What a great year. Ok, while not a complete year (the firm began operations in mid-February), 2010 was a great start to TERRA.fluxus, with a number of highlights, projects, research, and exploration worthy of a recap. Rather than a chronological walk through the year, there are a number of themes to be captured within the projects and activities of the firm, which ranged through the west from Washington & Oregon to California, and included a wide variety of explorations of planning, design, and urbanism. Starting in the home office, I first moved to a shared space with Design Department, then finally to the current location at Tenpod, another shared office space inside the Rocket Building on East Burnside, centrally located and packed with a range of creative folks. The changes of scenery have been great, and the people I’ve met, make me feel fortunate to live and practice in Portland.
Starting a business is hard. This fact is not made easier by a tepid economic climate, but I felt I had the opportunity to grow and expand the nature of my experience and the potential for landscape architecture. So I did so , because I thought I had something to offer clients and the community. My business model is simple – do innovative client-based work in a range of areas, balanced with equal time for research and speculation of new ideas. The ability to take on work that is meaningful, challenging, and vital is rare. The opportunity to do it for a living is a gift. So, in year number one, I must give thanks to my clients and collaborators, both old and new, who trusted me with their projects, ideas, sites, budgets, and visions. I wholeheartedly appreciate it, and hope to continue to provide services in the upcoming year.
Green Above Ground
The work in the realm of Veg.itecture was front and center for TERRA.fluxus in 2010, including over 40,000 s.f. of projects designed and/or installed in 2010, augmenting the total ecoroof square footage i’ve worked on over the years to well over three acres. Always trying to push the envelope for understanding vegetated roofing, I also compiled some new research related to the specific requirements of ecoroof irrigation in the Portland region in a presentation for an on-going group that I helped to co-found, the Green Roof info Think-tank, or GRiT, for short. In addition, I published a DIY Guide to small scale ecoroofs, and also helped lead the Ecoroofs 2010 Tour as part of the annual ecoroof Vendor showcase that highlights the great companies in the industry throughout the region.
Built work included a number of great OHSU Projects including the Child Development Research Center (CDRC) which was constructed this year, and the Hatfield Research Center (HRC) and the main Hospital C-Wing projects that will be installed in early 2011. Other projects include the ongoing development BPA 905 Building project, working with the GSA to provide stimulus-funded improvements to multiple roofs on this headquarters building in the Lloyd District. This project will also happen in 2011.
A major highlight was winning the RFP and the award of the contract from Bureau of Environmental Services for the Ecoroof Design-Build Contract for the Green Above Ground Collaborative, along with wonderful partners Snyder Roofing, Teufel Landscape, Verde, and Cascade Design Professionals. Our goal of 30,000 square feet of green roof, along with tours, education, a proposed video and mobilization of emerging, women, and minority-owned businesses will provide a ton of excitement through the next two years, expanding on our collective experience in the industry. This award was also mentioned in local media publications such as the AGC Oregon newsletter and the DJC Oregon.
Media coverage was also thick for the arrival of Ty Pennington and the crew from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, where the Green Above Ground crew participated in the fast-paced design of the vegetated roof for the Oregon Center for the Deaf in Salem. It was wonderful to be involved in this great project that benefited so many, while giving green roofs some visible media coverage on a national forum. A different small scale roof terrace for the Reliable Apartments went as well. Outside of the region, I finished up Van Ness MOB (my first project in San Francisco) which will be built in 2011, and locally, got to see the completion of a few older projects done prior to starting TERRA.fluxus, such as the First+Main Building in downtown.
An adjunct to the built work around Green Above Ground, there are visuals to sell future projects. Many of these were done, working with Tremco, for projects in California, including the Wilshire-Rodeo roof terrace in Los Angeles, which re-envisioned a drab commercial rooftop into a lively outdoor meeting space. Another LA project was for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center where views from patient rooms overlooked a gray gravel roof, which also led to significant heat gain in the building. Moving to Oakland, there was also the Washington Medical Center which combined green walls and roofs to provide aesthetically-pleasing (and sustainable) views from patient roofs instead of drab rooftops and mechanical equipment.
This concept expanded on an idea I believed strongly in, that of biophilic design, which engages our connection to nature and natural materials and processes in the creation of healthy and restorative spaces. While green roofs are great for a number of reasons, the connection to building occupants through visible engagement with nature is one with a special power in hospital settings, where these can aid in many health outcomes. These visuals aid in convincing decision-makers of the beauty and utility of these concepts.
Urban Agriculture & Food
Continuing the theme of rooftops, this time mixed with food, I had the opportunity to again be involved in the planning, design, and installation of the Multnomah County Hope Garden, a rooftop urban agricultural showcase that provides food for local hunger-relief agencies. This project, in its second year, donates over 500 pounds of locally-grown produce, cared for by the County’s Green Team, in just a small 200 s.f. area on their rooftop. The work in urban agriculture led to some great networking, capture here in a great blurb on the ASLA Sustainable Sites PPN blog, which discussed my presentation up at University of Washington on urban agriculture ‘Designing for Urban Food‘ – where I shared the stage with great minds like Deb Guenther from Mithun, Keith McPeters’ from GGN, and Jeffrey Hou from UW.
