bluegreen in Dwell contest

Feb 12.2012


Breaking news! Bluegreen is a finalist in the Rethinking Preservation contest sponsored by Dwell Magazine.  The contest seeks to build support for historic preservation by honoring precedents of the past. Bluegreen’s entry, the Redstone Coke Ovens restoration project in Redstone, Colorado, is up against a host of wonderful preservation projects from around the country, and to win we need your help!

Check out the contest and vote for Bluegreen here:

Rethinking Preservation Contest


why we volunteer

Jan 29.2012

We started   Community  :  Benefit a year ago.  An opportunity to offer back innovation and solutions that broaden and better our spatial and personal experiences, we formalized our passion to be out there helping.  Sometimes, the commitment is spawned from a nagging guilt over living and working in a breathtakingly beautiful place.  Oftentimes, it is in response to a call for action, an immediate need that has to be filled.  Most times, it conflicts with deadlines and other work crises making us wonder why we bother.  Today, we are again reminded that whatever the reason for the commitment, and whatever the obstacle to honoring that commitment, we always get something wonderful in return—a Personal : Benefit.

We are not just talking about the warm fuzzy feeling one gets from doing good, although, that is really nice.  We are talking about experiencing the camaraderie of being with like-minded and equally passionate, yet diverse, individuals.  Building sustaining relationships that continue well past the volunteer service has ended.  Using our skills to close a gap in resources to make something truly extraordinary.   Having fun while installing art that speaks to a community-wide purpose.  Experiencing the excitement of something new and challenging.

A year later, we are non-profit board members, organizers, and extra pairs of hands.  We are pursuing our passions in the environment, community leadership, recreation, contemporary art, sustainability, and local food production.  We are each experiencing wonderful returns as we give to our community.  If an opportunity to volunteer presents itself to you, seize it.  We promise you won’t regret it.

intersections

Jan 22.2012

I’ll meet you at the corner

Is it the planner who defines perceptions of public space or is it the individual user? This chicken and egg conundrum has no definitive answer. Each individual moving through the city from destination to destination has a unique trajectory that ultimately helps define the ever-changing shape of the city. The planner, always on top of the game, recognizes the patterns and trends of the collection of individuals. Working together, the planner and the individual should create meaningful civic spaces. Consider examples of planners taking the tabula rasa approach (think Brasilia) and consider examples of bricolage-style community building (think illegal settlements) and you see can see how one does not work well without the other.

Lets go back to the individual, who is each one of us, as we move through the streets between various destinations. As we walk, negotiating the sidewalk becomes a sort of dance, a unique improvisation of asserting, ceding, drifting and stopping. The route is not without form, as the street grid gives us a structural framework for finding and remembering our way. As we walk, we drift in and out of different states of awareness. Walking down the length of the block we may be lost in our own thoughts, but once we reach an intersection our focus is usually called to some thing or some body that requires our attention. As a nexus of streets and sidewalks, intersections are the most dynamic points in the grid, and the corners are places where we are more likely to have chance encounters, meet friends and greet strangers. They are natural places for pause and conversation, for seeing and being seen. We are more likely to make eye contact with passersby at intersections. Any business located on a corner will double its visibility and often be considered a landmark when giving directions, as in turn right at the cafe.

Viewing intersections in this light, the design possibilities are limitless. Street corners are more than just the intersection of streets and sidewalks, they are points of opportunity, and they could be designed to engage communal fraternization. If it is mandatory that pedestrians stop at crosswalks for traffic signals, we have a captive audience!

Community connections are a hot topic in Aspen these days. We are all excited about pedestrian friendly linkages between the mountain, downtown and river, and hopefully  the city will consider the intersections as key points for design opportunity to enhance our vibrant civic environment.

in praise of alleys

Jan 16.2012

It is obvious that as our cities become denser, the more important open space becomes.  But what defines urban open space?  Parks, plazas and greenways are wonderful expressions of sensitive and functional preservation of land for community use, but there are many unsanctioned spaces just as valuable. We have made it our business to seek out these untapped spaces and, similar to a collector of coins or baseball cards, amass them (at least mentally), waiting for their value to rise. Alleys are one of these untapped spaces.

Alleys are a city’s sleight of hand.  While we shop, dine or trudge off to work along streets, avenues and boulevards, alleys deftly conceal all the unsavory truths of our urban habitation.  Dumpsters, electrical meters, grease traps, smoke breaks, those that want to hide, and those that we want hidden. Alleys become little gray smudges in the urban experience that we observe from our peripheral vision, dark canyons into which we seldom pass. And though the alley and main street are spatially similar, their function differs so wildly that we are unable to see them as mirrored selves; and we are happy to ignore the alley.

Which is understandable.  Next time you find yourself walking with a few minutes to spare, turn towards that gray smudge in the corner of your eye.  Venture down that alley for a few blocks and mark what you see. Garbage, utilities, delivery men, loading docks, air conditioners, exhaust pipes. Note how truly unglamorous the alley is as it humbly accepts all that we need but don’t want to know we need. The esoteric exterior manifestations of interior functions. Delivery and removal of items that seem to exist without origin or grave. The gritty skeletons and organs of our urban lives.

