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American Society of Landscape Architects


March 2004 Issue

Deeper Shade of Green
Three firms strive to fuse design with ecology.
By Adam Regn Arvidson, ASLA

More Than Lip Service Courtesy Applied Ecological Services

Many landscape architects have embraced the use of native plants and call upon basic scientific teachings to inform their designs. Many scientists recognize the importance of human-oriented places in the context of the natural environment. Both professions likely believe that each has some beneficial lessons for the other. Some firms, however, are trying to go beyond simply recognizing that landscape architecture and ecology separately have something to contribute to the dialogue about landscape. These firms, which might be called "design science" firms, are working to unite the artistic and the factual, side by side, in the same offices, on the same projects, from the first moment a commission comes in the door.

"We are trying to go beyond multidisciplinary...and fuse things together," says Matthew Tucker, studio manager at Conservation Design Forum (CDF). CDF is a design science firm based in the Chicago area and founded in 1994 by James Patchett, ASLA, who believes that the widespread degradation of remnant and restored native landscapes is due in large part to current design and engineering practices. Put simply, plants grow in habitats to which they are adapted, habitat has everything to do with water, and the way water is handled today is altering those habitats by altering historic hydrology. Patchett has assembled at CDF a group of landscape architects and scientists who are learning to handle water differently through both scientific and design understanding.

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