Top 10 Blog Posts of 2016

December 16, 2016
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It’s been an eventful year for Ayers Saint Gross. As we turn the calendar page, here’s a look at our most popular blog posts of 2016. We’re proud of what we accomplished with our clients, and are excited about what’s to come in 2017.

1. Luanne Greene is Ayers Saint Gross’ New President. Having distinguished herself as head of our Planning studio and as an acknowledged industry leader, Luanne rose to become the President of Ayers Saint Gross. She is the first woman to lead the firm in its 100-year history.

2. Anne Hicks Harney Elevated to AIA College of Fellows. Our Sustainability Director is now one of four FAIAs at Ayers Saint Gross, alongside Glenn Birx, Luanne Greene, and Adam Gross. Anne was also named a LEED Fellow this year.

3. Placemaking for People: How Stormwater Management Can Be a Design Asset. The unglamorous necessity of stormwater management can be a starting point for truly great design in landscape architecture.

4. Place Matters: Cortex Innovation Community Wins SCUP Award. Recognition from the Society of College and University Planning was a huge honor. Innovation Districts like Cortex provide a new paradigm for research, business, and job creation.

5. National Aquarium Waterfront Campus Plan Wins AIA Maryland Award. The National Aquarium is a world-renowned conservation organization, and we are excited to be a part of the revitalization of its campus.

6. 2016 Comparing Campuses Innovation Districts. We did a deep dive on Innovation Districts in our 18th annual Comparing Campuses poster. (We also have an online archive of all the Comparing Campuses posters.)

7. A Brief History of the Ayers Saint Gross ACUHO-I Housing Book. We’ve been creating these tiny but informative books since 2005 for the annual ACUHO-I conference. We’ll see you in Providence in June with the 2017 edition.

8. Telling a Story with Data. Lisa Keith, head of our Space Analytics studio, wowed the KA Connect Conference with her data visualization expertise.

9. Ayers Saint Gross Reaches $1B in LEED Construction. With the LEED Silver certification of Georgetown University’s Ryan and Isaac Halls, our firm crossed the billion-dollar mark in LEED certified construction. To celebrate, we created an infographic that illustrates exactly what $1,000,000,000 in LEED construction looks like.

10. Going Green, Staying Green: How to Create and Enduring, Sustainable Landscape. Align your sustainability goals with available resources, and consider the life cycle costs of your choices.

National Aquarium Waterfront Campus Plan Wins AIA Maryland Award

October 27, 2016
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Ayers Saint Gross is pleased to announce that the Waterfront Campus Plan for the National Aquarium in Baltimore recently won a 2016 AIA Maryland Excellence in Design Honor Award for Urban Design and Master Planning. The jury lauded the design for “creating dynamic, welcoming, educational public space while restoring ecosystems and providing a living lab as a model toward resiliency in the built and natural environment.”

Our team proposed a design for the 2.5 acre space between Piers 3 and 4 in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor that challenges existing urban waterfront models. It merges aquatic and terrestrial communities by softening existing engineered bulkhead barriers, including amphitheaters, vegetation shelves, and an oyster reef that serves as a natural water filtration system.

“Located on the historic piers of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the National Aquarium is ideally situated for demonstrating how its conservation mission can be applied at its own doorstep,” Jonathan Ceci, PLA, Director of Landscape Architecture, said.

Our Waterfront Campus plan also highlights the water’s movement with a network of floating wetlands that return native plants to the Inner Harbor. The design team gave careful analysis to ephemeral conditions like tides and how those conditions affect the user experience. The result is a series of installations that engage visitors and connect them with authentic Chesapeake Bay watershed habitat. The design advances the economic success of the Inner Harbor and of the entire city of Baltimore with renewed civic infrastructure.

The National Aquarium is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures. It welcomes an average of 1.3 million visitors annually. The Waterfront Campus Plan is expected to be fully implemented by 2019.

“Ayers Saint Gross’ work on behalf of the National Aquarium and our waterfront campus is deserving of this award,” said Jacqueline Bershad, National Aquarium Vice President of Planning and Design. “Our vision – one we are diligently working to bring to life with Ayers Saint Gross – is that the Waterfront Campus will be an accessible green space for people of all ages to engage with and enjoy.”

