Site Solutions | Through the Designer’s Eyes

Through the Designer’s Eyes

Screen Shot 2014-11-07 at 4.13.09 PMBy: Jen Ilkin

I love to explore. Always have. If I were to describe my favorite childhood memories, they would all fit succinctly under the category of “exploring”.   And more so, as I grew, it became what you might even call placemaking – whether that was crafting a primitive shelter in the woods with the neighborhood gang, forging our own (less dramatic) ‘Lord of the Rings’-esque community, or spending hours imagining ways to repurpose my space-age looking middle school as my own private estate. Taking my neighborhood in, mobile on my pink and purple Huffy bike, I searched out those special places. You know the ones – somewhere that just feels right.   And even there, on back roads and forests on the edges of suburbia, I found them. And I fell in love with the idea of place.

Fast-forward many years, and I’m still exploring and placemaking, now as a landscape architect. One aspect of earning that title is that it requires an understanding of precedent. In school we studied great works and wildly successful places, even having the chance to visit some – think Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington DC, or Piazza di Spagna in Rome. Every new place is exciting because it can reveal what makes us love a place, or, of course, what makes a place disappointing.

When I’m lucky enough to get to the next continent, it’s always a treasure trove of space planning and design. Take Paris, for example. Here is a typical path at the border of the Jardin des Tuileries.

Screen Shot 2014-11-07 at 4.08.58 PM

And you may find yourself in a space and think, “well, this just works”. And, a designer wants to begin to unravel why. And, so out come the sketchbooks, because this is just one layer of the good stuff that we want to remember.

Dimensions are often the first key in unlocking the dynamics of a space, and so I really wanted to remember how this space was composed.

Dimensions are often the first key in unlocking the dynamics of a space, and so I really wanted to remember how this space was composed.

So, I remain a student of spaces. I look at the big picture and the minute. Yes, I am the odd tourist you may notice taking a close up photo of that hand railing or drain cover or concrete curb. And, I look forward to sharing some more interesting finds. And perhaps you too will find yourself more aware of the spaces around you. And, even if you are not crouched on the ground, snapping a photo of a particularly interesting mulch (yes, it exists – stay tuned!), it’s great to pause a moment, look around and appreciate a really great space.

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