrastructure and former industrial sites, dynamic and productive landscapes, vibrant public spaces that cultivate a diversity of social uses and cultural traditions, and numerous landscape installations.

On 29 October, Chris Reed, lectured to students and faculty at the Fay Jones School of Architecture + Design. He began by explaining what kind of work he specializes in and gave an overview of some projects. Secondly, he spoke about the importance of water, and finally, he spoke in-depth on a current project in St Louis - The Stitch + The Loop . Some of the major themes discussed throughout included climate change, water supply/food security, city economies, resilience, and landscape as a solution for large-scale city planning. I was interested in his regarding the Plaza at Harvard - a Stoss project from 2013.

Reed began practicing landscape architecture around the same time he had children. He spoke about observing his children and the way they interacted with their surroundings. Children encounter objects and respond in directly, in a way that is unencumbered by the knowledge of particular uses. Reed spoke about watching his children make up games by jumping from one type of paving to another or between manhole covers on the sidewalk. This inspired him and prompted a greater inquiry into how people engage unknown spaces without being told how to use them.

After a research project into children’s play and space-making, this interest lead to a study in how people engage with something as simple as a bench. Reed pointed out that there are many types of people with different body shapes and spectrum of movement. He pointed out that some people in the lecture hall were sitting with their legs crossed, others were sitting up straight or leaning father back. With all of these variations, he wanted to design a bench that could accommodate not only different body types but modes of engagement.

After going through several iterations, the benches were eventually fabricated and deployed in a new Plaza at Harvard. The Plaza at Harvard was designed to connect to parts of campus with an underutilized overpass as a public space. The project was to accommodate a spectrum of different uses from a circulatory node to an event space. The paving pattern was laid out carefully to hide specific utilities and attachment mechanisms for tent poles for events. I was very interested in this concept for the event space in our studio project, I think we can design something similar that allows for greater use value across various cycles. I was excited to see this project and realize how many common goals it shares with the programmatic public space in our studio project.

Like Reed, I am interested in how public spaces may function different at different times. How can human and natural cycles impact place-making? I am particularly interested in work/play patterns over the cycles of the day, week, and four seasons. Below I did some quick sketches to visualize how our studios event space could be used for parking, farmers market tents, food trucks, and an ice skating rink. I think another opportunity could be an outdoor venue for live shows or movie screenings. It was exciting getting to see a great example of a similar concept being constructed on such a prominent scale. I think the Plaza at Harvard is an important precedent moving forward.

Rhododendron | A Pattern Inquiry


During our studio trip to Pittsburgh, we took one morning to travel about an hour south of town to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. It was a crisp 40 degrees and sunny with the forest trees just beginning to turn. On the quarter mile walk from the visitor’s center to the residence, I was amazed by the volume and quantity of Rhododendrons surrounding the path. I had read about prevalence but I wasn’t expecting such an overpowering presence.

Rhododendron maximum is an evergreen Shrub growing to 3.5 m.
It is hardy to zone 3. It is in leaf all year, in flower from June to July, and the seeds ripen in October. The species is hermaphrodite and is pollinated by Bees.
Rhododendron maximum can be found in mostly riparian areas with light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland). It prefers moist soil.
— Plants for a


According to our tour-guide, Wright designed the interior color palliate at Fallingwater to blend with the changing leaves of the Native Rhododendron surrounding the residence. I have heard about other architects and interior designers doing similar things (Alexander Girard with the Miller House in Columbus comes to mind) but what I found interesting was Wright’s decision to match the changing colors of leaves throughout all seasons.


After the tour of the house, I began inspecting the Rhododendron leaves more carefully; my interest in their texture and color in the natural light led me to pick a few up from the ground for closer examination. I started with three and quickly expanded to a cluster of eight or nine. There is something satisfying abut collecting leaves in general but I especially liked the shape of these… As I added to my assemblage, I began to realize the continuum of colors within the contemporaneity leaves. I wondered how seamless of a spectrum I might create? At this point, leaf collecting had consumed the majority of my attention. My new agenda consisted of searching for particular hues to place between existing colors. Below is the final product of my activity, including about 50 leaves.


I crammed all the leaves into my sketchbook and managed to bring most of them home, via my carry-on, without too much damage. I really enjoy the diversity of color and pattern on these leaves. I spent some time scattering them around on my desk in different patterns, leading me to happen upon this observation: not only does a great range of color exist throughout the leaves as a group, there also exists a wide diversity of the same colors within individual leaves.


This observation led to to the idea for this project. The inquiry: Could I extract a range of hues from individual leaves across a spectrum of color, distill them into a color palette, and then reconstruct a singular leaf from these elements?

Below is a catalog of my explorations, I think the images should speak for themselves.

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Living Building Visits | Pittsburgh

After fall break, our studio traveled as a group to Pittsburgh, PA to visit multiple sites including two Living Certified Buildings – The Frick Environmental Center and Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes.  At each location we were given a guided tour of the facilities with the opportunity to learn more about the systems and spaces.  Although it was helpful to ask questions about energy and water systems on site, I found the experience of moving around the different spaces most helpful.  Sometimes I spend so much time researching and learning about a topic that I feel I know it when, I have never actually seen any of these processes or spaces extensively except on paper or a screen.  Traveling to multiple LBC sites was inspiring and grounding.  I feel that the experiences added validity to my work and helped me more completely understand my objective.

Frick Environmental Canter

The Frick Environmental Center is a welcome facility, education hub, and gateway to Frick Park. Free and open to all, this cutting-edge facility enhances visitor experience and inspires learners to discover one of Pittsburgh’s largest parks.  The Frick Environmental Center provides families, students, and learners of all ages with a state-of-the-art space for hands-on, experiential environmental education. The Center serves as the classroom base for programming that extends into the surrounding park woodlands, streams, meadows and trails.
— Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and the City of Pittsburg

I really enjoyed visiting the Frick Center. After researching the project, I was excited to explore it in real life. I think this is an excellent example of a project that blends outdoor and indoor programs. The primary circulation along the south end of the site transverses directly through the building on its top floor. (See diagram below) I think this design works well because the Frick Center is a public space. The organization creates an inviting way to channel people through the building.

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Another aspect of this project that I enjoyed, is the way the building is nested into the hillside. Our tour guide mentioned that it was one of the origional goals for the project that the building would not be a dominate feature in the landscape. Because of the historical nature of the site, it was important to the design team to maintain existing views that draw people into the forest and surrounding meadows. Building into the hillside also has LBC implications. This technique reduces the amount of energy required to heat and cool the building because it has less exposed surface area.

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One of the spaces that inspired me is the waterfall area outside of the building. Sandstone is cut to mimic the natural forms of a creek bottom (sketch bellow) while conveying water away from the building and into the constructed wetland area. With a similar condition on our project site, I think there is an opportunity to create a similar condition in our teams design.

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Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes


The Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens generates all of its own energy and treats all storm and sanitary water captured on-site. As Phipps’ education, research and administration facility, the CSL is an integral part of the Phipps visitor experience as a “living museum,” focusing attention on the important intersection between the built and natural environments, and demonstrating that human and environmental health are inextricably connected.
— Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh

At the Phipps Center, our group received a comprehensive tour of the grounds, facilities, and systems. I was particularly struck by the landscape and planting design to the East of the building. This area included a steep slope, ending in a lagoon and backwater treatment area. In the diagram below, I highlighted the circulation paths. I am interested in this part of the project because our site also has drastic elevation change that we may need to navigate with accessible paths. I think this network with steps and ramps could serve as a helpful precedent moving forward.

