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This is Landscape Architecture

Updated: Sep 10, 2021

It’s Springtime!  Everything is fresh and new, plants are blossoming and birds are chirping.  When we think of springtime we automatically think of getting outdoors.  The earth is a wondrous place during the springtime.  In order to preserve the wonders of the Earth we celebrate Earth Day on April 22nd which is the “largest civic-focused day of action in the world”  We are reminded of things we can do to help make sure our planet is as healthy as it can be by preventing extra pollution or waste.  While many of us know April is Earth Month, did you know April is also World Landscape Architecture month?

“World Landscape Architecture Month is the month long celebration of landscape architecture and designed public and private spaces.  WLAM aims to demonstrate how landscape architecture affects our daily lives.  WLAM introduces the profession to the public by highlighting landscape architect-designed spaces around the world. From the iconic Central Park in New York, to your favorite local park, WLAM celebrates the work of ASLA’s members and landscape architects around the globe.” ~ ASLA

Landscape architects create a more sustainable, livable, and beautiful world thru their design and beautification of our outdoor spaces.

“From its beginning, the profession’s mission has been to lead, to educate, and to participate in the careful stewardship, wise planning, and artful design of our cultural and natural environments. Landscape architects design for all of us. We design residential landscapes, bike networks, hiking trails, transportation corridors, campuses, office grounds, green roofs, and public parks. We focus on planning, designing, and building an infrastructure of GREEN that knits all of our communities together. As landscape architects design beautiful urban spaces, streetscapes and parks they encourage people to abandon their cars and walk.  This saves energy and reduces pollution and as a bonus it can also help people lose weight, lower blood pressure, and improve their well being.” ~ ASLA president, Susan Hatchell

We thought we’d celebrate World Landscape Architecture and Earth month by showcasing some of the great improvements to our open space made possible by some amazing Landscape Architects.  Join us as we celebrate these wonderful LA’s and their contributions to the Earth to make it a more beautiful place for us to live.

Lizzy Hirsch, Landscape Architect at

The City of San Francisco

Joe DiMaggio Playground – San Francisco, CA

The Joe DiMaggio Playground  is a 2-acre park with a children’s play area, tennis courts, bocce courts, pool building, and sports courts. It sits directly next to the newly constructed North Beach Library and will transform one block of Mason Street from a street with vehicular traffic into a public park space. This project will reorganize and renovate all portions of the park, including:

  • Expanded and improved children’s play area with new safety and ADA requirements;

  • New and upgraded landscaping;

  • New and additional seating throughout the park;

  • Increased park safety and increased internal connections within the park;

  • Relocated and improved tennis courts;

  • New and improved lighting;

  • New and expanded bocce courts and picnic area;

  • and Resurfaced sports courts with new sports equipment and facilities.

This picture shows the community funded Joe DiMaggio Park Fish Mosaic Play Climber. The San Francisco Parks and Recreation Department and Friends of Joe DiMaggio Park requested a playable fish sculpture and asked the designers at Miracle Playsystems to help design and fabricate the installment. The designers at Miracle Playsystems created a photo-simulation of the proposed fish and the Parks department and the community loved it!

The park’s renovation realizes a decade-old vision of the North Beach community. The neighbors, led by the Friends of Joe DiMaggio Playground, have been active participants in the planning and design of the project, as well as independently fundraising for upgrades for the new project. ~ Friends of Joe DiMaggio Playground FB Page

This project is funded by the 2012 Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond; it has received $6.3 million for the project. Additionally, the Friends of Joe DiMaggio Playground is actively fundraising for additional upgrades to the park. Friends of Joe DiMaggio Playground is partnering with other neighborhood groups to help raise the last $498,000 needed to make sure the playground is ready for use by neighbors of all ages, and ready for the next 100 years. These are the funds that will provide the finishing touches that will make the park really lovely and special. ~ Courtesy of San Francisco Recreation and Parks

Check out the March 2018 issue of Landscape Architect and Specifier News where they highlight Joe MiMaggio Park’s renovation on Page 76 of the magazine.

Andrea Cochran, Landscape Architect at Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture

Helen Diller Civic Center Playground – San Francisco, CA

The newly renovated Helen Diller Civic Center Playgrounds, located in the heart of San Francisco’s Civic Center Historic District, serve the growing number of families in the densely populated Civic Center and Tenderloin neighborhoods, creating a fun, lively space for all to enjoy.

