Monday, November 1, 2010

Landscape Design Portfolio Lecture featuring Carol Franklin

High Performance Landscapes: The Work of Andropogon

Speaker Carol Franklin is a founding principal of Andropogon Associates landscape architectural services, based in Philadelphia.   High Performance Landscapes is a perfect way to characterize their full-impact, revolutionary, astonishing work.

She and her company have been leaders in greenscaping, ecological historical preservation and sustainable landscape design from the time when she says they were laughed at for their ecological designs.  She remembers being hissed off the stage at an ASLA meeting for suggesting they would take children out to the fields out to the fields and pretend we are gardeners.  To design with nature represented a new generation. 
She finds it refreshing to be considered “fashionable” today.   

Discovering and working from a philosophy of the genius loci – or the spirit of place -- is one of the firm’s signature design platforms.  They also boast a portfolio of complex ecological engineering as well as design, utilizing natural elements of water, plant material and stone.  The result is to interface with the area – even if it’s urban.  Or especially if it’s urban. 

Franklin showed the work they did for Center City’s Rittenhouse Square are for the University of Pennsylvania. This is a wonderful example of utilizing rainwater runoff, incorporating water treatment within the design and producing a green space for the students and citizen to enjoy on this almost 2 acres of city life.   Their design changed the landscape to produce an area that had previously been 93% impervious. Now the high performance water treatment cisterns store 20,000 gallons of runoff and AC runoff – within the parking garage.  The soil also stores water. 

To rediscover places, the firm takes makes a habitat work by using breaking attitudes, working with nature’s concepts: composting, cleaning polluted areas, recirculating water and finding those nooks and crannies – even in buildings – that can tell the story of that landscape’s unique place.

Franklin also demonstrated some comic genius!  Her wickedly witty remarks and behind the scenes commentary made me think she must be a sophisticated, fun pro to work with.
Franklin was also refreshing by not only showing Andropogon completed and proposed projects but competing firms’ too. 
My associates in attendance agreed afterwards this was a welcome approach to presenting case studies.  After all just because politics or budgets precluded design selection or job completion, we still have a lot to learn from the landscape architects’ research and design. 

Andropogon’s work on the Sidwell Friends School courtyard in Washington DC is the scout badge for earned honor in my book. Why?  Because the design is comprised of natural, local materials so much that one would swear the campus building were built around the natural look of the grounds.
The courtyard is a working science project the students used for study, such as water sciences, as well as for socializing.  There’s lots of walking around the garden areas. Today, the rain garden and wetland area is the “heart of the school” according to Franklin.
“Complete Streets” is a design concept Franklin espoused that delighted the audience. Here urbanites can “seize the worst parts of their city and find underused or single-purpose use areas for multiple uses.”  She was quite adamant though about making the areas unique and beautiful and not just copying the highly successful Complete Streets of Portland with their Greek keystone-design shapes

Andropogon collaborated on the dynamic holistic work at the Nikko Kirifuri hotel and spa resort hotel in the forest of Japan is magical.  They worked to restore the surrounding woods, produced a waterfall that serves a water treatment function but you would swear is the handiwork of Mother Nature.  In a way, it is.

The works Franklin presented and their attention to sustainable design must surely be the future of landscape design. We can learn much from the holistic, sustainable work that looks to reuse, repurpose and work with natural, elements.


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