landscape Architect

Providence, RI

Blog post by Jonathan Ford, P.E., Sr. Engineer
Nathan Kelly, AICP, Principal

“Landscape architecture is not just one thing in particular, it’s a little bit of everything. You need to be thinking about people, nature, art, creativity, and design.”

Ellen’s been working with our team for about a year now and we’ve been sharing office space in  Providence since day 1—now we are working from home in adjacent Providence neighborhoods.  We’ve collaborated on a  range of design projects, and we are struck by her remarkable versatility, the inquisitive nature of her approach to her work, and her creative talents as a designer.

Her contributions have included conceptual design at various scales of community building and landscape architecture, illustrations for regulatory documents, detailed site grading, and drainage design, and more. Over the course of the year, Ellen has been able to transition effortlessly between projects focused on landscape design, civil engineering, and regulatory reform. We appreciate her ability to effectively (and cheerfully!) communicate with colleagues and clients.

With all this versatility, Ellen’s training and passion lie in the field of landscape architecture. Her passion for the work doesn’t stem from just one aspect, but the mix of elements that go into designing special places. As she explains, “Landscape architecture is not just one thing, in particular, it’s a little bit of everything. You need to be thinking about people, nature, art, creativity, and design.” This eyes-wide-open inquisitive approach to landscape design has proven valuable and equips Ellen with the background and information needed to produce effective and unique design results.

One of Ellen’s talents that made us particularly excited to bring her on board is her talent in visual arts. Ellen is an accomplished illustrator and artist, with drawings that range from traditional landscapes to fantastic creatures to complex statements about our relationship with nature. Her creativity and ability to communicate through drawing quickly and confidently, layered with the more analytical component of landscape architecture, gives her work its own signature.

Another important source of inspiration for Ellen is her connection with nature and wild places. Having hiked the entirety of the Appalachian Trail, Ellen is no stranger to the outdoors and feels these sorts of experiences are incredibly important to our lives. Her work reflects a respect for natural processes and the idea that, in the work of landscape architecture, no space is truly designed outside of nature.

Like many of us at HW, Ellen likes the diversity of work we take on and is attracted to “interesting challenges.” In Chattanooga, where we partnered with Dover Kohl to create a master plan for a 112-acre brownfield site on the banks of the Tennessee River, Ellen helped design parks and open spaces for the new neighborhoods. She also assisted with adding stormwater management best practices and helped to create a system of urban eco-canals. The project is advancing towards construction and will be a showpiece for innovative infrastructure design within a new vibrant, artistic neighborhood. Closer to home, Ellen’s been helping to design urban trails, pocket parks, and kayak launch for the Woonasquatucket Greenway in Providence. True to form, her work blends an analytical and creative approach to provide a practical yet engaging design. Moving forward, Ellen brings so much to the evolution of our landscape architecture practice here at HW. As we continue to explore ecological opportunities in our design work, we look forward to her creative contributions!


Read Ellen’s RIASLA blog post – “More Meadows” Post RIASLA

 

 

A rain garden guide for homeowners

By: Michelle West, P.E.

Michelle is a senior water resources engineer with more than 18 years of professional experience. With a background in both engineering and natural resources, she is passionate about using her skills to restore the natural world while improving the human experience.

Before we get started,  a few questions.

  • Have you joined the rain garden craze yet? 
  • Have you been inspired by an article, your neighbor’s rain garden, or our Rain Garden Wednesdays social media posts?
  • Want to do your part to improve your local water quality and wildlife habitat?

It’s easier than you think!

The two illustrations above, right show how “breaking the impervious chain” slows, cleans and reduces the stormwater leaving a site.

The bottom photo shows Michelle leading a rain garden workshop at Walton’s Cove in Hingham, MA.

What is a Rain Garden?

Rain gardens are actually very simple.  They are just shallow depressions – too shallow to even call a hole! – with plants.  But, rain gardens are not just isolated depressions placed randomly out in a yard.  They are specifically sized and placed to absorb stormwater runoff, the water that flows from your built impervious surfaces such as rooftops, driveways, roads, parking lots, and even compacted lawn areas when it rains.  And that’s it!  Well, not quite, since rain gardens do take a bit of planning and physical labor, which we will get to in a bit.

 

 

   Why a Rain Garden?

What’s so bad about stormwater runoff?  Why all the fuss?  It’s just rainwater straight from the sky – isn’t that natural? 

Unfortunately, no.  All of those impervious surfaces that we built for our shelter and transportation prevent the clean rainwater from soaking into the ground like it did before we developed the land.  Dirt, fertilizer, soaps, oils, metals, and even animal poop build upon these hard surfaces and get carried away with the stormwater.  In addition to creating water pollution, when your runoff joins up with your neighborhood’s runoff, it can cause flooding and erosion, damage infrastructure, degrade aquatic ecosystems, and close shellfishing areas and beaches.  While runoff from just your home or business may not cause much of a problem, the cumulative impact from everyone’s home and business really does.

Rain gardens are one beautiful way to break the impervious chainof roof to downspout to driveway to road to stream, pond, or bay.  They use soils and plants to filter pollutants and help water soak in rather than runoff.  Please remember that rain gardens are NOT ponds or wetlands – they should drain in less than 24 hours after a rainfall. 

Download the file below to create one at your house!

 

Cross-section of a typical rain garden:

 

Click to Download: How to Build a Rain Garden