The ability to respond quickly to a design challenge is one of the strengths of TERRA.fluxus. This was proven recently with a fast-track project to complete a courtyard remodel at the School of Nursing at Oregon Health + Science University (OHSU) campus. The courtyard was completed in the early 1990s, and sits partially on structure and partially at grade – nestled into a shade corner of the Southwest Portland, Oregon campus. The space acts as a fishbowl with 3 and 4 story spaces overlooking the open plan, minimal furnishings, and lack of scale. There are areas of sun and shade that make the space either too dark and cold or too sunny and hot, so the challenge is finding ways to incorporate microclimatic conditions along with division of space to provide private ‘rooms’.
The additional challenge was that design and installation needed to be done within the current fiscal year – meaning a deadline of June 30th for the project to be complete. We met with facilities folks to get a run-down on the situation and check out the site, then quickly prepared two concepts that utilized screening of space, similar to the planter-based strategy employed at the recent Washington Medical Center project. The creation of outdoor rooms with vegetated structures provided necessary scale and enclosure, coupled with reuse of planters and plantings. The addition of sculptural planters, overhead tensile structures, lighting, and bamboo rounded out the space, along with plans for furnishings and other amenities.
The overall plan was meant to provide a simple spatial arrangement and placement of elements – which we fine-tuned to meet schedule and budget – eliminating expensive or long-lead time items. This was reviewed and approved by School of Nursing administrators, and the race to install was on!
The quick timeline meant finding available planters, furnishings, plant materials, and adaptively re-using the spaces. Contractor Teufel Landscape went out of their way to find available materials in short timeline, and to ensure that building residents were happy – meaning no disruption of classes or other activities while transporting materials through the building.
The transformation is evident in these before and after shots of the planter at grade:
The space from the balconies above, showing the site during planter placement early in the week and the final result. The simplicity of the offset geometry becomes evident in the replication of a simple form overlapped to create a variety of spaces for privacy as well as socialization. This pattern also was meant to activate the visual interest from above office and classroom windows – rather than staring down on a concrete and brick desert.
And some additional images showing the final spaces – an extreme two-week makeover with spaces to be enjoyed on the ground and from above.
A recent blurb in the Daily Journal of Commerce – DJC Oregon entitled ‘Oregon landscape architects capitalize on their green edge‘, which discussed the competitive advantage “Many Oregon landscape architecture firms, however, say they’ve been able to buck the national trend because they have expertise in sustainable design, specifically in regard to stormwater management and green roofs.” These are definitely a couple of niche markets that TERRA.fluxus thrives on – so I appreciate the nice quote in the story from Reed Jackson on some of our recent work, including the recently installed green wall screen for the Washington Medical Center in Oakland – seen below.
As quoted in the article:
“On a smaller scale, TERRA.fluxus, a two-person firm owned by Jason King, has a partnership with a roofing company in California. The firm, which recently designed a green wall for a medical center in Oakland, Calif., and has another project set to start soon in Los Angeles, is able to maintain this partnership because of its innovative work, King said. “When you’re looking at an economic downtown in Portland or Oregon, it isn’t going to affect (landscape architects) as much because they go other places to do that work,” he said. “Being able to go down to California and to offer a lot of the lessons we’ve learned in Oregon is definitely a market niche that helps to get, keep and expand business.”
A project from August 2010 aimed to create visualizations from patient rooms at Washington Medical Center in Oakland, California. The renderings were aimed at showing how to screen views, many of which were filled with rooftop equipment which detracted from patient health and distracted viewers from beautiful distant views. By providing an intermediate vegetated bands, the project focused on distant views while screening a range or rooftop equipment, as seen in one of the early renderings below:
A follow-up to the project created a modular installation (pilot project) that could be applied to areas of the roof – and scaled as large or small as was needed. A range of different plantings allowed for variety of foliage color, texture, and provided seasonal change. The planters are ballasted with pavers, and allow for small plantings along with a range of vines, including Passion Vine, Star Jasmine, Cape Honeysuckle, Pink Bower Vine, and the wonderful bay area Bougainvillaea.
A close up of the plans and elevations show the simplicity of construction of the modular units.
Project partner Tremco Roofing recently had a preliminary array of planters installed at the Washington Medical Center, in the Joint Replacement Facility, and also the Maternity Ward windows – screening stress-inducing views and noise of rooftop mechanical equipment. Although newly planted, the potential for screening is obvious. (Photos courtesy of Liz Hart from Tremco)
A more extensive second phase is planned for more rooftop areas in the next few months.
