What is Place-Based Design?
Did you ever get the feeling about a building that it somehow 'just belonged', or that its placement on the site- its form, materials, or even colors were somehow 'just right'? Or perhaps once inside, have you ever experienced that a building's interior spaces were connected to its surrounding landscape in such a way that the inside and outside just seemed to 'flow' between one another?
Many of the living, working, and playing environments we're tasked with designing are intended to explore this connection between the natural and man-made realms, between a building and its site, between architecture and 'place'- and that's true whether that place is physical, cultural, historical, and/or all of the above. This is the essence "place-based" design- and it drives almost every commission we undertake. To do this, we often start by immersing ourselves in the project's setting- its culture, history, surrounding land forms, existing vegetation, and even the colors of the land and sky itself- in order to "tell the story" of the place for which we're designing.
We strive to weave these observations throughout our design work for both the building and site development. This isn't necessarily a novel school of thought, or a new approach to architecture- anyone who has studied or experienced the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, understands that some of his best designs seem to flow effortlessly from the landscapes for which they were conceived.
We are currently making our final color and finish selections for an exciting new project in Los Alamos, New Mexico- a 6,000 sq.ft. Nature Center for the Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC)- which will serve as an educational destination for the study of the canyons, streams, plants and wildlife of the Pajarito Plateau. Earlier on in our process we used our observations of the northern New Mexico environs (its plants, animals, and landscape) to guide the architectural form of the project. Similarly, we are now looking to the colors of the Pajarito Plateau to inform the project's final material and finish selections in order to tell the story of this uniquely beautiful place.
We trust that our observations and resulting finish selections will help make the completed nature center an authentic inhabitant of its landscape- blurring the lines between interior and exterior, between the natural and man-made, as a way of paying homage to its native environment- the source and reason for its existence.