I also meet some great folks teaching at UW, like Brandon Born and Thaisa Way whom have offered additional opportunities for learning and interaction. While my time on the Food Policy Council came and went, there were some other exciting projects like the community based remediation of the Emerson Street Garden – a brownfield site turned community gardening, and the site planning for the WVMC Hospital Garden in McMinnville, planned to help feed patients fresh produce at the hospital.
Another highlight was the opportunity to show off the Chicken Cube, our ecoroof topped coop design-build project on this years Tour de Coops, an annual tour of innovative chicken homes put on by local non-profit group Growing Gardens. The tour had over 300 people, and the coop even garnered some TV time with a short spot on the local show Garden Time – which was a blast – a good use of my fifteen minutes of fame. On the subject of coops, I also had a great opportunity to be guest juror for an internal coop-design competition sponsored by SERA Architects, as part of a fundraiser for local arts group PICA.
In addition to chickens, the food cart phenomenon was in full gear, and one of my first commisions came working on design for a food cart pod on a derelict brownfield site in Southeast Portland for one of my favorite clients, Urban Development Partners. This forward thinking developer took a vacant parcel which will eventually be built-out, and constructed this pop-up site, opening in July with a few pioneers. The site has quickly filled up with over 15 carts, expanding to include covered areas and heaters for all-weather dining. This planning and design experience also included a quote in the recently released book Cartopia, authored by friends and colleagues Kelley Roy and Kelly Rodgers, which is literally flying off the shelves since it’s October debut.
Ecology & Site Remediation
An ongoing project is the Bradford Street Property where I am conducting multi-year evaluation of remediation plantings done on this waterfront site along the Willamette River in North Portland. There is also a remediation component for the Emerson Street Garden and 2011 offers opportunities for more specific technical aspects of phytoremediation as this aspect of the lead-contaminated site begins in earnest. Another ecologically notable project that has also continued is the work around the wetland area for the Asante Court Park in Medford, Oregon. This multi-phase project, working with uber client Asante Health System, began with wetland mitigation plantings, this year followed with the installation of the new park area plantings to provide more sustainable design than lawn and non-native plantings. New phases include continue this theme with additional common area plantings and the addition of the stormwater outfall garden, which are in final design and approval process, to be installed in Spring of 2011.
A great article showed up in Multi-Family News focused on sustainable landscaping, where I was able to drop some ideas on ecoroofs, efficient irrigation, appropriate plant selection, and ecological stormwater design. These principles were also embedded in our proposal for the Min Zidell Garden at the National College of Natural Medicine, which unfortunately we did not get – but the experience working with the team and the great folks at NCNM was truly wonderful, and I’m sure the results will be fantastic. Another small project includes LEED evaluation for Creekside Clinic in Medford, (operated by Asante).
This site-scale work continued with development of native plantings and LEED evaluation for the Reliable Apartments in Southeast Portland, and will continue into 2011 with some Metro-funded sustainable site improvements to the Move-the-House Apartments on 38th and Division. The proposed work, in addition to flow-through planters and permeable pavement, will include a vertical wetland sculpture, habitat nodes throughout the site, a vertical green wall, and canopy ecoroofs.
The Urban Laboratory
The beginnings of the year continued the on-going activities related to the Oregon Solutions process for Community Gardening, along with the seminar class at University of Oregon investigating the ‘Urban Edge‘ of Portland. Both of these projects were specifically representative of using the Portland region as a working laboratory for study. In that vein, the work on Landscape+Urbanism also continued, with more focus on local issues and ideas as I study my home place in new and exciting ways. The writing led to a great connection and interview with colleague Christian Barnhard for his great new podcast series LANDCAST.
Work also continues on the PDX Greenmap, to provide a resource for locating information on a range of sustainable resource throughout the Portland metro region. Also, the next iteration of the urban laboratory to continue into the next year will be recently unveiled Hidden Hydrology Project – which will provide a more robust information gathering, analysis, mapping, and exploration of a range of topics concerning urbanism, water, and the definition of our place.
Per my business model, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a number of community-based activities and projects around the region. There are educational items like the tour of sustainable sites in downtown for the World Affairs Council of Oregon as well as more expansive tours and workshops such as the great Oregon Sustainability Experience that brings folks from out of town to learn from Portland about sustainability and urban agriculture. I was also honored to be a juror for the BEST awards, which awards local businesses pushing the boundaries of sustainability. Pro-bono work included the design for the Extreme Makeover Ecoroof, the Hope Garden Rooftop Agriculture, and the Willamette Valley Medical Center garden project.
Other projects include the afforementioned Emerson Street Garden included a series of workshops and alternatives that were developed over six months, culminating in the final design concept and groundbreaking in mid-summer. My involvement in the garden sprang from the connections made during the Oregon Solutions Gardening project – which included representatives from the amazing Groundwork Portland – who have plans for many brownfileld sites throughout Portland. A community-oriented proposal for the Seattle-based ideas competition Holding Patterns garnered an honorable mention from the judges as well, liking our take on the Urban Voids Matrix, a notion of ‘A Modular Approach to Building the Sustainable City’ that looks at the three typologies of the site, hole, and frame within a matrix of food, community, ecology, and materials. This award-winning project offers potential for vacant properties not just in Seattle, but also in Portland, which will be explored further in the next year.
Check out the specific links for more information and references for this projects.
I, for one, can’t wait for 2011… it’s gonna be another great year.