Hardscape Renovations with Maximum Visual Impact
Since 2005, Site Design Studio, a landscape architecture firm based in Tustin, California, has been working together with The Muller Company of California to create new identities for commercial properties that still have potential as vibrant spaces for the present day. A large part of the collaboration is a cost analysis for a given project, which looks to find ways to save money in certain matters such as demolition, the outlays of which can be constraining on a commercial renovation. To this end, the Site Design/Muller team has developed several applications to keep an asset's existing working systems, such as the concrete and integrated drainage, leaving more of the budget to spend on upgraded materials while shortening the construction phase.
"As an underlying concept we endeavor to 'capture the space alive', a Zen approach called Shakkei," states Mike Sullivan, principal of the landscape architecture firm. "The process starts with understanding both the client and the site. To understand the site is to study the existing geometry, architecture, environmental influences and how people use the site. Playing off these influences, we create a new integrated look. A sequence of detailed spaces to the building fuses the design."
"Materials are used to create patterns," Sullivan notes. "Paving in neutral tones provides a matrix acting as a foil for other materials like wood, steel, acrylic, cobble, boulders and of course, plantings. We use cool grays, tans, browns and beige for warmth, black for contrast and lots of colorful plants, flowering trees, grasses and succulents as accents to the paving spaces. Blended with the inorganic elements, they bring a natural feel to an urban space: a playful integration of materials. The concept of biophilia is elemental in the process, responding to man's instinctive bond with nature."
The materials are coordinated with the architect so that integration is achieved inside and outside.
To illustrate this symbiotic relationship between the developer, the designer and their renovation strategy, here are brief accounts of three projects.
555 Winchester/Tisch Tower -
San Jose, California
These two neighboring structures are adjacent to the area's famous Winchester Mystery House, as well as Santana Row. At 555 Winchester, which used to be called the paper clip building because of the shape of its entry, the new design transformed the entrance with a contemporary, asymmetrical look and provided an update to the hardscape and softscape surrounding the building.