Just in time for 2012, the new calendars are available from the City of Portland, Bureau of Environmental Services and their Sustainable Stormwater Management program. This annual publication shows off some of the interesting new projects built around Portland, and it was a nice surprise to see two months that included some of the recent work of TERRA.fluxus. April features a couple of recent works – in particular the Vertical Wetland project completed at Move the House, project for Urban Development Partners, with art feature by Ivan McLean and funded by Metro, that funnels roof water through Corten sculpture visible from SE Division Street.
As mentioned in the calendar:
“Disconnecting a downspout is a simple way to remove roof runoff from the combined sewer system and protect water quality, and it offers opportunities for creative ways to disconnect.”
Also in June, a nice shot of the newly planted living wall at the same project, Move the House– showcasing the idea of vegetated walls, which contribute to sustainable site design – in this case screening the very prominent trash enclosure in the center of the outdoor plaza area – adding a burst of greenery to an item that is often considered an eyesore. As mentioned in the calendar:
“Green Walls use vertical surfaces to green and beautify our cities. Green walls can help reduce a building’s energy use and outdoor air temperatures, capture stormwater, or be used for urban agriculture “
The living wall installation is complete at the Move the House Apartments (see in progress shots here) – with all of the 20 species of plants placed in waves through the galvanized metal troughs around two sides of the short structure. The structure conceals the interior of the trash enclosure, which is accessible through the sliding wooden doors seen below.
The plantings are planned in waves, moving from the upper left towards the lower right, with a range of colors and textures that will last throughout the four seasons. The arrangement takes into account the different moisture gradients that will occur from dry to moist to wet from top to bottom. Although just planted with 4″ pots, some of the bands are starting to become legible. The accessibility of the plantings to the users is also important, as some are meant to be activated with aromas as people brush past them, particularly near doorways to the trash and recycling.
A few more photos shows the variety of species and the details of the simple structure of the living wall, which measures around 160 square feet of area total. Plantings will wrap around the front corner, softening the edge that protrudes into the pedestrian space.
Even newly planted, the vegetation is starting to attract bees and other pollinators, as seen on the subtle flowers of the Origanum ‘Kent Beauty’ in bloom. Butterflies have also been spotted in the past day or so. Not bad for a project that is literally days old.
As with all of our projects, we will be monitoring the evolution of the plantings over time, and adjusting some of the configuration. Also important will be maintenance, as the predominant form of these plants is to drape rather than climb, so the overall composition may shift as certain plants fill in and others shift. But that’s part of the fun… stay tuned for more.
Lots of activity on the Move the House project, as artwork and landscaping along with final site elements come together. The sidewalk has been poured, and street trees installed, green canopy planters on the first floor, along with the artwork and relocated tree along Division. Contractor Lorentz Bruun along with landscape contractor Landservices of Oregon has done a great job of dealing with the unique complexities of the site and landscape elements and realizing the beautiful structure design by Francis Dardis of Stack Architecture.
The relocated tree was moved in a couple of weeks ago, a 25′ Japanese Maple that previously sat on the site near the house that was moved. Developer and owner Urban Development Partners (UD+P) had the foresight to have the tree moved and stored off-site by Big Trees Today, then brought back to provide instant green along the street. To accommodate the move, the root ball measured 100″ diameter, as seen in the photograph below.
The tree sits adjacent to the new cor-ten metal sculpture by Ivan McLean, which acts as a vertical wetland to capture water from building roofs and express the movement prior to conveyance back to the larger flow-through planter. The sculpture itself measures 10’x10′ and provides a thin wedge that is both substantial and airy. Below is the sculpture arriving on-site.
And it being located in it’s spot adjacent to the building along Division, where it will act as an iconic marker for passing traffic. Plantings will be located on top, inside, and along the front edge and water will travel vertically throughout these zones prior to overflowing.
The eventual route for stormwater comes to the extensive flow-through planter, located along the rear property line, which provides stormwater management for the site per City of Portland standards, which is particularly crucial as the site is located in a Combined Sewer Overflow area, so this site will hold water on-site for longer, alleviating pressure on the system in peak flows, and ensuring better water quality for our regions streams and rivers. This infrastructure on-site is augmented by permeable paving in all other site locations – shown in the irregular patterning of gray and brown square unit pavers.
The other piece coming together is the living wall that will wrap the exterior of the trash enclosure. This innovative feature, one of many funded by Metro as part of their Green Innovation Grant program – including the vertical wetland, green canopies, wildlife art, and signage. The initial structure was built, which will house recycling and garbage but will be transformed into a significant site amenity.