For more on Ayers Saint Gross’ award-winning designs, visit our Awards page.

The Endless Park: PARK(ing) Day 2016

September 21, 2016
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PARK(ing) Day got its start in 2005, and has since become a global celebration of public space in urban contexts. As a firm, Ayers Saint Gross celebrates sustainability and the importance of green spaces as a necessary part of good urban design. This year the DC office was thrilled to tackle a parking space in NoMa and turn it into an “endless park.”

The goal was to get passersby from the NoMa community to disrupt their daily routines and immerse themselves in an unexpected retreat while learning about urban sustainability practices.

We created our pop-up park out of salvaged wooden pallets from a local construction site, fresh layers of sod, and (most importantly) a series of mirrors. Mirrors have long been a go-to move for making interior spaces seem larger; we figured they could do the same thing for an outdoor space. Thus our mirrors faced each other, creating the illusion of an infinite, endless park.

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We also had a series of posters informing park-goers about urban sustainability. All together it made for a relaxing and informative spot.

Of course, the best urban design is not delivered from on high; it is a collaboration between the designers and the community. With that in mind, we wanted to include an interactive element in our park. We asked pedestrians to contribute by writing thoughts, activities, and feelings about parks and sustainability on tags. The tags became petals on flower-like stakes that were laid out on the park’s grass, creating a “endless” field of wildflowers in the mirrored reflection. As we grew our field of flowers throughout the day, it became a beautiful metaphor for the endless benefits of sustainability.

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Photo courtesy of Laetitia Brock

To support sustainability once more at the conclusion of the day, our team returned the wood pallets to the construction site and planted the sod nearby in NoMa.

The mission of PARK(ing) Day is to call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate debate around how public space is created and allocated, and to improve the quality of urban human habitat. While our “endless park” lasted only a day, creativity and a thoughtful approach to urban space are ever-present parts of our firm’s philosophy.

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Going Green, Staying Green: How to Create an Enduring Sustainable Landscape

August 23, 2016
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Sustainable landscapes address a number of environmental concerns: habitat loss, natural resource depletion, air pollution, and waste generation. For those reasons and more, sustainability is an increasingly central part of campus planning.

However, as the methods used to create an ecologically sound site grow, so can the number of maintenance needs and costs.

Creating – and perhaps even more crucially, maintaining – sustainable landscapes is a multi-phase process. Here are a few points of advice that can guide discussions about how to create a sustainable design that will continue to function as originally envisioned.

  • Align your sustainability goals with available resources. Understanding your desired project goals and maintenance routine is paramount to a project’s success. Ask yourself a few questions in the early design process: What are your project’s sustainability goals? What are your long-term maintenance capabilities? What changes could be made to align your practices with your goals? Once both client and landscape architect understand the parameters, you can work together to produce a design that meets the needs of your institution.
  • Consider the life cycle costs of your choices. Evaluate the necessary steps that ensure you can meet your sustainability goals. For example, if you wish to diminish a site’s long-term energy and potable water use, your standard planting palette, hardscape materials, and irrigation technique may need adjustment. Depending on the project’s goals, the design may have unique maintenance needs, such as permeable pavers or a rainwater collection system. If you are unfamiliar with these elements, ask how to maintain them to ensure the design will receive proper care. There’s good news, though: Not every sustainable strategy has a high maintenance cost. In fact, many diminish total costs because more expensive materials provide benefits that offset their initial price. For example, a cistern will reduce your irrigation bill, and selecting native or low-irrigation plants reduces irrigation and labor maintenance costs.
  • Concentrate high-maintenance areas for maximum effect. An elaborate design with ambitious net-zero goals may be beyond your scope. Instead, consider small interventions that make a large impact. Prioritize your goals, and centralize the high-maintenance areas in high-visibility areas to make the biggest impression.
  • Monitor performance. Whether the goal is to achieve a net-zero energy site, reduce stormwater runoff, or provide wildlife habitat, monitoring how the site performs is necessary to ensure the goal is met. Track the site closely, adapting maintenance activities as needed. Recording the effectiveness of various methods will provide a guide for future management actions. With proper care, the benefits of the landscape can continue to function at optimum potential.