The Trust for Public Land created these two new playgrounds for Civic Center Plaza, as part of an ongoing partnership with San Francisco Recreation and Parks, and with generous donation from the Helen Diller Family Foundation. Following an extensive and inclusive community engagement process with parents, children, educators, and community stakeholders, The Trust for Public Land partnered with award-winning San Francisco based firm Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture to design the playgrounds.

The new playgrounds are symmetrically aligned with City Hall, inspired by nature and weather themes, and include custom designed play features to complement the new playgrounds and activate the adjoining space is one of the largest interactive floor light display installations in the country, representing the next generation of integrating public art in public spaces.

These vibrant playgrounds anchor the larger park outside of City Hall, which frequently hosts cultural events. The site is surrounded by notable institutions with programs for children, including the Main Library, the Asian Art Museum, and the San Francisco Symphony. ~ Courtesy of The Trust for Public Land

Click here to view a slideshow video of the entire project published by Bothman Construction.

Kimberly Garza, Landscape Architect at Atlas Lab

Peak Experience – San Francisco, CA

Peak Experience re-conceives the hills of San Francisco into a series of varying and undulating mounds that frame a mix of uses, that promote the integration of play into traditional street models. ~ Atlas Lab, Kimberly Garza and Andrew Tenbrink

This is a unique project for Miracle Playsystems – Designing Play to be a part of and what appeals to us most is that we were given the opportunity to bring playful placemaking to the streetscape of San Francisco. When we were contacted by Rebecca of Atlas Lab, she shared her vision with us and brought us questions on design and construct-ability. This was a temporary installation as part of the 2015 SF Market Street Prototyping Festival. Peak Experience builds upon the recreational corridor of the waterfront to establish a strong identity for Market Street through the augmentation of the flexible sidewalk zone to create an active corridor that supports interactive discovery, play and community engagement. Responding to the views of SF’s landscape and often static streetscape elements, Peak Experience proposes a soft and flexible sidewalk zone that seeks to introduce a malleable street typology that provide a platform for varying community experiences, while educating users of SF geography.

Peak Experience occupied a 15’ x 15’ site, between 1st and 2nd St. that transforms the surface of the public sidewalk, expressing the topography of three of San Francisco hills: Nob Hill, Russian Hill, and Telegraph Hill. The topography is formed by milled foam, coated in flexible play surface. Overlaid on the topographic surface is the primary street grid of that hill, offering cues to the public of the iconic topography of their city.

Image courtesy of Atlas Lab

Brian Kilian, Landscape Architect at Borrecco/Kilian & Associates

Heather Farm Park – Walnut Creek, CA 

On occasion we are fortunate enough to be asked to be part of a truly awe-inspiring project that changes the overall feeling of a community and brings excitement and life to an otherwise tired and dated park. This is exactly the case when we were asked in 2013 to be part of the team tasked to makeover Heather Farm Park in Walnut Creek, CA.

The existing 30,000 square foot play area was one that had dated back to the early 1990’s and was in need of a major renovation to bring it to current code compliance and to bring the fun back. Heather Farm Park is the largest public park in the City of Walnut Creek inclusive of an Aquatic Complex, Tennis Center, Skate Park, ball fields as well as lakes with walking trails throughout the park. The City wanted a truly unique, destination playground that also offered fully inclusive play for children of all abilities. What came of this dream is the newly constructed All Abilities Playground at Heather Farm Park that opened in October, 2014!

Starting in 2013, Carolyne Challice, Architect with the City of Walnut Creek began to envision what a new All Abilities Playground would look like and how it could best cater to the City and the surrounding communities who call the park home. With the added support of landscape architect Brian Kilian of Borrecco/Kilian & Associates, Ms. Challice reached out to 3 different manufacturers and began getting ideas for the space. Through this process they chose Miracle PlaySystems to design and supply the equipment that would sit at the center of this special park. The custom designed playgrounds by Miracle Recreation & HAGS, along with the rocks, boulders & fallen trees by Rocks & Ropes as well as the special shade structures throughout the play area by Sun Ports all work to add the exciting space.

Miracle Playsystems team of sales representatives & designers, were able to help the City through the design process to ensure the new playgrounds would work to serve kids of all abilities. This is seen throughout the park with the ramps which allow for a child in a wheelchair to access the playground from ground level up to a 6’ elevated level enabling all kids to experience the thrill of play!