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Moving forward, I am excited to read more about the water treatment systems with this project. Although we will not be incorporating a green-roof into our design, I believe there are several lessons we can take away from this project, specifically involving grey-water usage and treatment of black-water in a sand field.


Process Catalog | Formal Organization

This post is dedicated to communicating some of the design process I engaged with, in an attempt for an organizational first pass. The diagrams below are a sort of warm-up exercise to get my hand moving and my brain thinking.



Stoa (στοά) is a Greek architectural term that describes a covered walkway or colonnade that was usually designed for public use. Early examples, often employing the Doric order, were usually composed of a single level, although later examples (Hellenistic and Roman) came to be two-story freestanding structures. These later examples allowed interior space for shops or other rooms and often incorporated the Ionic order for interior colonnades.
— Jeffrey Becker. "Introduction to Greek architecture"

As I mentioned previously, I was inspired by the Greek Stoa. The Stoa introduces the kind of rhythm and human scale that I believe will work well for our project. I have always enjoyed Greek architecture and urban form. However, the Stoa as a precedent, also fulfills multiple objectives set forth by our guiding principles.

  1. The Stoa represents an inclusive, semi-public space

  2. The Stoa was originally designed to function, in part, as a framing device for the views of the surrounding landscape.

  3. The Stoa maximizes natural ventilation and lighting .


Plan Iterations

Building off of the idea of the Stoa, I began to create some quick sketches - blending in operative design concepts (I wrote about in the previous post). I am interested in a simple form, that can act as a framing device for the surrounding wetlands and critical habitat, provide excellent interior spaces, and connect the site through a beautiful design language.


My goal here, was to arrive on a type of organization in which to deploy the unit system I designed earlier. I cycles through several iterations, just tampering with various mas and void interactions. with every iteration, I went back and tested it against my unit model.

The most challenging aspects were the corners, and devising a way to overlap edges that could conceivably include a building envelope while maintaining a space for circulation in between.


After arriving on a plan that I was comfortable bringing forward, I digitized my hand graphic and made a diagram labeling programmatic spaces.

Site Plan

The final plan is a simple rendering off of the previous diagram’s line-work. I keep a personal supply of digital landscape elements and entourage in my CC library for quick drop-in render tools. I should also point out that when I say “final plan” in this context, I mean final in terms of this round of iterations. I completely expect this plan to change over the coming days. However, everything has to start somewhere.. it is important to me to begin producing “final drawings early in the design process so that they can be refined over time.

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After finalizing a plan (for now), I moved into Rhino to produce a model of the site. I included a brief video clip below (20x speed) to show some of my building process inside the digital software.

Now that I have a completed model of the site, I can use it as a tool to quickly cut sections, shoot perspective images, or create any kind of drawing I might need very efficiently. I like to jump into digital modeling early so that I have a tool that I can use as the design process moves forward. It is okay if things change because I was very specific about how I organized my model layers and groups. It will be easy for me to add, subtract, or alter any element within the model. I can also use the grasshopper plugin to make elements in the model parametric for very quick testing of ideas.


Process Catalog | The Unit


In his essay ‘Design Process’, Hideo Sasaki illustrates the fundamentals of the thinking process.  He suggests that critical thinking is the answer to understanding and solving problems basic design decisions.  According to Sasaki, the use of research, analysis, and synthesis work together to find the best solution.  Sasaki advocates for an analytical point of view as a means to solve a series of problems.  This method may be effective for determining solutions to issues that arise throughout the design process, however, it lacks a fluidity and poetry that allows the designer to reach a full potential of creativity from the early stages of design.  At the beginning of the design process, it is crucial to be flexible and open to change.  Although Sasaki suggests that that an analytical standpoint “increases the fluidity of thinking”, an over simplification of a system which relies on solution finding rather than exploring could be limiting.

‘The Art of Site Planning” by Kevin Lynch and Gary Hack argues for a cyclical form of site design rather than linier.There are particular steps that must be considered throughout the process of designing a space.However, these steps are not necessarily chronological or exist in a pure predetermined form.The authors view a site as an element that exists throughout time rather than a point in time.It is important to consider the history of a place as well as the future use of a place.

This week our studio design team shifted focus to refining our concept and determining a formal language to unite our systems-based design.   For our concept, we chose to focus on three forms of lifecycle inquiry: 24/7 cycles, seasonality, and trans-generational interaction.  As for formal concepts, we were inspired by a combination of the Greek Stoa, and the 2016 Tangshan Organic Farm project by ARCHSTUDIO.  I will be using the next few posts as a way of cataloguing some of my process work for this project, entering a period of greater design exploration.   

The Unit

The Tangshan Organic Farm project inspired our team because of its beautiful and simple form as well as its functionality.  The spaces are designed so that none of the buildings have a real “back”.  This aspect is particularly attractive to us because we are so interested in maximization.  ARCHSTUDIO achieved this condition by employing a 6’x12’ unit that is copied and pasted throughout the project. 

The Unit achieves multiple objectives. 

It produces a simple, repeatable form that can be constructed by any local team.

It is comprised of a small number of materials, all which can be obtained locally.

It builds on itself to create open and flexible spaces.

It generates a consistent form in which to deploy LBC systems.

For these reasons, we chose to explore a unit based system for creating built form on our site. My first mode of operation was to explore a series of operations which could act on a 6’x12’ unit to create different formal solutions. I consulted ‘Operative Design: A Catalog of Spacial Verbs’ by Anthony Di Mari for this process.


After exploring these opperations, I began to imagine how the volume unit could break up into columns and roofs to create real-life solutions for our project.


Next, I started to apply these units into repeating organizations to understand how they could function as a part of a greater whole.


Next. I will begin a series of inquiries to determine an organization in plan, that fits the project site.

Living Building Challenge Studio | Guiding Principles

As I have mentioned in the past, I am currently taking part in my last studio as a fifth year student at the Fay Jones School of Architecture + Design. For our final project, we have broken into interdisciplinary teams to design a new urban farmstead in Fayetteville, Arkansas. I decided to post specifically about the process as a way of documenting some of my design process. I will create a second post at a later time to show peregrinate drawings and diagrams. At this time I will simple explain the projects guiding principles. The following is an excerpt from our project statement.

Students will work in teams to plan and design a new urban farmstead for Tri-Cycle Farms as a prospective
client. This visioning plan will help to discover potential available in a larger site (than the existing one)
with a more robust program. This case study will also allow for the examination of the feasibility of the
Living Building Challenge as a model for real estate development in Northwest Arkansas.
The project site is seven and a half acres on the north side of North St. just to the east of Scull Creek
and the Razorback Greenway/Scull Creek Trail. The new program for the site is meant to make a more
robust environment in size, scope and community connection. The program will enable community and
private events, housing for temporary employees coming from local, regional and national organizations,
as well as visitors interested in ecotourism, and commercial programming related to healthy eating and
living. Program elements include, a location for food trucks, a commercial building for a restaurant
and co-working space, an event space/parking area, a community center, food hub and office core, a
permaculture farm and food forest, and the living units.

The Living Building Challenge requirements will permeate the design as the primary programmatic element.

Water harvesting, with greywater and blackwater treatment are necessary, as well as a solar
panel array between and on the commercial building and community center. Additional solar will be
needed for the living units on the north end of the site and should be placed there. Reuse of waste is
part of the ethos of permaculture and the LBC, so it will be necessary to accommodate for this (re)use
on the site.

Agenda: Create a place which maximizes use value and occupancy through multiple rhythmic lifecycles .

