WAN in conversation with ArquitectonicaGEO

With the Landscape Award well underway WAN talks to Laurinda Spear, one of the founding principals of Arquitectonica. In 2005 Laurinda branched out and established the landscape architecture practice ArquitectonicaGEO, focusing on environmental land planning and landscape design, and the Miami based design collective have gone on to win numerous awards for their projects in both native Florida and abroad, where they have been pioneers in designing landscapes that express traditional techniques with a unique twist, such as incorporating native plantings, garnering inspiration from cultural landmarks, and promoting sustainability in a densely populated urban setting.

WAN
What inspired you to develop the ArquitectonicaGEO arm of the business in 2005? 

Laurinda
Having practiced architecture for many years, we realized that landscape thinking was not incorporated into our designs and added only later. It was clear that this did not foster the best design solutions. ArquitectonicaGEO was initiated with the idea that architects and landscape architects can and should work synergistically.

WAN
How important is it that landscape architects consider sustainability in their designs and how have we seen that change and evolve in recent years?

Laurinda
As we begin to understand how human health and well-being are inextricably connected to the Earth’s ecological systems, it is fundamental that the design of buildings and landscapes advance the stewardship and conservation of earth’s resources and energy. We are incorporating the idea of resiliency to climate change into our designs, as well.

WAN
The Taikoo Hui Green Roof Plazas in China and the Perez Art Museum Miami are both great examples of how you made sustainability a core and complimentary element of the design. Can you tell us a little a bit about how you achieved that in these two projects?

 

 

Laurinda
In both projects, the landscape is integrated with the building, requiring a cooperative relationship between the landscape architect, architect, developer and contractors.

Where the Perez Art Museum building itself has been designed to express the raw material of concrete in its many forms, native plants have been chosen to display the raw materials of our landscape as complement and contrast to the geometric architecture of the building. Native trees, shrubs, groundcovers and vines spring from the ground plane in a vibrant counterpoint to more formal, hanging vertical green elements. In addition to the lush pan-tropical vegetation of South Florida, landscape materiality is deconstructed to exhibit the Earth’s most basic forms, including gravel in paths, the parking garage, and in the urban concrete environment. The resulting landscape is a resilient, dynamic, multilevel profusion of colour, art and green infrastructure.

For Taikoo Hui, significant open space was a requirement for the massive mixed-use development, sited on 12.1 acres.  The 2.55 acre multi-level roof garden over the retail mall functionally and visually links the complex components, forming a public park on a plateau that opens to vistas of the city around it.  The street level landscape and hardscape tie the development to its surroundings, and to the underground train station, below grade parking and service areas.  The intensive green roof system, with soil depths as great as 6.5 feet, supports a wide variety of large trees and other densely planted native or adapted material, and provides more significant environmental services than traditional extensive green roof systems. The roof garden includes peaceful, shaded sitting areas, as well as vibrant dining areas, and regenerates human health and well-being on many levels. The landscape contributed to the project’s LEED Gold certification.

WAN
What’s next for ArquitectonicaGEO in terms of landscape architecture?

Laurinda
We look forward to advancing the concepts of stewardship and sustainability in new and exciting ways.  We are interested in integrating the practice of landscape architecture with architecture throughout our entire studio. We’ll also be looking for ways to share this design philosophy by bringing together students and young professionals in the fields of architecture and landscape architecture.

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