Placemaking for People: How Stormwater Management Can Be a Design Asset

May 24, 2016
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Our role as landscape architects is to bridge the gap between aesthetically pleasing site design and the functionality of the landscape.

This responsibility is especially important when it comes to stormwater. Most states and municipalities have enacted more stringent laws to ensure post-development runoff conditions are equal to or better than pre-development conditions. As landscape architects, our job is to embrace these regulatory changes, and go beyond the regulatory standards to make stormwater an amenity to the site design.

Successful projects are a result of the entire project team working closely together while meeting the owner’s needs. Incredible ecological and educational benefits can result from an integrated project team with the same goals in mind. The following are tips for making stormwater management an asset to your site.

1. Involve landscape architects at the very beginning of a project. Buildings exist on a site, and the physical and regulatory realities of that site must be taken into account. It’s short-sighted to consider landscape architecture as an afterthought. The best projects are multilayered efforts that intimately tie the surrounding area to the building itself. For example, the courtyard at the University of Delaware’s ISE Lab is a direct amenity to the interior laboratories:

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Multiple layers of green infrastructure accentuate the movement of water as it hits the roof and flows through the site:

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That’s not something you can do in the late stages of construction. Think holistically about your project and you’ll get the best results.

2. Remember that appearances matter. A huge centralized pond and a flat green lawn may meet storm drainage requirements, but it’s a solution with little to no curb appeal or environmental benefits. Ayers Saint Gross took a more creative approach at a recent project at Howard Community College. In lieu of one large pond, we split up the roof areas so they were directed to several micro-bioretention areas scattered around the site, populated with a diverse selection of native plants.

HCC Landscape

The native plants have deeper roots that drink up more water, and they lend seasonal interest to the site. As a result, the micro-bioretention areas are useful, ecologically sound, and aesthetically interesting. Drainage went from a dilemma to a design element that enhances campus life. Stone slab benches invite students to engage directly with environment.

3. Use landscape architecture to enhance why your project exists. The ISE Lab design aesthetic was an intentional departure from the traditional Georgian architecture of the rest of University of Delaware’s campus. It’s a modern structure for cutting-edge science education, and we designed the surrounding courtyard to match. It’s an educational, immersive courtyard that brings the indoor classrooms outdoors.

Runnels pull stormwater away from the hardscape to the micro-bioretention areas.

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The runnels’ layout also compliments the benches that illuminate the courtyard without the visual disruption of freestanding light poles.

UDel lights

Getting the technical aspects of a project right can be tough. But when it’s done well, it can unify form and function, which is at the heart of what good design is.

UDel’s ISE Lab is racking up awards and getting published!

August 1, 2015
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Ayers Saint Gross is pleased to announce the University of Delaware Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering (ISE) Laboratory Courtyard was published in World Landscape Architecture Magazine! It is one of 24 projects recognized among some very high caliber landscape architecture projects and leaders in the design field.

Download the magazine (scroll to page 81)

This publication comes on the heels of the ISE Lab project racking in many design awards, including a PA/DE ASLA Award of Excellence, a Maryland ASLA Honor Award, an AIA TAP Innovation Award, and an AIA Baltimore Design Excellence Award.

Teaching, learning and research come together in this nearly 200,000 square-foot building at the University of Delaware. In newly structured science classes, students apply principles of biology, chemistry, and physics to solve problems in such areas as renewable energy and stewardship of the natural environment. Classrooms, laboratories and other facilities within the L-shaped structure support this learning while accommodating teams of researchers from energy and environmental institutes.

The ISE Lab Courtyard is a high-performance outdoor space that exemplifies a growing trend on campuses toward multivalent landscapes. Serving as both social hub and outdoor learning space, the courtyard demonstrates the blurred line between classroom and commons, with outdoor terraces and seating used by students for group work and social gathering. With a unique collection of plant communities and progressive stormwater management treatment practices, students can perform experiments in their own backyard.

Congrats to the entire architecture and landscape architecture team!