Guiding Principles

Balance  Revenue Generation vs Community Investment Through Rhythmic Lifecycles

We understand that in order to produce a product, there first must be resources allocated towards the project.  Community value must be derived from Resources that are generated from revenue and outside investment.  Frequency equalizers are essentially the visualization of activity levels based upon a sound’s frequencies or other measurements. Applied to a site, we are becoming interested in visualizing, or at least highlighting, the various activity levels of our site based on the programmatic spaces that compose it. Our aim is to bring attention to the latent networks and logistics present in how an urban agriculture site might operate, and specifically, showing the connections between community development and revenue generation.

Maximize new programmatic use value

Through intentional programming, the site should function at maximum use capacity as many hours of the day(night) as possible.  We believe the most resilient model is that which is being used and occupied as much as possible.  

Respond to existing form

After exploring the site, our team recognized great potential within the existing form and organization.  Although the materials are dilapidated, many of the existing buildings relate well to the human scale of adjacent open spaces.  The site also felt peaceful and secluded from the city by the existing tree lines on the perimeter.  Based on these findings, we will seek to retain as much of the existing site character and organization as possible. 

Our team identified 11 existing concrete slabs that may be modified to hold new programmatic spaces.  We will seek to use these slabs as for of organization for further LID elements within.

Respond to the Razorback Green-way

According to the Walton Family Foundation 2017 Northwest Arkansas Trail Usage Monitoring Report, the Scull Creek/North St. Intersection has the highest rate of cyclists/year of any point on the Razorback Green-way at over 200,000 and the fifth highest rate of pedestrians at almost 150,00/year.  In response to these findings, our team has identified the Green-way as a high priority for sight organization and connection.

Our design will connect to the Green-way with two major public open spaces as well as the face of the community center and restaurant.

 Create a gradient of programmatic spaces leading into the site

By designing a continuum of programmed spaces, we have the opportunity to blend agriculture, art, commercial, and public open space.  The section of the site, facing North St. should maximize visible frontage by placing the restaurant and office spaces here.  The community center will face directly on to the Green-way flanked by a public courtyard and public park/skate-park.  By placing these elements at the perimeter, users will be drawn in from the primary modes of circulation around our site. 

Once within these primary public spaces, a gradation of semi-public spaces will continue to draw users to the interior of the sight to reveal the agricultural workings.  Specific orientation and design of buildings will help to conceal and reveal these interior spaces while creating a human scaled, progression.

Catalyze existing community use on site

Upon visiting the sight, we observed many sighs of existing gorilla activity by the community.  The entire back of the sight was covered in graffiti and spray-paint art and two of the more secluded slabs near the Green-way had been turned into make-shift skate parks using discarded materials.  Our team recognized the importance oh how the sight is already being used in many ways.  We see this observation as an opportunity to provide safer alternatives to the kind of activities which currently exist by creating a skate park and walking trail available 24/7. 

Design for safe nocturnal and diurnal spaces

Security should be built into the design from the beginning by using techniques such as eyes on the street and formal preimptieveness.  Buildings will be designed with circulatory systems moved toward the exterior with clear sight lines into the landscape to maximize passive surveillance. 

The landscape is designed to decrease dead-ends and secluded areas while maintaining adequate lighting.  We believe the best way to maintain security is by activating spaces with appropriate programming to draw in people.

Tap into existing 24/7/52 networks to magnify occupation throughout multiple time cycles

24/7 spaces are not only the most resilient and efficient because they maximize use value at all times, but they also are the most inclusive.  Our design seeks to respond to the common, temporal typology of buildings and spaces which go unused for a great amount of their lifespan.  We see these spaces as inefficient and unsustainable.

Additionally, we believe that too much of our designed urban environment responds to the 9-5 condition.  As designers, we must embrace lifestyles and activities apart from those which we easily identify with.  For example, many people work shifts at night that begin and end at odd times.  Some people suffer from social anxiety or anxiety from driving in traffic and prefer to spend more time out and about during the nighttime hours to avoid crowds. 

There is a continuum of user typologies who merit the same design intention as those who operate under more standard “business hours”.  Additionally, the effects of climate change, especially in warmer climates are driving more people to come out in the evening or at night.  Nocturnal users are subject to the same needs as their day-time counterparts. 

By mapping programmatic spaces against daily, weekly, and seasonal time cycles, we intend to specifically program spaces to fit the 24/7/52 needs of the community.  Many existing 24/7 networks already exist within Fayetteville.  By tapping in to these networks, we can promote a greater capacity for activity and occupation by the community at all times.


After Hours | Importance of Nocturnal City Spaces

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When the sun sets and with it, daytime routines subside, cities become alive with a renewed energy after dark.  The nighttime urban experience stands in contrast to the day, inducing feelings of intimacy and adventure within the city.  When I think of nightlife in a city, I immediately imagine the term which refers to the social or entertainment amenities that exist in urban spaces.  Nightlife activities come with sets of associations and cater to a younger crowd often revolving around alcohol consumption and partying.  This demographic is seen by residents, property owners, and policy makers as undesirable.  However, there are other night dwellers outside of this vocal minority who deserve recognition.

As a designer, I am constantly filtering decisions subjectively through my own set of beliefs and assumptions about the world.  When I think about people in the night, who comes to mind?  Am I reacting based of my assumptions and fears of the dark or am I thinking critically about other types of users who live lifestyles different from my own? 

I believe that too much of our designed urban environment responds to the 9-5 condition.  As designers, we must embrace lifestyles and activities apart from those which we easily identify with.  For example, many people work shifts at night that begin and end at odd times.  Some people suffer from social anxiety or anxiety from driving in traffic and prefer to spend more time out and about during the nighttime hours to avoid crowds.  My point is that there is a continuum of people typologies who deserve the same recognition as those who operate under more standard “business hours”.  Additionally, the effects of climate change, especially in warmer climates are driving more people to come out in the evening or at night.  Nocturnal users are subject to the same needs as their day-time counterparts, which leads me to consider the value of 24/7 services.


24/7 services refer to a commercial industry which operates constantly.  Businesses such as 24-hour dinners take advantage of a consumer base looking for a greasy 2:00am snack after a night on the town but they also offer a haven for people who do not feel comfortable being in public during the day.  The 24/7 industry includes services such as hotels, self-serve laundry facilities, and convince stores as well as call and data centers.  Additionally, there are some services that mandate 24/7 use because of their essential function within a city.  My appendix does not care what time of night it may be when it decides to become inflamed.  Hospitals, police stations, and other emergency facilities provide urgent care around the clock. 


There is a third form of service which falls in between emergency response providers and those commercial businesses which seek to capitalize on nocturnal activity.  These services I will call Dilemma centers.  Dilemma centers consist of services that walk the line between essential and convenient.  It may not always be important for them to be open at night, however, in a pinch, the absence of a functioning Dilemma Center can quickly become a severe problem.  Some examples of Dilemma Centers include counseling facilities, safe injection sights, animal hospitals, auto repair, and pharmacies.  These places provide services that are essential to society but exist on a slightly lower priority from emergency response services like fire departments and hospitals

Often, public spaces in the city are designed to simply become an extension of the day.  Over lit spaces extenuate the same, diurnal characteristics, rather than augmenting the night.  However, the role of the designer is to design for all and for safety.  I believe that spaces can be designed to accomplish safe inhabitation at night by considering three objectives: Passive Surveillance, Formal Preemptiveness, and Activated Space.   

Passive Surveillance

I was first exposed to the concept of passive surveillance in Jane Jacobs book ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’.  In her book, Jacobs details the concept of ‘eyes on the street.  Jacobs loved watching the movement of people on the street from her apartment and believed that people watching from buildings incited a safer environment.

