The Design of the Disenfranchised

In our field, we focus on desires of clients – those paying for our services.  However, in public arenas those who will regularly utilize the designed space must also be considered. It is important to include and accommodate individuals who may not have a voice in the design process, but rely on and benefit from the public spaces the most.

Historically, the field of landscape architecture has deterred the homeless from such spaces.  Benches and public toilets were removed, hedges cut to the ground, security cameras were installed, and seating areas were adorned with “anti-homeless” measures. These prevented anyone from remaining in one spot for too long. Designers and municipalities realized, however, these implementations created unfriendly landscapes, unpleasant to everyone, not just the homeless.

Walter Hood, an inspiring leader in community design, focuses on creating meaningful spaces for people of all backgrounds. Lafayette Square Park in Oakland, California exemplifies his work. With its redesign in the 1990’s, Hood packs amenities inspired by the needs and desires of current users of the park, mostly the homeless and previously excluded members of nearby neighborhoods. Instead of a multi-use common area, Hood creates subspaces within a larger, inclusive framework.  Each subspace addresses different community needs rather than adhering to a “one-size-fits-all” attitude. The design is visually cohesive, using tactics including: low curvilinear walls, topographic changes, and a variety of paving materials.

Lafayette square park

“Walter Hood, Lafayette Park ,” in Environmental Design Archives Exhibitions, Item #264

A more recent example of inclusive design is featured in the February 2014 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.  Bud Clark Commons is a multi-service transitional housing facility serving Portland, Oregon’s homeless population.Although a private entity, the design and amenities in the exterior areas provide insight into design of public spaces.  The exterior design, by Mayer/Reed Landscape Architecture, mimics the layout of a home with a welcoming entrance (foyer), storage for belongings (closet), circulation and queuing area (hallway), and seating area for individuals awaiting service (living room). Umbrella shade, vegetation, water-features, and warm colors create a calming atmosphere for those seeking services.

Inclusive Design is not about creating areas for the homeless, but creating inclusive spaces for a broad range of people. By including the needs and desires of different groups, public spaces become more vibrant, meaningful and successful.There is no formula for creating effective public places but using this approach may redefine “public space” and its role in landscape architecture and our communities.

Bud Clark Commons [Photograph]. In D. Jost, Off the street. Landscape Architecture Magazine, 104(2), 76-87.

Mountains, Muse & Views

In a matter of days I will set-out on a much-needed adventure. I have been dreaming about this trip for years and planning it for the last 9 months. While adventures are available to us here in the Roaring Fork Valley, this one will offer new insight and a unique setting. The anticipation of travel, new landscapes, and cultures ignites thought and excitement as I look through photos of my destination. I cannot help but create visions of what experiences I might encounter on this thrilling undertaking. While we can be challenged and inspired during our daily work, it is so important to take ourselves outside of our “normal” and into the unknown; into places we dream about, have curiosities of, and aspire to visit.


Lobuche Peak – Courtesy of

 Being one who values the inspiration and solace offered by mountains, I am excited about the chance to romp through one of the most spectacular massifs in the world. I will be traveling to Kathmandu, Nepal in a couple of weeks, hopping onto a notoriously unreliable plane to Lukla and then will be trekking through the Khumbu region of Nepal and attempt to summit a peak or two. My partner and I have spent months planning, brainstorming, and collecting feedback on where to go, what to do, and what to see. We know we want to move around, see many places, and get high in elevation; but we sense that too much planning may be pointless as our adventure may dictate its own path.


Ama Dablam Peak – Courtesy of Lonely Planet

As I look through photos of where I will be visiting, I realize that I could spend the rest of my life trekking through Nepal and still have more to see. To be able to enjoy and revel in every moment in the valleys and peaks of each day is what I am hoping to attain in Nepal. I cannot tell you where I will end up or what pictures I will take, but I am excited for what those may be. I cannot wait to share these experiences.


Namche Bazaar , The “Gateway to the High Himalaya” – Courtesy of Wikipedia

I am sure there will be moments of cold, times of uncertainty, and risk; but those are challenges that mountains provide, and is why I love them. I want to be inspired by the massiveness of the landscape and the people that call these harsh environments home. I want to come home with a new perspective on my life and return with an outlook that better informs the way I interact with my own physical and community landscape.

This is a lot to expect from a place, as traveling is so much about how we choose to experience it. Going to new and inspiring places allows us to dream bigger and to fulfill our visions of curiosity and adventure. Hopefully we then realize we can create these same adventures in our own home landscapes; provided that we seek them out with the same wonder.

Innovation in the Rust Belt

This past winter and spring I worked with an initiative called Rust2Green. Rust2Green, or “R2G”, is a cooperative of specialists and  students  from a variety of fields, working to revitalize and stimulate “Rust Belt”  communities within New York State. [You can watch a video about R2G here].


Courtesy of Rust2Green

Currently, R2G is working with the City of Utica, New York. In the past  few  decades, Utica has shown economic parallels to other postindustrial cities. In fact, following Detroit’s declaration of bankruptcy in July 2013,  Utica’s local newspaper published an issue with the front page headline  of “Are We  Next?”

Indeed, Utica has faced many of the difficulties that other Rust Belt Cities have confronted in the last century: a stretching and decentralization of resources due to the sprawl of suburbs, population loss, and difficulty adjusting to new industries and economies.