Due to the central location, the concept calls for a series of troughs that wrap around two sides of the structure – designed by TERRA.fluxus and fabricated by Ivan Mclean – which will provide for a tapestry of vegetation that will provide color, texture, and scent to this area. The initial armature has been welded in place, and you can see the structure along with a close-up of the troughs – which will hold soil and plants, and be irrigated with linear drip tubing.
The design for the Kohler Pavilion Green Screen rehab at Oregon Health + Science University was recently completed, with new soil, trellis armatures, and plantings in and beginning to make their way towards the screen panels – with an aim of providing a lush green cover to the project exterior. A total of 63 planters were rehabilitated spanning 3 levels and wrapping around two sides of the building.
A variety of plantings are distributed along rigid metal trellis stakes – to allow for a jump from the planter to the screen, which varies but is almost 24″ away from the actual planted area. The stakes provided an easily installed, yet long-term solution, required little fabrication, and allowed for multiple lengths – with an easy hook into the existing screen.
As you can see from the concept drawing, the project came together very close to the goal – and was able to take a relative narrow planter and expand the plantings out 10′ to provide more coverage visible from the exterior.
At this point the Clematis armandii is the most vigorous, climbing to the screen and adding as much as 12′ of growth in a short period of time. Fine tuning of the irrigation and diligent training of the remaining vines, including Carolina Jessamine, China Blue Vine, and Fiveleaf Akebia – will allow for these plantings to quickly fill in providing variety of texture and color, while remaining a lush evergreen screen throughout the year. We will monitor and see what the exterior looks like periodically through the summer and fall – but feel comfortable that the vegetation will be full after a year.
The plans for the Move the House Apartments are taking shape, including a change in the configuration of the Vertical Wetland (previous version here). Working closely with artist Ivan McLean, we have reconfigured the vertical wetland to address some concerns about durability and the capacity to handle large amounts of water. The reconfigured version is a corten steel ‘wedge’ that will fit into the existing plant bed, seen in the revised images below:
A detailed cutaway shows the way water will move through the structure, with a primary flow traveling along the front edge with planted pockets of vegetation and soil. A secondary overflow allows water to escape down the back side and inside the planter. In a torrential storm, water will overflow the circular ring inside the top of the planter and fall inside the vegetated zones. All water off the roof will be captured inside the vertical wetland feature, and will overflow to a subsurface pipe that runs to the larger site flow-through planter to the south. The structure is also elevated slightly above grade, allowing the art to float above the planting surface. This will assure a dynamic feature visible from within the site and along Division Street.
Initial installation of the Oregon Health + Science University Kohler Pavilion Green Screen is starting going in (see design concept here). The first few planters allowed us to experiment with the stakes to create a ‘jump point’, which gives the plantings, which are limited to the relatively small existing planters, more of a broad span to create more expansive screening on the exterior of the parking structure.
After some field fitting, we landed on a configuration that was suitable and provided 10′ of width for plantings to spread. Teufel Landscape provided the installation services, which also included cleaning out existing vegetation, removal of old soil, rehabilitation of irrigation system, as well as installation of new soil, plants, and trellis pieces.
As a cost-effective and long-lasting solution, we re-purposed nursery stakes in varying lengths to hook onto the existing trellis, then return back to the planter for a stable surface to allow plants to trail. These wires had enough rigidity to span up to 10 feet, and the diameter closely matched the existing trellis structure.
The structure provides an armature for new plantings, which aim to create a mixed evergreen screen that will provide significant coverage of the parking structure when viewed from adjacent areas. Rather than rely on one type of plant, the design used three different types for additional variety and to also provide different growth characteristics. The foundation of the design is Clematis armandii (Evergreen Clematis), a hardy evergreen vine that is indigenous to our region. Each planter has three Clematis to provide a solid foundation. Alternative varieties of plants complement this foundation, including Akebia quintana (Fiveleaf Akebia) which is a vigorous climber, as seen below.
In addition, we included Gelsenium sempervirens (Carolina Jessamine) which adds some great texture and yellow flower color to the mix. You can see it below alongside the Clematis.
Finally, the plantings included another vigorous non-native, Holboellia coriacea (China Blue Vine), which should provide a dense covering of evergreen vegetation as well as some sizable purple seed pods for accent.
Rather than rely on one species, the design takes advantage of the diversity of material to provide some resilience if a particular species under-performs, and also provides more variety, texture and color than just using the native Clematis. Our region is short on quality, native, evergreen climbers, so augment this will non-invasive adapted species provides the opportunity for screening that is functional as well as beautiful.