You can’t make people watch streets they do not want to watch. Safety on the streets by surveillance and mutual policing of one another sounds grim, but in real life it is not grim. The safety of the street works best, most casually, and with least frequent taint of hostility or suspicion precisely where people are using and most enjoying the streets voluntarily and are least conscious, normally, that they are policing.
— Jane Jacobs

In the Frauen Werk-Stadt project in Vienna, the primary circulation of the buildings are pulled to the exterior and enclosed by glass to magnify passive surveillance by interior users.  People are most attentive of their surrounds while in motion so by moving the building circulation to the perimeter, the number of eyes to the exterior are maximized.



Formal Preemptiveness

English philosopher. Jeremy Bentham proposed a building meant to “irradiate bad behavior”.  Benthams proposal consisted of a circular building with a tall watchtower in the center.  This model has been widely criticized for being overly intrusive.  Instead, I believe security should be built into design from the initial conception.  Public spaces like the Parc André Citroën in Paris integrate sight lines and clustered, visible open spaces to maximize security.  These spaces anticipate insecurity and seek to combat these conditions through initial form.  This formal primitiveness incorporates aspects of vision including sight lines and lighting but also gives way to other senses.  Night spaces should be designed with high levels of tactility and audible sensitivity.  These spaces should also be intentional to not create dead-ends or secluded spaces.  Circulation should be clear and overlapping.



Acticated Space

Possibly the most intuitive; spaces are safest when they are filled with people.  Activating a space with specific nocturnal programming will draw people to the area at night.  Programs like skate parks, restaurants, outdoor theaters and venues fill public spaces with people.  However, these elements often take time to take hold.  By understanding the potential of a space and the movements of people around it, elements can be placed that catalyze movement and occupation.  Tactical urbanism techniques may define a space for pedestrians through markings on the ground plane, lighting is added, and street furniture allow passers by a place to sit and relax, soon a hot dog stand moves in to take advantage of the new gathering space, in turn, attracting new visitors.  This step-by-step approach eventually can build into greater site programming as investors and stakeholders mount.


 Nocturnal city spaces hold an important straw within the urban framework.  By defining these spaces more intentionally, I believe that they can become safer, and more beneficial to society.  When recognizing nocturnal spaces, designers also act more inclusively to all user groups and address important issues concerning climate change, and relative norms within work cycles.  I believe that designers and we as society, should seek to recognize a greater capacity for nocturnal inhabitation.   



Landscapes Mean? | Ambiguous Words and Their Context

In his essay ‘Must Landscapes Mean?’, Marc Treib examines attempts at bringing meaning into landscape design.  Treib points out several techniques and limitations for the use of meaning in the landscape as well as questioning the significance of meaning.  Trieb argues that meaning is derived not completely by any one dimension inscribed within the place but by an awareness of the user as a part of a greater societal whole.  According to Treib, a symbolic system of understanding ‘place’ exists inherently within the human make-up; significance and meaning exists not as an accessory to design but is ultimately created by the recipient.  This way of thinking shifts control to the user and infers restraint and a cognizant approach to design.  Treib lays out Six approaches currently employed by designers: the Neoarchaic, the Genius of the Place, the Zeitgeist, the Vernacular Landscape, the Didactic and the Theme Garden.  In the title of his essay, Trieb asks must landscapes mean?  My question is does landscapes mean?  In this essay, I will examine the the word meaning as it applies to landscapes by framing it within an argument for meaningless words and their context, presented by American Philosopher John Hospers.  Hospers is addressing the question “What does this piece of music mean?” but I will substitute this question for “what does landscape mean” or “do landscapes mean”?

John Hospers (in Meaning and Truth in the Arts (University of North Carolina Press, 1946) p.76) wrote:

“No word has meaning ... in itself; it has no meaning until it is given meaning by someone; lacking this, it is simply a row of marks on paper or uttered sounds. Most of the words in our language have been given meanings long ago, and this meaning has been agreed upon by the users of our language, so that the words have come by convention to stand for the things they now stand for, and all we have to do is learn them. Many words have several meanings ... and are called ambiguous words--in these cases we learn their multiple meanings; this is true of the word "meaning" along with thousands of other words. This word has a meaning when applied in such situations as "meaning of a word," "meaning of his behavior," etc. But just as words do not always have the same meaning in different contexts (as we have just seen in. the case of the word "meaning" itself), there are contexts in which it has no meaning until it is given a meaning for that context. Thus, as we now use the word "on," the statement "The glass is on the table" has meaning but "The glass is on the universe" does not; the word "on" has been given meaning only within a certain physical context, and when it is not applied within that context it becomes simply a sound or mark on paper. The same is true for the word "meaning." It has a definite meaning ... in the ordinary situations referred to above, but when applied to a situation such as "What does this piece of music mean? it does not, since the word "meaning" has been given no meaning in that context.”

In this passage, Hospers is ultimately addressing the question ‘what does this piece of music mean?’  I am using the word ‘address’ here rather than ‘reply’ or ‘answer’ because I believe Hospers is arguing that this question is inherently uninformed and cannot be answered without more context being provided to the word ‘meaning’.  For the  sake of my own thoughts, I will replace music with landscape.  Although the application is different, the premises stay the same.  I believe that by understanding the root of the word itself, I can look at the conversation about meaning in landscape through a new lense.  Hospers argues that all ambiguous words have a context in which they mean nothing.  The word meaning, itself, is an ambiguous word.  Therefore, there is a context in which it has no meaning.  I will go on to explain how Hospers uses history, convention, ambiguity, and context play a role in clarifying this argument. 

A word is a type of agent that acts to catalyze phenomenon and communication.  Words are symbols for phenomenon that allow us to communicate and describe things. These symbols cannot exist in isolation. By definition, a symbol is used as a conventional representation for some object, process, idea, etc...  Symbols must be given a framework in which to exist.  From this, we can understand that words do not inherently contain meaning on their own.  Every word has an origin.  Words originate when a person represents a phenomenon with a spoken or written symbol. This description becomes agreed upon over time by a matter of convention by other people. 

Hospers points out that many words are ambiguous because they have been given multiple meanings.  We know that all words originated with some person at a point in time.  People are flawed so it is understandable to me that over time, the same word may evolve to have multiple meanings. I can think of a few possible explanations for how the same word may have come to represent different phenomenon.  Perhaps the same word evolved, in isolation within multiple cultures simultaneously until it eventually merged as communication became more advanced?  This may be the case sometimes but ultimately, I believe in a more deliberate explanation. It is my opinion that words evolved to have multiple meanings through convention, as people intentionally expanded on their symbolism and applied them to multiple contexts, thus creating a more efficient form of communication.  Like a Swiss Army Knife, multifaceted words can be used in a greater variety of situations.  However, remember that Hospers is arguing that ambiguity leads to the capacity for a word to mean nothing at all. 

The key here is context.  People attach words to various contexts in order to communicate.  When words are paired with context, they have the opportunity to become complex and expand their capacity for dynamism.  If two people are experiencing the same physical context, there is already a basis of shared information.  With this basis, words can represent multiple phenomenon because they are describing something known.  This allows for a less tedious and more efficient form of communication in which every phenomenon does not require a direct symbol but can be described using an ambiguous symbol pared with context.  However, if the basis is not known, the word actually lacks meaning all together.  If a words meaning is derived from context, and context is something that we must understand, if we do not understand the context, the word is meaningless.

