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Closing the Loop: Part II
Designing with, specifying, and using salvaged and reprocessed materials in the landscape.
By Meg Calkins, ASLA

It's better for the environment. Fewer resources are used. It can save money. But perhaps the most compelling reason to use salvaged materials in the landscape is the rich layer of meaning that is added to a place that may be difficult to achieve with new materials. Marcia McNally (see "Walkin' the Talk," Landscape Architecture, July 2002) describes the multitude of "stories" revealed by the salvaged materials used in her garden and house addition. She likes knowing that the beam in her kitchen is from an old rail trestle, since her family was in the railroad business. Her back steps are old stone fence posts from Kansas that still bear the marks of fossils from thousands of years ago. McNally and her husband, Randy Hester, use salvage for the obvious environmental reasons, but she also explains that "reused materials have soul in them that can't be ignored or discarded—you can't just trash an old redwood molding." McNally explains that Hester is always looking for materials that he may eventually want to use in their garden. It's not always clear what they will be used for, but he may be attracted to some sculptural quality of the material, for instance, that eventually will inspire a garden intervention.

This kind of careful attention to each piece of material is often more difficult to achieve on larger projects where the designer is more remote from the site or may not have the time/fee to search out the materials. Or sometimes contractors are not as willing to work with the idiosyncrasies of reused materials. Using salvage in the landscape is not without challenges, but when used the payoff can be big.

Many designers using salvage are finding that the design process can be quite different from using new materials. "Using salvage is about recognizing the beauty that is already there in the materials, and allowing things to somewhat design themselves in a give-and-take process," explains Kate Leger of Leger Wanaselja Architecture. Leger and partner Karl Wanaselja used old truck tailgates for deck guardrails and a bench in the Adeline Street Project in Berkeley, California.

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