From Concept sketch to Construction How to hold on to design intent through engineering


Hyphae joined the design team for a 4-story multi-family mixed-use project in Santa Barabara, to take on a complex landscape over structure scope, engineering grading and drainage for greenroofs while integrating raised stormwater flow-through planters all set on podium.  Our design goals were to create a distinct design for several courtyard gardens, utilizing geometry, materiality, and plant habitats to create a clear distinction.  Overall approaches repeated the use of raised planters and vegetated screening to transform this unconnected structure to include network lush spaces for group gathering and personal reflection.

5 thoughts on “From Concept sketch to Construction How to hold on to design intent through engineering

  1. One thing that I found really interesting in the lecture is that the speaker mentioned that for most of times in multi-family projects, the landscape architect isn’t invited to join the project until the design team is half way done with the schematic design, and that the architect is basically designing within a box. I know this happens in the Santa Clara project but it is not the main point, but I think the landscape architect has a lot of limitation when designing in the “leftover” space. When we design buildings in the architecture studio, a lot of time we would not consider landscape until we have our building planned out or even days before the final review. Therefore landscape becomes more of a secondary or tertiary thing that sometimes doesn’t even work out. Sometimes the architecture and the landscape are divorced and form completely different spaces. It would be fascinating to see the landscape and the architecture could come together and embrace each other, forming a harmonious environment. This could be achievable if the landscape architect can get involve in the early stages of design. For instance, if the landscape architect was in the early stage of schematic design of the Santa Clara project, corridors could be opened to let more natural light into the courtyard, and the design could possibly be totally different from what they have right now. There could be a lot more possibilities, not only in the landscape design but also in the architecture.

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    • I agree with you completely. As technology allows for buildings to more fully integrate landscape we need to reorganize the typical design process. This “leftover space” designation of landscape has changed over the past 50 years to become more valued, but often times the architect will attempt to design the space (since they are typically project managers and in control of the site design). Understanding the value of a landscape architect can be seen in certain designs done by major landscape firms, but often times they are left to fill designated “outdoor” space which comes with spatial and light constraints developed by the architect. The more we can allow for design charettes that lead to conceptual and schematic design options for housing we can redefine what value is to a developer whose financial requirements look at maximizing the monetary return in terms of square footage. Multi-family building footprints are often designed around planning requirements for setback and height constraints, but in landscape architecture we can add to the constraints by including more public space. Maybe this additional landscape space can be used to leverage other planning requirements for buildings in the future.


  2. I really appreciated how Robert shared the initial stages of the design process for this project and how the first plans and perspectives were loosely rendered using pencil and markers. I am glad to see that Hyphae uses this design methodology because it can lead to a more liberated creative process instead of designing in CAD and being constrained by the curvature of a computer generated arc. Even the simple addition of green marker on a traced building facade establishes a simple framework that is easy to build upon and develop.

    To see how the members of Hyphae think in the initial stages instead of jumping straight into the final renders really helps me envision the different steps of the process and how they reached their final design. For example, the architect of the Santa Barbara project took on drainage in a rudimentary fashion and sloped the ground plane to a central drainage point. Hyphae on the other hand went through many iterations of “morphing planes” to try and discretely direct flow into drains located beneath planters demonstrating a conscious manipulation of grade versus adding it as an afterthought.

    It was also great to see the wide variety of precedent photos that were being used to inform their design aesthetics; especially the ones taken from natural environments that they sought to emulate in their planting schemes.

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  3. It is rare, at least in my experience, to hear and see the design process of a practicing firm unless you are interning or interviewing at that firm, so I really do appreciate Robert coming in to concisely and thoughtfully walk us through Hyphae’s design process. It was interesting to see how effective some simple sketches can be during the concept phase. It is fast, quick, easy and can really communicate the idea behind the design. Hyphae’s design process also made me realize just how lucky we are to be practicing in an educational setting, since the studio gets to choose the site and their constraints as well as not being burdened with a budget. Hearing Robert speak to the many obstacles you have to overcome while designing or even negotiate was definitely a reality check but at the same time, is rewarding when you do win.

    I have also found in my short experience practicing, that architects, landscape architects, light designers, engineers, and others are frequently dropped throughout the design process. Thus, letting other firms pick up where they left off and sometime affecting the design. Here, a similar thing happened where the landscape architect was an afterthought and assumed to come in only as service to do what the architect had proposed. I applaud Hyphae for fighting for what they believe in and designing, what would otherwise be a dull space.

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  4. It was exciting to hear Robert speak about the project. Obviously the first thing that stood out to me were the goals for the upcoming project, such as to make the courtyard spaces feel big and welcoming. It was also great to hear about how architects and landscape architects communicate in real life. It was sad and surprising to hear that they do not start to put their projects together until the project is almost done. I believe that landscape architects should be allowed to be a lot more involved from the beginning in order to make the landscape and architecture look and feel as one coherent design.

    Another thing that Robert has mentioned that grabbed my attention was the idea of not having walls around some space. He has brought up an example of a pool being surrounded by walls that made it feel closed up and private in a negative way, comparing it to a prison like space.

    I am also a part of the Solar Decathlon team at UC Berkeley and I appreciated Robert speaking about the idea of using big, thin pieces of wood to make the concrete look more attractive.That simple design can be a lot more affordable, durable and pleasing looking. I am very excited about that idea and I am hoping that I can use it in our project.


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