Hospers uses a Categorical Specification to argue his point.  Every A is a B.  c is an A, therefore c is a B. The word ‘meaning’ is being used her as an example of an ambiguous word.  Harper says that all ambiguous words have a context in which they mean nothing.  As discussed earlier, words are agents that have a dynamic capacity to describe both anything or nothing, depending on the context they are tied to and our understanding of that context.  Because of this, we understand that words can and are often ambiguous. The word ‘meaning’, is an ambiguous word.  Therefore, as in the case of ‘what does landscape mean?’, it has no meaning.

to answer the question “do landscapes mean?” the answer is; sometimes.  Landscapes do not have acquire any meaning through design.  Trieb compares meaning in landscape to the oxidation process on the surface of certain metals as they whether overtime saying:

“Significance, I believe is not a designers construct that benignly accompanies the completion of construction.  It is not the product of the maker, but is, instead, created by the receivers.  Like a patina, significance is acquired only with time.  And like a patina, it emerges only if the conditions are right.” 



Fish to Form | Sustainable Values in Placemaking

My interest in sustainability began long before I was even aware of the field of landscape architecture.  I grew up fishing for small mouth bass with my grandfather in the turquoise poos of backwoods Ozark streams.  Throughout my childhood, I developed a great appreciation for our natural resources and how to act as good stewards of the land, air, and water.  To this day, I can usually be found on a free afternoon, somewhere down a creek searching for smallmouth or trout.  As a fisherman, I understand the delicate ecosystems which make up life in an Ozark waterway.  Smallmouth bass can live to be over twenty years old and the large ones are usually experienced enough to recognize a crawfish pattern for an imposter if it is even slightly the wrong color for that location.  Likewise, as a student of landscape architecture, I am aware of the vast and complex systems which directly affect people and their environment.


As a landscape architecture student, my greatest two interests are sustainability and equality.  I am interested in sustainable systems, environmental justice and urban placemaking. I believe that the next generation of designers entering the workforce will have the opportunity to be involved in a new shift in thinking about sustainable urban public spaces.  I believe there should be a shift in thinking about urban public spaces to fulfilling a more vital role in urban design.  Public spaces historically have been formed simply as the space between buildings, however they have the potential to influence sustainable design in a greater urban fabric as. I believe that public spaces can step into a new roll of dictating urban form through an approach centered around people and sustainable systems.

Human Ecosystems

In his book, ‘Design for Human Ecosystems: Landscape, Land Use, and Natural Resources’ John T. Lyle presented a common view of compartmentalized landscape tropes that include places for people and places for nature.  In addition, Lyle proposed the category spaces of compromise.  However, according to Lyle, this fragmented view is still too narrow. This category acts as an inadequate and unhealthy representation of how to think about shared space.  Rather than viewing shared spaces as compromise, Lyle suggests the design of “Human Ecosystems”.

Lyle advocates for three organizational techniques used for shaping human ecosystems: scale, design process, and order.  Understanding how people interact with ecosystems is fundamental for success.  Ecological consciousness as well as environmental values must exist before the creation of form.  I believe that ecological processes must be made legible through a design orientation centered around sustainability.


Ecosystems exist on a vast variety of scales and all ecosystems exist as a part of a larger whole; this includes urban ecosystems.  From the larger forests and rivers that surround the city to the weeds growing up through cracks in the sidewalk, there exists a connection and a similarity.  These facets of nature are functioning identically apart from location and scale.  In an era of increased global population and increasing consumption pressures, it is vital, as designers and society that we understand the complex interactions of people and the environment, we must move away from the concept that the city exists solely in opposition to nature but rather as a piece of the larger framework.


Design Process

The design process effects the formation of human ecosystems through the ideological constructs of designers, planners, policy makers, and users.  As a future designer I have a responsibility to create lasting, ecologically inspired spaces that function within the natural limits of their environment.  These landscapes should be sustainable within a functioning urban environment with ecological and sustainable values.


Finally, underlying order is vital to the design of human ecosystems.  As a society, we have created vast ecological and environmental problems now which require multifaceted solutions. Lyle references structure, function, and location as rudiments of order.  After graduation from the Fay Jones School of Architecture + Design, I plan to pursue a master’s degree in sustainable urban systems to further my knowledge of sustainable urban systems and gain a greater understanding of the important facets of placemaking.


Depletion of fossil fuels.  Solid Waste creation. Global warming. Water scarcity. Loss of biodiversity.  I believe that I can have an impact in combatting all these challenges while addressing needs of people, such as mobility, shelter, and communication; all in a more sustainable matter.  It is time for designers to step up and take on a more active role in society of leaders in sustainability.

Just like my love of fishing, I understand that to be affective in this realm requires dedication and attention to detail.  I hope to learn as much as I can about scale, design process, and order and how these aspects can be applied to contribute to a more sustainable future. 


Captain Kirk | Urban Designer


The role of the designer has become a topic of greater discussion in the evolving and increasingly complex system of landscape architecture, architecture, and particularly urban design.  Historically, urban design as emerged from one of two opposing beliefs.  Design should consist of either top-down design (New Urbanism) or Bottom-up Stewardship (Everyday Urbanism).  Top-down design techniques like master-planning may be appropriate for new, small-scale, monoculture or private designs but fail instantly when applied to existing cities.  Urban design deals with more reclamation and renovation than it does actual new place making. Complex cultural and physical systems of structure often make bottom-up approaches like tactical urbanism and gorilla urbanism seam more practical.  These practices of stewardship may achieve a higher level of sensitivity and place specificity; however, they often lack enough robust development to effect change on a noticeable scale throughout the city.

Landscape Urbanism offers a third option to this top-down vs. bottom-up dichotomy.  LU seeks to understand the existing systems to streamline or processes on a perceptible scale.  This type of design is focused on when it is appropriate to deploy tactics apposed to comprehensive planning.  LU prioritizes the outcome over the approach. ‘Fast-Forward Urbanism’ by Dana Cuff and Roger Sherman outline the following five tools for Landscape Urbanism.

  • Surface
  • Programmatic indeterminacy
  • Information
  • Change over time
  • Form as a unit of organization, as having catalytic agency.

Landscape Urbanism comes the closest to a system that I believe addresses contemporary issues.  However, I think that there is still a lot of work to be done on strategies of urban design and I am hesitant to approve any single school of thought. I like LU because it brings to light the need for greater dialogue and accountability between all parites. 

Structure of Mind

Freudian theory is most interesting to me, not because it gives an accurate description of pcycology but because Freud was a master of storytelling through archetypes. 

Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis, a clinical method for treating psychopathology through dialogue between a patient and a psychoanalyst.  Freud believed that humans develop over time through conflicts within the structure of their mind. 

Freud believed that the mind is made up of three aspects of consciousness: The Id, The Ego, and the Super Ego. Freud called this the psychic apparatus’.  All three components need to be balanced to achieve high levels of mental health and stability.  The Id represents a persons emotional reasoning, often referred to as ones instincts.  The super ego constitutes rational behavior and morality.  The Ego is the most conscious aspect of the mind that negotiates between Id and the Super Ego to determine courses of action.  The basic dilemma is that each element of the psychic apparatus makes demands upon a person that are incompatible with the other two. Inner conflict is inevitable.

Freuds structure has often been used as an example for movie tropes.  The Ego is usually the protagonist, incorporating feedback from the Id and Super-ego to find a solution.  For example: Spock provides the logic, Mccoy responds from his emotions, Kirk finds a way to save the day.  Other movie examples include: (The Lord of the Rings - Frodo, Sam, Gollum), Harry Potter, and the Hangover. 


Role of the Designer

As society has become more complex over time, so have design problems.  The desires of the client and the user often are in competition.  Good design in my opinion, is design which satisfies the needs of the people who use it.  However, in public projects, the people who use it are usually not the people paying for it. The role of the designer can be compared to Freuds structure of the human mind.  In this case, the Id represents the users and the super ego represents the client(s) and the Ego represents the designer.