And then look again.  Because we are so willing to ignore alleys, they become spaces available for other uses. Private places for conversation. The real entrances to buildings. Canvases. The impromptu living rooms of smokers seen in two vinyl chairs. Alleys then are not just infrastructure passageways but vital components of the urban landscape, rich and inviting.  And grimy, too. There is a reason we avoid alleys, but development pressure in our ever growing cities may force us to change our opinions of them.  What might they become then?

the worst seat in the house?

Jan 3.2012

The Sonic Arboretum

any seat. Ian Schneller and Andrew Bird’s Sonic Arboretum and associated live performances at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago are designed for ambulatory experience. The museum’s atrium is temporarily transformed into a dynamic soundscape through the installation of sculptural speakers. These reinventions of the phonograph, formed from compressed recycled newspaper and clothes dryer lint, project a series of richly layered compositions generated by Bird during his recent residency at the MCA.

Defying the traditional (unidirectional) concert experience, the audience is intended to wander through the space during the event, catching variations in sound as it is amplified to different degrees, bounces off the confines of the space, and in some cases, is expressed in pulses through the rotation of speakers. Bird fades into the background: on stage, he manipulates the established loop, but vocals and live instrumentals fall into line with the recorded composition, with the result being less a performance and more the invention of an environment.

city scale holidays

Dec 20.2011

the holiday spirit writ large

The building next to our office expresses it much better than we ever could:

A big happy holidays from all of us at Bluegreen!

tools of the trade

Dec 16.2011

First off, we are pleased to announce that Bluegreen won a Merit Award at this year’s ASLA Colorado Awards!

The winning project, the Top of the Rockies National Scenic and Historic Byway planning document, provides guidelines for future site development along the entire 117 mile alpine highway. By creating a Corridor Management Plan, an Interpretive Management Plan, Design Guidelines, and a master plan for the popular Independence Pass Summit Site, this expansive project delivers a set of tools for future designers.  In the process, we inevitably asked ourselves the beguiling question:

How do you go about designing design tools?

Here are a few challenges that we encountered and our responses:

CHALLENGE ONE: Expression of Process and Product

The Top of the Rockies project is rich; it has broad scope, numerous players, and a deliverables set comprised of four distinct documents equaling some 300 pages.  This inherent complexity, while making for a dynamic project, became problematic in expressing the processes and end goals to clients, partners and public stakeholders. We found that text alone did not succinctly explain the players, scope, geography, timeline and final products. We needed a tool that was both engaging and legible.
In response to this challenge, we developed the above process diagram which conveys the entire Byway project.  Though it is brief and intuitive, it is deceivingly simple. Space, time and final product were compressed into the clear format, expanding the diagram into an outreach and advocacy tool while simultaneously liberating it from the lifeless realm of the flow chart.

CHALLENGE TWO: Archetypal Site Development

Among other documents, the Top of the Rockies project produced Design Guidelines which define the goals and methods for successful site improvements.  While the Byway has over 40 distinct sites, ranging from ranch land to mining towns to pristine alpine forest, we had to describe all manifestations of the Byway and their design solutions through an archetype. To tackle this challenge, we chose to develop a section.
Sections are fundamental design tools for landscape architects, but for this particular section we had to illustrate more than topographical change and spatial relationships.  We had to boil down Byway diversity and illustrate materiality, amenities and site processes for all conditions.  This “universal” site becomes a useful abstraction for future designers. By overlaying the traditional section with diagrammatic use zones and material functions, the informational capacity is augmented and it evolves into robust design tool.

CHALLENGE THREE: Design Intent Translation

After receiving remarks expressing confusion over certain design features of the Byway, we realized we needed clearer channels of communication. It was not the ideas themselves that were confounding, but the manner in which we were expressing them.

In preparation for a public open house and with clarity in mind, we took a few steps back and reformulated our approach.  Instead of displaying fully formed imagery or photographic precedents, we distilled design ideas down into simple, conceptual forms. These graphics provided a solid platform from which to discuss materiality, site context and other design nuances. We were very happy when public open house attendants exclaimed, “Now I understand what you mean!” From this shared point of reference, Bluegreen received more accurate opinions that went on to influence final design decisions. While these diagrams in themselves are not unique, their application as a translation device is.

In the end, the most fascinating part of developing these design tools lies not in the affect they produced in their users, but the understanding they cultivated in their creators. This phenomenon is best expressed by the following adage:

You do not know something until you teach it.

bluegreen blog unveiled!

Dec 7.2011

After much hard work and anticipation, Bluegreen is pleased to release the first post of our new blog.  Why a blog? you may ask. The decision to develop an online forum that investigates issues, events and people that affect landscape architecture, planning and the community at large was an organic one.  It was born out of our desire to explore ideas that affect us as designers and citizens and to share those ideas with you.  They say that design is 99% invisible, an unfortunate truth considering that the most interesting and critical moments of the design process go unseen.  We aim to change this.

 

It is in this investigative spirit we have founded the Bluegreen blog to EXPLORE, ADVOCATE, and ENGAGE ideas that influence design and our community, locally and abroad.  Please help us to create positive dialogue: read and comment often. Until next time…

 

Back to work!