Our commitment to creating vibrant, livable and sustainable communities is evident in our design of public open space and private amenity spaces in urban and suburban communities. With an emphasis on civic, mixed-use and transit-oriented development, Hord Coplan Macht (HCM) creates places that promote social interaction and enhance people’s lives. Our integrated design approach brings landscape architects together with urban planners, architects, developers, public agencies and community stakeholders in the design of parks, plazas, rooftops and streetscapes.
We spoke with Chris Schein, PLA, ASLA, to learn more about design amenity spaces, with a focus on landscape architecture, for housing mixed-use communities.
How can landscape architecture increase the value of a multifamily project?
The design of outdoor amenities in multifamily projects is critical to the success and competitive advantage for multifamily developers. The spaces HCM designs, such as swimming pools, outdoor kitchens, lounge areas and game areas all add value by helping owner’s lease-up their properties. These outdoor places are shown during tours with prospective tenants, and they also help managers of these properties minimize tenant turnover. Providing places to work, play, celebrate, socialize, or find solitude are all important places to create for tenants of these communities. They are an integral component of the residents’ quality of life.
What are some of the biggest challenges and opportunities in designing outdoor amenity spaces for housing/mixed use communities?
There is a growing demand in the marketplace for high-quality outdoor amenity spaces. Today’s developers and owners of multifamily and mixed use projects truly understand the importance of outdoor amenity spaces to the quality of life for their residents and creating a sense of place that is unique to their project and brand. There is a strong demand by the prospective residents of these communities to have meaningful social and physical connections to the neighborhoods they choose to live in. At HCM, we aim to create and choreograph these connections.
HCM works on a variety of projects, from urban to suburban, constrained sites to large spaces. For tight urban sites, making the most out of limited space or awkward space configurations, is a welcome challenge.
Meeting the applicable safety codes in the various jurisdictions we work in around the country is a challenge. Strict safety codes can affect the quality of the design of a swimming pool, outdoor bar, or a fire pit lounge.
Budget is a challenge in all projects. Affordability is becoming more important for all market sectors but can create challenges when project budgets are constrained. Well-designed amenity spaces can offer valuable return on investment and help developers attract tenants at a range of income levels.
What are the most important factors when designing a new space?
The most important factor in designing a new outdoor amenity program is understanding the target market and desired tenant makeup. We design for all demographics and age groups and the outdoor program can be tailored to meet the needs of each market sector.
As landscape architects, the indoor-outdoor connections are crucial: how indoor amenities connect to outdoor amenities in a manner that promotes great social interaction. Creating dynamic spaces that connect and activate each other is extremely important. Each project must be more than a collection of individual amenities, it should transform a property into a community with a strong sense of place and brand. Spaces must work together.
We advocate for having a project’s outdoor amenities not only connect to indoor amenity spaces, but we also advocate for building design that allows amenity courtyards to open out to the public realm, such as a streetscape or vibrant retail environment.
How has COVID-19, and the threat of future pandemics, changed how you design shared spaces?
COVID-19 has put a much greater emphasis and importance on having quality outdoor spaces in multifamily projects. Connections to the outdoors and nature has become increasingly important due to needs of safe separation and fresh air. Providing choices and options in these shared spaces is paramount to allow multiple groups of tenants the ability to utilize their outdoor amenities in a safe manner.
What are some of the trends you see moving forward in designing outdoor spaces for multifamily?
Today’s generations are putting an emphasis on wellness, from the products they buy to the places they live and work. At HCM, we infuse wellness design principles into all our projects.
The pandemic has changed the way people live and work. We recognize that tenants are more likely to work from home and we provide spaces for more isolated work environments and telecommuting. A couple things we think about when designing are:
- Strategically integrated indoor and outdoor spaces with opportunities for social interaction.
- Connecting indoor social areas with outdoor spaces to encourage residents to move outside into the landscape.
- Daylighting stairways encourages residents to use the stair to go outside promoting exercise and fitness.
- Providing outdoor park and open spaces that can be utilized for exercise such as yoga or other group fitness classes.
- Providing interior bike storage facilities, bike parking areas and bike repair rooms for the residents to promote alternative means of transportation and exercise.
- Bringing the outdoors inside using flexible door/wall systems that open completely out to our amenity spaces.
- Less parking needed and more car share/pick up zones needed.
- The trends are placing more importance on high quality outdoor environments with exceptional swimming pools, outdoor kitchens and dining, grilling and infrastructure for tenants who are still working from home by providing places to work with internet access for their laptops, phones and charging stations.
What makes HCM’s Landscape Architecture team different?
Being an integrated firm, our landscape architecture team has the capability to collaborate early with our architecture design team and the owner to shape the entire amenity experience. HCM excels at setting up the ‘story’ and choreographing the experiences from indoor to outdoor spaces.
Together with our architects, interior designers and graphic designers, we capture unique qualities of each project’s location and identify elements that are capitalized on and emphasized to create a sense of place. This adds authenticity to our design that is contextual to locations across the country.
We are experienced in outdoor amenity design for both on-grade and over structure landscapes. This has provided us with comprehensive expertise over the years, especially when the amenity spaces are over structure. We have the technical know-how to detail and coordinate all the amenity elements over residential units, retail spaces or garage structures.
Not only do we design private spaces, but we are also public space designers in multiple project types such as urban parks and campus environments. This enables us to bring a broad perspective and experience from these markets to the housing and mixed use environment.
Chris Schein has over 33 years of experience in landscape architecture, urban design and historic preservation. His diverse experience includes campus and educational landscapes, gardens, historic property restorations, parks and plazas, mixed-use, multifamily residential and streetscape projects. Chris’s work has won numerous design awards from the American Society of Landscape Architects, Pennsylvania Preservation and the District of Columbia Preservation League.
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