I believe the role of the designer is that of a mediator.  The designer should act as a type of double agent who advocates for the needs of the user while seeking orchestrate the demands of the client and ultimately using thier expertis and experience to navigate to the best solution.  Without clients, there are no resources, without users, there is no demand.  Here in lies the dilemma just like Freuds model for the human mind.  I believe that there should be a cultural shift in how we think about development, especially in urban settings.  Clients and users should take on a greater level of involvement and responsibility.  Clients must be willing to understand greater pressures and ramifications of development just as users take on a more community driven view towards NIMBYism and functionalism.  The urban client and user will always be in competition but perhaps, between expanding views towards collaboration and a designer who is equipped with skills to understand and advocate for both sides, there is hope for a more sophisticated process of development. 


Resilient Systems in the Face of Disaster | from ‘Deep Community Resilience’ by Jason McLennan

The size and number of community disasters are increasing globally.  Natural disasters like the hurricane flooding of New Orleans or the F5 tornado in Joplin, MO have triggered a new discourse about how communities should respond after a disaster.  In his essay ‘Deep Community Resilience’, Jason McLennan discusses how communities should be preparing for a coming age of challenges.  McLennan suggests that through the understanding of fragility and the new realities of climate change, communities should rethink concepts of power and work to create more decentralized systems that are scaled appropriately in order to become more resilient in the face of disasters. 


When disasters strike, people respond across a wide scale.  Often, the relief efforts are coordinated from different cities and resources must be organized from greater regions to obtain solutions for the effected area.  Societies inherently must respond and rebuild after disasters to maintain quality of life.  However, McLennan points out that the focus should be more on working to prevent or mitigate damages rather than simply rebuilding the same way again and again.  Cultural and physical vulnerabilities can be identified and modified to better withstand what is to come.  We should be learning from our victories and mistakes to be proactive about designing more resilient systems.

Understanding Fragility

Our societies are less resilient than they have ever been throughout history.  Overpopulation places more people in harms way, particularly in flood and earthquake zones.  Dangerous technologies and resource extraction such as deep-water drilling, fracking, and nuclear energy increase the chances of natural disasters while our societies dependence on fossil fuels continuously contribute to global warming and climate change. In addition, the way that contemporary cities have been designed, spread people out over great areas.  Sprawl creates cultural separations as well as being highly expensive and difficult to support.  As the population rises, we will continue to become more fragile and need to seek new solutions. 

New Realities v. Old Habits

Many experts believe that we have already lost the battle against climate change.  Projections suggest that it is already too late to viably reduce emotions enough to avoid catastrophic disaster.  The question is not ‘how can we avoid damage?’ but ‘how can we thrive and continue to survive in a damaged environment’? 

The typical scenario today consists of a large-scale crisis that triggers an outpouring of relief aid from large outsourced institutions such as FEMA or The Red Cross to help the community rebuild as it was before.  McLennan argues against this pattern saying “Why would these communities return to business as usual in the wake of devastation?  Why wouldn’t they re-think the way they re-build so that they can be more resilient the next time around”? 

Rethinking Concepts of Power

We all have memories of the power going out in our home.  Candles and blankets are brought out as we wait for the electricity to be restored by some abstract, exterior power.  This scenario is almost romanticized because we know that it is only temporary.  But there is always the bit of uneasiness because of the small thought of ‘what f the lights don’t come back on?’  

McLennan refers to this feeling as the unconscious awareness of our fragility.  We are beginning to become aware as a society that we are tethered to unsustainable practices.  Our The complex systems we have created to support our way of life have become our greatest weakness as a society in the face of disaster.  As a comparison, McLennan gives the example of the Amish community.  The Amish build structure together with their neighbors, they learn how to fix the tools they use on a daily basis, they grow their own food, and have no centralized infrastructure in which all systems are tied.  As a culture, we often refer to this kind of lifestyle as ‘backwards’.  However, there is a lot to be learned from these tactics.  A decentralized infrastructure and centralized cultural fabric are the bedrock of a resilient community.

Ingredients to a Resilient Community

1.       Resilient Infrastructure

Resilient communities are dense and walkable with human-based relationships to buildings.  These communities have sustainable water systems that work to capture and use water on site along with treating waste water.  Renewable and simple energy sources such as solar, wind-power, hydro-power, or geo-thermal are implemented instead of a central power grid.  Resilient communities should be site-specific; responding to their unique character, climate, and available resources.

2.       Resilient Culture

People who live in resilient communities know their neighbors.  People understand their role in society and value cultural elements of caring for the weak and elderly, educating children in a safe environment, and inclusion of all people, regardless of difference.  In resilient cultures, people know how to build and fix what they used.  People grow what they eat and understand where their food comes from.  Most importantly, resilient cultures collaborate and share knowledge to better the community. 

3.       Resilient Individuals

Individuals should understand their role and responsibility within a greater social framework.  Before, or In the wake of disasters, individuals should understand how their skills can be valuable to the community.

If our society is to succeed in the face of impending future disasters, we must become more resilient as individuals, as a culture, and in the way that we build.  A radical paradigm shift must occur in the way that we scale systems.  These systems should be site specific and agile.  We must understand how to better harvest and store resources in a more sustainable manner.  Current practices should be revisited and altered to reduce their impact and strategic reserves of resources should be built up on the community level.    Communities should rethink concepts of power by learning from the past and educating the next generation on the realities that we face.  Resilience should be discussed in the classroom along with practical skills and a philosophy of connectedness.  Finally, we should strive to create new models for resilient infrastructure and decentralized solutions that measure the carrying capacities of regions and respond appropriately. 


Thoughts On Beauty (3/3) | Anima Loci

In March 2017, The Egg Collective, a visiting design firm based in Brooklyn, NY spoke to students and faculty in Fayetteville as a part of the Fay Jones School of Architecture + Design Lecture Series. The lecturers posed a question to the audience

What is good and what is beautiful?

I believe this question was posed to challenge each individual to think critically about themselves and develop and sense of purpose.  To answer this question personally, I began to think about my priorities both in design and daily as a person; what do I consider to be good and, or beautiful in my life and in my work?  Now, over a year later, I am revisiting this question as I conclude my thoughts on beauty in design.

Good things are held in esteem as something valuable.  To create something good requires intelligence… the application of knowledge and skills in order to solve a problem.  Things that are good represent a solution that can stand the test of time and exist as an example of excellence.  Likewise, moments that are good in my life stand out as accomplishments that I have worked to achieve.  Nevertheless, as time passes, often, things that are good begin to fade… What once was celebrated as the pinnacle of an era, now slips from memory as new challenges arise.  Good things often turn out to just be trends.  This has led me to look deeper in introspection in search of what is beautiful.

I have previously suggested that beauty in design may be a type of value.  I have preceded to talk about value in terms of place, and nature (Genius Loci, Biophillia).  Now, it is time for me connect all the dots. 

**At this point, I am going to take a deep dive into the “that’s just your opinion”.  Up until this point, I have been writing about things that are intersubjective; that is, they may or may not be factual, but they are, at least ideas that are fundamentally agreed upon by groups of people.  For my concussion, I’ll be firmly planted in ideas that are just subjective.  But that is okay, in fact, I believe this is the only way it should be.  Ultimately, it is important for us to each decide for ourselves what is good and what is beautiful.  Beauty should always be subjective at its conclusion.