During my work in the city of Utica, I periodically traveled to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as well.  As I worked to reimagine one struggling rust belt city like Utica, I was experiencing the wonder of another city that had already reinvented itself. In a true testament to Pittsburgh’s resilience, it has transformed from an economy completely dependent on big steel, to one that possesses diversified commercial sectors such as healthcare, higher education, and technology.

As the project in Utica unfolded, I kept returning mentally and physically to Pittsburgh’s Point State Park for inspiration. Like Utica and many other industrial cities, Pittsburgh was founded first as a military fort along a great waterway. Pittsburgh sits at the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers, while Utica stretches across the Eerie Canal. These vital waterways in Utica and Pittsburgh enabled both cities’ great expansion during the Industrial Revolution Era.

Point State Park

View of Point State Park by Pittsburgh Photographer, David DiCello

Through innovative signage, preserved historic remnants, and stone curbing outlining the historic form of the bastion, the design of Point State Park beautifully commemorates and portrays the history of the area. Furthermore, the park brings life to the Pittsburgh waterfront while visually referencing the important role of water in this city through a towering fountain.

Currently, the park is the center for culture and innovation in the city, hosting events such as the Three Rivers Arts Festival and the Venture Outdoors Festival. On a sunny day at the confluence of the three rivers, it is easy to forget that Pittsburgh is considered a Rust Belt city; all you see is the green of the grass, the blue of the water and the vibrant life of a thriving city. As we continue to hear about the decline of legacy cities like Detroit and Utica in the news, I revisit Pittsburgh and the park for inspiration and proof of resiliency and reinvention of a city.

Check out David DiCello’s photography of Pittsburgh HERE

River of Health

“I love reflexology and the empowering benefits it lends for self-care and the wellness of our families and communities.” – Dr. Elizabeth Marazita
Day 7-1

Foot reflexology is an ancient worldly practice, with its roots in traditional Chinese Medicine. The underlying theory behind reflexology is that there are “reflex” areas on the feet and hands that correspond to specific organs, glands, and other parts of the body, and that by manipulating these one can improve health and well-being through one’s qi. Modern day research has proven that, among other things, walking reflexology paths can actually lower blood pressure and improve balance.

DHM has recently teamed with Basalt Mountain Gardens and Paths of Health reflexology experts Dr. Paul Raish and Dr. Elizabeth Marazita to design and install a 5 Element Reflexology Path at True Nature Healing Arts in Carbondale, Colorado.   It is truly a co-creative process and an important feature in True Nature’s Peace Garden.   This particular reflexology path will be a bridging of both Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, honoring the five elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether. (Ayurveda is the healing science of longevity from India, which aligns often with yoga, the science of self-realization).

To experience the “River of Health” path walkers will take off their shoes and walk barefoot over intentionally placed stones of various colors and sizes to stimulate the “reflex” areas on their feet.  Walking the path will bestow well-being and also signal where there may be imbalances in the body.

The path’s unveiling and use for the public will occur at Sacred Fest, True Nature Healing Arts grand opening celebration September 5-7.

This 3 minute time-lapse video captures the first 3 days of construction (created byLewis Cooper of Gonzoshots)

Click here to learn more about Ayurveda and Chinese medicine energetic systems.

Click here to learn more about reflexology paths.

Street Seats

Recently Carbondale has become home to a couple new seating areas in front of local Main Street businesses. These little wooden decks provide exterior seating to the businesses they sit in front of and create an interesting dining experience. Now, people can literally eat on Main Street and chat with their friends as they pass by. Carbondale can’t have been the first town to come up with such an inventive way to bring more fun to downtown dining, can it?

The first PARK(ing) space coalesced in 2005 as a two-hour experiment in San Francisco in which some sod, a tree and a bench were placed on a metered parking space. Now, people all over the world take part in utilizing parking spaces for creative purposes. More permanent street-side parking space alternatives like the ones now seen in Carbondale have been bubbling to the surface in several cities across the US.

In New York they started as “Pop-Up Cafes,” platforms with seating and vegetation for public use where once there were parking spaces. There, these spaces must fulfill several requirements before being permitted including wheelchair access, use of quality (preferably sustainable/recycled) materials, and inclusion of plantings (you can see a time-lapse video of one of them here).

Not surprisingly, the birthplace of PARK(ing) Day also has more permanent parking spot alternatives. These “Parklets” are much like their east-coast relatives and also must be open for public access. These San Francisco mini parks have had some pretty sweet designs (which you can see on flickr here).

Going by the name of “Street Seats,” Portland’s use of street-side parking is more business-oriented. Unlike their San Fran and NYC cousins these spots are for extra seating for patrons of whatever business chooses to pay for said parking space (they also have some pictures on flickr).

Here in Carbondale the two umbrella-populated platforms seem to most resemble those over in Portland. These wooden decks help to enliven Main Street, especially at night, and are a creative way to reimagine the downtown streetscape. Overall, they seem to be a pretty cool place to gather. Who knows, the DHM Carbondale office might even try to get in on this new trend and create a cute little parklet of its own.


Carbondale Street Seats

San Fransisco Parklet


Portland Street Seat