PEA, Inc. | Grand Blanc, MI
Michigan State University
What made you become interested in Landscape Architecture?
Landscape Architecture as a field intrigued me because there are so many opportunities within the field itself - you can work on stormwater management for an urban industrial complex one day and the next you're designing a restorative wildlife habitat. I feel that it is the perfect blend of art, science, community interaction and nature, at the same time it is making a positive impact.
What one thing inspires you and your designs?
My biggest inspiration are landscape patterns. The wilderness of natural landscapes is immensely complex while still simply beautiful. In all my designs I strive to create this a functional harmony with the environment as well as imitate the aesthetic and capability of adaptation that exists in nature.
What do you think is the biggest challenge Landscape Architects face today?
I believe in order for our profession to prosper we need to design for change - change in climate and change of how people use space in the future. Designing spaces that are more than simply "sustainable" but also benefit the local economy, ecosystems, and residents is necessary and the biggest challenge we need to overcome to achieve it the societal perception that landscape is a luxury. We have to look past the monetary "worth" of our landscapes for the cultural, ecological and health benefits.
What is the most important lesson you have learned so far in your career?
I’ve learned that practicality thwarts conceptual design and in order to create a space where all the best features are not cut due to the budget restrictions, we need to work hard to find creative solutions to construct the project that was originally designed.
Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
As part of an organization that facilitates community led design projects in locations all over the world. The future of our cities and landscapes shouldn’t be solely designed by rich clients concentrated in 1st world countries, but by everyone, and I would like to a part of that vision.
Click to enlarge What change would you make to your region if money were no object?
Michigan Central Station: Designing an ecologically adaptive reclamation project that stimulates the community through collaboration
Without financial restrictions, I would design an experimental urban microcosm environment. This illustration depicts Michigan Central Station in Detroit as a reclamation project providing an adaptable and sustainable solution to obstacles which have afflicted this neglected city. Acting as a collaborative public demonstration project of how the application of bio-designed innovations can create an urban space that gradually advances the local economy, environment, and social equity of its citizens. Joint effort from a variety of local businesses, non-profits in addition to community engagement could reclaim this local icon.
A project to this scale could not be achieved solely through a local government with almost no funding nor through the limited local businesses that remain in the area. Collective efforts directed to the overarching goal of reclaiming Michigan Central Station would act as a catalyst - creating jobs, providing housing, foods, and consumer products; all fueled by sustainable practices.
In order to accomplish a project of this scale, public-private partnerships are necessary; specifically innovative industries, material contributions from local businesses, government endorsement and community interest. Instead of developing a natural landscape for urban renewal, this site utilizes existing infrastructure, minimizing native plant removal and risk of unearthing possible toxins from a historically industrialized area.
Since the building remains unoccupied, the internal structure would be redesigned and appropriated to organizations including: Greening of Detroit, Michigan Urban Farming Initiative, Michigan State University Extension, Detroit Future City, Reclaim Detroit, Returning Citizens Task Force coordinated through the City Council’s Green Task Force. Indoor farming could extend typical production seasons of vegetables, fruit, mushrooms, and fish through aquaponics and employ local residents. Implementation of transitional housing from shelters to low-income housing would help reduce the gentrification of this blighted neighborhood. Floors or rooms could be granted low rent options for local emerging business. To reduce pollution from the surrounding industrial neighborhoods byproducts could be donated to ateliers where the materials could be repurposed as furniture, art, etc. Simultaneously, this would offer community education of technical, craft and life skills.
The location provides the opportunity for public engagement as well as a testimony to sustainable practices. Urban turbines installed on the roofs, translucent solar voltaics on the windows (an example of an experimental product in need of funding) would provide electricity and mediate operating expenses. Collection of rainwater in cisterns would be reused as grey-water to water crops on site, while remediation through constructed wetlands and UV treatment would produce small quantities of potable water available to citizens with health concerns due to lead pipes.
As ambitious and idealistic as this design may seem, the technology exists and the infrastructure is available. The main obstacle is organization and collaboration of specialized local associations toward the mutually beneficial goal of redesigning Michigan Central Station in Detroit. Designing an urban microcosm environment is my passion; but it will also advocate and define future landscapes as more than purely aesthetic but adaptive and growing in harmony with the wellbeing of its citizens, its economy, and its environment.