From the opening in October there has already been a huge benefit to the community; the city has commented on how popular the park is and how many more people are using the park then before. By drawing in more families and children, the park has more than accomplished what the city set out to do. Not only has this renovation transformed the park, but it has re-excited the community. Now the City’s biggest problem is how to accommodate all the people who swarm to this park each day. A fun problem to have!

Click here to view a video of the park put together by Miracle Playsystems.

David Rubin, Landscape Architect at Callander Associates Landscape Architecture

Osage Station Park – Danville, CA 

Imagine if you could go back in time to the Wild West? You are racing the train down the rail corridor on your beloved horse when the train comes to a halt at a little station. You are immediately drawn to the quaintness of this town and curiosity leads you down the main road. As you ride over to find a place to draw up your horse you are greeted with smiles, hat tipping and curtsies by several locals. All of a sudden you see a dust cloud coming through the town lead by a slew of horses..and you realize CRIMANY, it’s a STAMPEDE!

Okay, so I let my imagination run wild with this theme, but I expect that I am not the only one when it comes to Osage Station Park! Located in Danville, the park is only a short distance from the Iron Horse Regional Trail, and as the name implies, this trail was once a rail corridor. It was the presence of the railway that provided the original theme for the park.

Originally built by the County prior to the Town’s incorporation, the park offered something for everyone, including athletic fields, play areas, a water feature, picnic areas and a rose garden. As the park matured, its attractiveness only increased, but changes in the regulatory climate dictated that changes to the park had to follow. The water feature which was in the middle of the play area had to be shut down, rendering a large area of the park unusable and as such was the “tipping point” to undertake a substantial renovation. The renovation afforded the Town the opportunity to address some programmatic deficiencies as well.

Osage’s play area felt a bit like an old Hollywood movie set complete with an Old West Town façade.  Made of wood, the play area was long on charm but a little short on durability. To make matters more challenging, other themes had crept into the scene, diluting the original concept. During the community outreach process, the plan for the play area quickly coalesced…the ‘old west’ theme would be restored!

Now children can let their imaginations run wild again in an inclusive, sustainable and safe play area. A number of thematic elements were introduced to strengthen the old west theme, including:

  • The tot area was modeled after an old western train station, complete with clock tower, passenger platform and play train.

  • The youth play area is a rambling old town with a bank, hotel, saloon and jail.

  • Complementary pieces include an embankment slide, mining themed spring rider, flashing railroad crossing arms, climbing barrels and a rubber surfaced “mesa” for kids to scramble on.

To create a space that can compete with all the distractions that children face today is no small feat.  Though TV was the goliath of the past, today TV pales in comparison to any number of small, portable handheld digital devices.  Though the ‘digital divide’ continues to narrow, the tendency of digital devices to only divide us further from the real world continues to grow. Creating spaces that engage the senses and the spirit has become more important than ever and Osage Station Park provides such an opportunity.

The setting is pure magic and allows for engaging in play with others, engaging the imagination, and engaging in the glory of nature for little and big pioneers alike! Are you ready to saddle up and ride into Osage Station Park?   ~  Courtesy of Callander Associates Landscape Architecture

Click here to view a video Miracle Playsystems published on Osage Station Park.

Lief and Amy McKay, Landscape Architects at RRM Design Group

Sinsheimer Park Playground – San Luis Obispo, CA

The half-acre playground at Sinsheimer Park is a multi-level, action packed hub of activity. Taking maximum advantage of the sloped site, the design features a 3-story tower, five large slides ranging from 12- to 18-feet tall, and a zip line. The most popular attraction, however, is a synthetic grass covered slope – 14-feet high – that allows kids (and adults that just can’t resist the temptation) to free-form slide, roll, and tumble into the protective surfacing below. The squeals of delight and red-faced cheeks are proof that kids are getting great exercise, and having fun doing it.

Of particular noteworthiness is the fact that the play environment is almost entirely accessible; the exception being the top floor of the tower. This provides a rare opportunity for mobility-impaired people to enjoy a richer, more integrated play experience.

Each of the three separate play pads doubles as a stormwater detention basin, hidden below the protective surfacing, to catch runoff and allow it to percolate into the ground.  ~  Courtesy of RRM Design Group.

Join us in celebrating our amazing Landscape Architects all around the world this April.  For more information check out ASLA’s website.   To download your own “This is Landscape Architecture” card click here.

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