Animo Loci

We and our environment are constantly changing.  As people mature, their views change, and they may choose to act differently.  Likewise, our environment is living and maturing as well.  I am moved as an individual by realizing that everything and everyone in life has the capacity to change for the better.  I believe that this capacity to develop and grow represents utmost beauty.

Throughout history, people have invented archetypes to make concepts of one’s capacities more tangible.  Ideas like the Tripartite have existed since they were introduced as religious themes in the middle ages.  In Christian and Muslim theology, ideas of the Tripartite suggest that human kind is formed of three distinct parts: body, soul, and spirit.    I will be using the Tripartite as an analogy to explain my view of beauty.

Body: the place

Soul: The Life Source

Spirit: The Mind.

Body | The Place

The Body of the place is the physical.  The body is the literal location.  It has boundaries, quantities, and physical capacities.  Peoples bodies have evolved alongside the body of places for all of time.  We have physical characteristics that have evolved in response to the earths body and we understand its laws. 

Why is it beautiful?  We find beauty in the body because it is how we have evolved.  We understand that the earth is our home.

Soul | The Lifesource | Genis Loci

In ancient Greece, the soul of something represents the part of the whole that leaves when it dies.  The soul represents the life source.  For example, plants have souls, but rocks do not.  The soul represents change; it is ephemeral, and it is unique. I believe when Pope first wrote about Genius Loci in terms of place, we was thinking about the Soul.   Genius Loci refers to the character of a place.  How does the wind blow through this place?   Which direction does the sun cast shadows and where do plants grow?

Why is it beautiful?  The soul is what makes each place different.  The soul inspires us and satisfies us by giving us emotions like “I’m home” or “I’m in awe of this beautiful mountain range”.

Spirit | The Mind | Anima Loci

This is the new one that I made up… Animo is Latin for spirit or mind.  Historically, the spirit is talking about something’s conscience.  The spirit is the part of the whole that wants things.  For example, people have spirits but plants do not.  In short, the spirit is the capacity to think.  Anima Loci goes beyond the character of a place and how it may change over time.  Anima Loci is concerned with what the place wants, what has it felt in the past, what is its capacity for change in the future?  

This idea of capacity goes beyond forecasting natural or cultural trends to understand how a place could change over time.  This idea incorporates potential.  When we see the potential in anything, it gives us hope.  Someone reading this may think that the act of hopefulness is not a quality of place but simply an emotion from ones self.  I would agree.  Understanding The spirit or the mind of a place, requires one to have a mind of their own.  This mind-to-mind contentedness is both mutually vulnerable and powerful.  Beauty is constituted by the physical, the ephemeral, and in this case, the emotional.  Anima Loci is the hopefulness of place.  From this quality, we are given the ability to animate a place and chose how we steward or inhabite a place correctly. 

Why is it beautiful?  capacity = potential = hope = beauty 

I chose daily, to see potential.  Every individual is valuable, and their stories deserve to be understood.  Likewise, I chose to see the potential in places and to see potential in our environment.  Every place, big or small, has the potential to reveal a narrative.  As I write this, the narrative that humans are revealing (imposing) on our environment is not a positive one, yet there is still capacity to change.  I have learned that as a designer, I have the great opportunity to become involved in a much larger story about people and place I see this transformative process as beautiful

Thoughts on Beauty (2/3) | Biophillia


Biophillia suggests that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life.  Edward O. Wilson introduced the concept in his book, Biophilia (1984). He defines biophilia as

the urge to affiliate with other forms of life.

Wilson argues that this urge is fundamental to all people because of humankind's history evolving alongside the land.  Historically, people have always been sustained by nature.  Today, our society has a diminished relationship with nature compared to our relatives.  In an increasingly urbanized and outsourced world, many people lack basic understanding of natural processes.  However, the effects of biophilia can still be felt strongly, even if subconsciously.  Studies have shown that hospital patients who have visual access to something growing outside have better recovery times and workers who have access to nature are more productive.  

Natural Language

In ‘The Language of Landscape’, Ann Whiston Spirn suggests that landscape is a language that “makes thought tangible and imagination possible”. Landscape is its own language; in fact, Spirn begins by stating that landscape is our native language.  The sky, water, and elements on the earth speak to humans and inform us on where to find food, water, and shelter.  Spirn compares nature to verbal language by using examples of speech, story lines, metaphors, and dialogues.  Forms in the landscape inform human behavior and interaction.  They also act as a library of knowledge to look back on as a resource.  Natural landscapes suggest a rhythm that informs culture and human patterns of life.  Spirn calls for a fluency in landscape language to be cultivated and not lost.  Understanding the landscape holistically and the deep context imbedded in all facets of the nature are paramount for the success of design. 

Human Ecosystems

Human The Living Buildings Challenge introduces biophilia as a vital aspect of design.  Within the Health and happiness Petal, the LBC mandates a ‘biophilic environment.

Examples of biophilic design can be found here.

In ‘Design for Human Ecosystems’ John T. Lyle examines the theory of compartmentalized landscape tropes into a variety of categories subdivided into places for people and places for nature.  One category forms the spaces of compromise.  According to Lyle, this fragmented view of landscape is too narrow. The ‘compromise’ category acts as an inadequate and unhealthy representation of how to think about shared space.  In ‘The Granite Garden’, Ann Whiston Spirn agrees that with this rejection of separation.  According to Whiston Spirn, nature is a continuum with wilderness at one pole and city at the other.  However, the same ecological processes exist in both.  Rather than viewing shared spaces as compromise, Lyle suggests the design of human Ecosystems.

Lyle advocates for three organizational techniques used for shaping human ecosystems: scale, design process, and order.  Understanding appropriately scaled ecosystems is fundamental for  success.  Ecological consciousness as well as environmental values must exist before the creation of form.  Ecological processes must be made legible through a design orientation centered around biophillia.  The Living Buildings Challenge introduces biophilia as a vital aspect of design.  Within the Health and happiness Petal, the LBC mandates a ‘biophilic environment.

Examples of biophilic design can be found here.

A Larger Framework

An ecosystem can exist on any scale.  Ann Whiston Spirn calls the earth a “garden planate” and presents that a city is a garden made up of many tiny gardens.  All ecosystems exist as a part of a larger whole; this includes urban ecosystems.  From the larger forests and rivers that surround the city to the weeds growing up through cracks in the sidewalk, there exists a connection and a similarity.  These facets of nature are functioning identically apart from location and scale.  Whiston Spirn rejects the concept that the city exists in opposition to nature but rather as a piece of the larger framework.

A Deeper Need

Humans do not exist in isolation from the rest of the natural world.  We are, tethered to our environment. In ‘Design with Nature’ Ian Mcharg references his response to a “deeper need” to retreat into places of nature and calls people co-tenants of the earth.  With this in mind, people should seek to build biophilic order into their designs.  Order in design may be overlooked as a visual construction; however, this order references a much more complex relationship between fragile natural processes and the processes of people.  Lyle references structure, function, and location as rudiments of order.  Order reflects human kinds dependency on land ethic. 

Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language.
— Aldo Leopold - ‘A Sand County Almanac’

Nature is Beauty.  Our world is beautiful and fragile and we are a part of it.   Biophilia is that understanding that we are united with nature and an understanding that we are dependent on nature.  This is a vulnerable contract with our environment.  Ian Mcharg continually speaks to the critical role of nature for human existence not only as resources but for well-being; saying:

Our eyes do not divide us from the world but unite us with it.

