A number of people involved with Houston’s Discovery Green shared their thoughts with Landscape Architecture magazine.
Fred Kent, Project for Public Spaces (PPS): “You need a lot of skills to make a project work. In the beginning, you need a vision and you need a program. You don’t want a design. You don’t know the answer, but the community does….
The program needs to be independent of any designer because you know as well as I do, if you have the designer do the vision, it’s really only about the design. [When a separate programmer works with the community], the community then owns the program because they did it. There’s this healthy tension between [the programmer and the designer] that can produce really fantastic results. It’s like a check and balance.”
Mary Margaret Jones, Hargreaves Associates: “It depends on the designer. We always do public process up front before we have a design vision. Maybe some don’t, but we do. The best designs are usually the ones that grow out of what you hear about the program, what you hear about desired uses, and the site itself—its soils, its climate, its geomorphology—and out of those things you begin to work on the design. You also have to bring good design to the table.
Programming is not rocket science. It should never be seen as something that’s separate from design. In the best instances, it’s part of the design process. There have been cases where designers have had set styles that they apply wherever they go, and those have led to failed plazas and parks, but that’s not the way we work.”
George Hargreaves, Hargreaves Associates: “In architecture, they will do programming that’s not building specific, then they set about designing a building around it. The flaw in that is you often end up with a building you can’t afford. I find it very difficult to work that way.
“We actually put design as part of that process. If you put a parking lot beneath a park, that’s $30 million; it creates these problems and these opportunities. At the same time we’re trying to understand the regional landscape, trying to understand circulation flows, the microclimate. We’re not only talking about program opportunities and how much they would cost, but how they would impact what we’re trying to build.”
Bob Eury, Central Houston Inc./Board of Discovery Green Conservancy: “I feel pretty strongly about having an independent program advocate. The tension created by the two parties, the separate programmer from the designer—I think that tension is extraordinarily helpful. There are a lot of significant pieces of Discovery Green that are a direct product of the public engagement. But I sure don’t want Fred [Kent] designing it either.”
Guy Hagstette, Discovery Green Conservancy: “I feel fortunate that we had the talents of both PPS and Hargreaves. They both brought a lot of ideas to the table. I would not go so far as to say the programmer should always be separate. The public input process prepares the client to be a better client. You can do this with the design team or a separate programmer, but you need to do this.”
Jacob Petersen, Hargreaves Associates: “It appears that [programming] will be something landscape architects have to fight for to retain it in the profession.”
What do you think?
Image credit: Hargreaves Associates