By Jeff Server, LEED AP BD+C, ASLA, Assoc. AIA, Industry Product Specialist at Nemetschek Vectorworks
When I was a young graduate student studying architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning at the University of Colorado, I was constantly exploring ways to “merge” the design disciplines and focus on holistic, sustainable approaches and solutions to projects. A professor of mine, Alan Berger, understood what I was trying to achieve and introduced me to a seminal redevelopment project called Emscher Park.
Located in the Ruhr Valley in Germany, the project was designed and led by a landscape architecture firm called Latz + Partner. The park is a popular community center that was redeveloped from an obsolete industrial site, creating an asset for a community rather than simply ignoring a contaminated, derelict site. Latz’s Emscher Park inspired me to pursue work that focused on making something more out of existing or abandoned sites in a sustainable way, rather than wasting time, money, and resources by wiping the slate clean.
Keeping Emscher Park in the back of my mind, I spent the next 15 years as a practicing architect and landscape architect before applying those skills to my current position at Nemetschek Vectorworks where I help make improvements to their design software. Earlier this summer, I learned that our office was hosting a meeting of the Maryland chapter of the ASLA where a landscape architect was going to talk about his work and firm. Out of simple curiosity, I decided to stop by, and there was Tilman Latz, owner of Latz + Partner, the firm whose work inspired me to take the direction I did in my career path all those years ago.
Latz offered tremendous personal insight into the Emscher Park project, while also sharing advice on the challenges that could be faced within that type of work. He warned that the level of collaboration needed between public agencies to create redeveloped, sustainable projects like Emscher Park is harder to achieve in the US, but that the rewards would be well worth it. Incorporating pre-existing features of the site into the design not only saved time and money, but it also captured the area’s personality and charm in such a way that visitors still travel to the park from across Europe.
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