Thoughts on Beauty (1/3) | Genius Loci


I am currently studying at the Fay Jones School of Architecture + Design at the University of Arkansas as a fifth-year student in landscape architecture.  For my ninth and final studio, I am a part of an inter-disciplinary studio including landscape architecture students, interior design students, and architecture students.  The studio is led by landscape architecture department chair and professor Ken McCown and landscape architecture Professor Scott Biehle.  This purpose of this studio is to take part in the Living Buildings Challenge.  The Living Buildings Challenge ‘is a certification program that defines the most advanced measure of sustainability—providing a framework for design, construction and the symbiotic relationship between people and all aspects of the built environment’.

The Living Buildings Challenge is organized into seven performance areas called Petals.  These Petals include Place, Water, Energy, health & Happiness, Materials, Equity, and Beauty.  I would argue that these seven areas are a fantastic way of organizing almost any design.  Although all seven Petals are complexly interconnected, I would like to spend some time thinking about the final Petal – Beauty.  

I have been fascinated with the idea beauty, even since before my days in design school.  As a child, I was fortunate to be a part of a family who prioritized traveling.  I think this was important for a number of reasons.  First, traveling exposed me from a young age to people and the places they lived that were different from home.  My parents allowed an open dialog about these differences and it helped me to understand more walks of life and be more opened minded about people.  Secondly, on our trips, we often took the road less traveled and stayed at local establishments which allowed me to have a better understanding of the regional vernacular. This was important because it expanded my thinking about concepts like place, home, environment.  These trips always left me feeling extremely fulfilled and happy.  I relished the opportunity to see new beautiful things, and I felt a renewed appreciation of home after we returned. So what was it about these beautiful places and experiences that made them beautiful?  Why were they inspiring to me, even as a child?  How can these principles be implemented in design to make things beautiful?

  **While discussing the concept of beauty, I will be viewing it through the lens of design; specifically design of the built environment and even more specifically, Landscape Architecture.  

First, I will point out that I am aware of the vast amount of literature and thinking that exists on the topic of beauty within design.  I will in no way attempt to tackle the origins or fundamentals of beauty as an architectural or philosophical concept (sorry to disappoint you if you came here for the form vs. function debate).  As I have stated before, this blog is intended for both critical thought and self-evaluation, so I will simply be grappling with what beauty means to me. 

Axiology is the study of the nature of value.  Within Axiology are sub-components of ethics and aesthetics.  I can assert that in for my purposes, beauty = a kind of value.  However, the question remains, what is value?  Valuable to whom?  How is Value represented or manifested?  I will be thinking about these axiological questions and breaking down a response broken into four parts.  

1. Genis Loci           2. Biophillia           3. Place Potential

 The Living Buildings Challenge answers some of the questions I have about beauty within the context of built design.  Instead of offering a definition, the LBC suggests a construction of building blocks beginning with Sense of Place + Communication

beauty diagram [Converted].jpg

Genus Loci

In classical Roman religion, a Genius Loci (plural genii loci) was the protective spirit of a place.  The idea of Genius Loci evolved to become a term referring to the unique and special character of a place.  The 18th century English poet Alexander Pope made the Genius Loci an important principle in garden and landscape design with the following lines:

Consult the genius of the place in all;
That tells the waters or to rise, or fall;
Or helps th’ ambitious hill the heav’ns to scale,
Or scoops in circling theatres the vale;
Calls in the country, catches opening glades,
Joins willing woods, and varies shades from shades,
Now breaks, or now directs, th’ intending lines;
Paints as you plant, and, as you work, designs.

Pope's verse laid the foundation for one of the most widely agreed upon principles of landscape architecture. This is the principle that landscape designs should be adapted to the context in which they are located.  Arguably, the most beautiful designs are rooted in place.  These designs incorporate specific value and understanding about local culture, and vernacular while also working to extenuate the spatial and material character of a place.  


In ‘Signature-Based Landscape Design’, Joan Woodward addresses relationships in the environment.  According to Woodward, relationships both natural and cultural act as signatures of place.  These signatures play a role on a regional level as indicators of function and appropriate human response.  Patterns and systems act to inform people as “artifacts of a formative process” which in turn, guides the creation of new spaces.  

The built environment differs from other forms of art in that its intention is to be inhabited.  Users of the site, may or may not understand all of the intention of the designer but can find meaning through the design.So how should users be informed about a place?  How is meaning communicated?  In his essay ‘Must Landscapes Mean?, Marc Treib examines attempts at bringing meaning into landscape design.  Treib points out several techniques and limitations for the use of meaning in the landscape as well as questioning the significance of meaning.  Trieb argues that meaning is derived not completely by a semantic dimension inscribed within the design but by an awareness of the user as a part of a greater societal whole.  According to Treib, a symbolic system of understanding that place exists inherently within the human make-up; significance and meaning exists not as an accessory to design but is ultimately created by the recipient.  This way of thinking shifts control to the user and infers restraint and a cognizant approach to design.  In my opinion, every place communicates something.  I believe that the most beautiful places, are those with a message.  Places that inspire us and educate us are places of value. 



‘That’s Just Like, Your Opinion, Man’ | An Introduction

I wanted to begin these writings with an introduction, not so much one of myself but of my goals for this blog. It’s important for me to be clear about how I organize my thoughts and the motivation behind them, even if they are rambling or abstract in nature.


Share Inspiration

Organize my own thoughts

Critically examine concepts and beliefs

Be Encouraging

Share Inspiration

I identify with the “you can’t learn anything while you’re talking” quote.  (I’m not sure who said it originally).  I tend to be a listener because I genuinely crave inspiration.  It is important for me to be inspired every day.  I think it is fundamental to my health and existence.  Because I value being inspired by others, I hope to use this blog to exit my comfort zone in some and share inspirations and things that I learn about so that others can experience them as well.  I think this will also help me process more deeply but I’ll get to that in a moment.

Organize My Thoughts

Let me begin the way the last section ended… In his book ‘The Letters’, Jack Kerouac says:

He [William S Burroughs] has no patience for my kind of neurosis, I know... But since then I’ve been facing my nature full in the face and the result is a purge.

I think Kerouac is talking about the release that comes from self-examination and the mechanism of coping with thoughts through writing.  My hope is that this blog can act as something similar for me as I comb through and try to make sense of what is important out of the vast amounts of content I am exposed to daily. 

Critically Examine Concepts and Beliefs               

In his book ‘A Treatise of Human Nature, (1739) Scotish philosopher David Hume introduces the Is-Ought Problem.

In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary way of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when of a sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is, however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, ‘tis necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same time that a reason should be given, for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it. But as authors do not commonly use this precaution, I shall presume to recommend it to the readers; and am persuaded, that this small attention would subvert all the vulgar systems of morality, and let us see, that the distinction of vice and virtue is not founded merely on the relations of objects, nor is perceived by reason.

Hume is saying that many people make claims about what ought to be based off what is


Is statement: Sunlight can damage a person’s eyesight

 Ought Statement: One should not look directly into the sun.

Hume states that an is premise does not equal an ought concussion.  If an ought conclusion is formed, then a reason should be given.  We should be aware of the difference in is/ought judgement.  We should also be aware of when people make that shift and how they explain the way they got there.


It is somewhat unclear to me what Hume means when he says a new relation being deduced "seams altogether inconceivable".  I take it to mean that this relationship of thought is invalid without critical examination and holds no weight on its own. 

critical examination  = questioning + analyzing + creation of arguments + exploration of arguments + Objections + Replies to objections + Revisions + Defense

I will always seek to A. critically examine pivotal concepts and B. speak only from my own experience and not implicate others.  

However,  I know that I will probably spend the majority of this blog trying to climb out of the 'That's Just Your Opinion' pit.  Or in the words of The Dude:




As my last goal, I will simply will strive to be encouraging and inclusive with the content that I share.