DW’s Legacy Design® in Landscape Architecture Education and Research  

by Bo Yang, Utah State University - Guest Blogger

In a recent article entitled, “The Measured Response,”1 Landscape Architecture Magazine (LAM) featured Design Workshop’s comprehensive design approach, DW Legacy Design®. The article, which appeared in the March 2012 issue, opens with a large image of Design Workshop’s Denver studio. Allyson Mendenhall, who leads the DW Legacy Design® Program for the firm, is laughing while working with a team on developing metrics for a project. This image is an open invitation to read this convincing and interesting article, which focuses on Design Workshop’s broad performance-based design approach and its influence on landscape architecture education and research. And the influence is expected to be sweeping and far reaching.

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Initial Planning Begins for La Posta Development

Check out this article which highlights a project our Denver office has been working on in Durango, CO. Last week,we had a great public meeting in Durango, continuing to work with this wonderful community to build a diverse economy and maintain the quality of life in a very special place. As always, balancing competing needs is challenging, but by building a broader vision for the community together, it can be possible to find compromises that work for all stakeholders.






What happens when designers fail to use the spaces they design?

I sighed deeply when I saw my City and County of Denver jury summons in my mailbox. The thought of having to block out a day in my schedule seemed daunting. I anxiously checked on-line the night before to see if my number had been dismissed. Nope. I had to report the next day.

This was the first time I had been to the new downtown Denver Justice Center Campus and the Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse. Approaching the building was a good experience, the security screening was efficient, and the jury waiting room located right off the lobby was simple to get to and efficient. So far so good.

Then the call to join a group of 45 potential jurors in a courtroom came – District 5 on the 5th floor.  First, we were asked to be seated in the rock hard wooden benches in the back of the room (where the public usually sits). Perhaps the benches were to reflect some sort of tradition in courtroom design but in 2012, it is really necessary to make people as uncomfortable as possible? (But little did I know that the discomfort was just starting.)

I then found myself as one of 12 jurors, sitting in the jury box, for two days of trial plus one day of deliberation in the jury room. The seats in the jury box were cushioned swivel chairs, bolted in to the floor. Pretty comfy. The fatal flaw in the design was that the wall in front of the jury box was about four inches from the front of the chair. I couldn’t even sit with my legs directly in front of me – sitting instead with them in a v-shape pressed against the wall. And of course, straightening my legs at all during the day was out of the question. I really felt sorry for the few really tall guys in the group. It made the legroom in the back of any airplane seem luxurious. My conclusion: the person who did the drawings never sat in those chairs.

Other complaints came from the jury. The jury room was very small – it was just big enough for the conference table and chairs, and it was windowless. Two walls were painted pea soup green. One woman on the jury really struggled with claustrophobia, and since we spent an entire day in that room deliberating, she was a basketcase by the end of it. Additionally, in order to minimize disruptions, there was a restroom adjacent to the jury room. Without this facility, jurors would have to walk through the courtroom to get the main hallway with restrooms. But one unisex restroom for 12 people made for a difficult day.

The designers of the Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse nearly hit a homerun but, they forgot to pay attention to the comfort of a very important part of the legal system: the jurors. 

Designers should always experience the spaces they design.


Circular Reasoning

Do you ever use graphs and graphics to analyze and communicate information about your projects? Have you ever noticed that sometimes the information may not be portrayed accurately?

One of the most difficult graphics to accurately display are circles. It's pretty typical to scale the circles based on their radius. But, the correct approach is to scale the surface areas instead. 

The steps below outline the process: 

  1. First create a circle to represent the largest value in your data, which can be sized arbitrarily. For this example we'll use a 3" circle to represent a value of 1,000.
  2. Next, calculate the area of that circle using ∏r2. Our example 3" circle (1.5" radius) has an area of 7.069 square inches.
  3. Use the area you calculated as the basis for scaling other quantities. For example, if we wanted another circle that represented a value of 500 (half the original value), we would scale our area of 7.069 by 50%, which gives us 3.535.
  4. To find the radius of a circle with this area, insert the value calculated in step 3 into this equation for the value of "x"
  5. For our example, plugging in 3.535 into this equation gives us a radius value of a circle of this radius has exactly half the surface area of our original circle with a 1.5" radius (note that scaling the original radius by 50% would give us an incorrect radius value of 0.75).

Give it a try next time you're going to use circles to illustrate or communicate important information!


14th Street Improvements Compete but I Must Ask Once Again: What Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?

For those of you reading this blog who are not familiar with our Denver office, it is located downtown, right at the corner of Lawrence Street and 14th Street. For 12 long months, we endured the jackhammering, backhoes, dump trucks, concrete cutters, detours, truck backup beeps and impatient car horns as the City of Denver brought much-needed improvements to 14th Street. There were days that we were convinced that the jackhammer guy was digging to China. Other days we would have clients rushing through our door, late to a meeting, exclaiming, “Where the @#%* do you park around here?”

As I watched the transformation, I thought about other projects where investment in the public realm was the catalyst for adjacent private investment both in the form of new development and redevelopment. In the case of the improvements on 14th Street, had the quality of the public right-of-way diminished so much that it was bringing down the value of adjacent property? City planners, developers and business leaders had talked about overhauling 14th Street for over a decade. What would the benefit have been, if any, if they could have acted quicker? The quality of the pedestrian experience was one of the worst in the downtown core, yet 14th Street was the venue to get people to/from the Denver Convention Center, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Larimer Square, City of Denver's Wellington E. Webb Building and several hotels.

Despite the condition of the 14th Street experience, public entities invested in the Hyatt Regency at the Convention Center and Ellie Caulkins Opera House.  Private sector entities invested hundreds of millions of dollars to build The Spire, Four Seasons, Embassy Suites, and the renovation of Executive Towers (the Curtis Hotel).

Thank goodness the City of Denver, Downtown Denver Partnership, the 14th Street Business Improvement District and the voter approval of the Better Denver Bond funds figured out how to get the improvements constructed. Now residents, businesses and visitors alike can benefit from a safer and better experience in which to travel 14th Street.

You can read more about the 14th Street improvements as well as see images of the transformation by visiting the project's page on the City of Denver's website as well as on the contractor's (Concrete Works) website.