38– Crafting ideals & outdoor spaces, with Landscape Architect David Anderson

October 13, 2020 Utah State University Office of Research Episode 38
38– Crafting ideals & outdoor spaces, with Landscape Architect David Anderson
Show Notes Transcript

How much do you think about your surroundings? Next time you're walking down the street, stop and look around. What do you see around you? How are the sidewalks shaped? How are the houses organized?

In this episode of Instead, Wyatt sits down with USU researcher Dave Anderson from the Landscape, Architecture, and Environmental Planning department. The two discuss what exactly this line of work entails, and what LAEP means when it comes to the Kaysville Botanical Gardens.

Research Landscapes Events

Information on Building tours

Magnolia Tree Extension informaiton

Wyatt: [00:00:00] How does the planning or the landscape outside of a home affect a person's experience living there?


Dave Anderson: [00:00:07] I think it affects them more than they realize. You know, a home for sale on a nicely configured, tree lined street, that home will probably fetch a better price.


Dave Anderson: [00:00:19] People need places to escape the busy, busy world that we live in now with Korona, for example, your home environment becomes even more important inside and out.


Wyatt: [00:00:32] That's David Anderson, I'm a professional practice associate professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning at Utah State. In this episode, you'll learn how we are affected by the built world around us. It's not only about what we see, how it all makes us feel to do this. Dave is going to talk about his time helping to design what some Utah landscape architects and plant lovers might call an ideal world. It's just hanging out there next to the 15 year Kaysville, and you never know what insights from that project could find their way into your backyard. My name is Wyatt, and you could be scooping up prematurely carved moldy pumpkin off your doorstep. But you're not because you are listening to this instead.


Wyatt: [00:01:33] Later in the episode, you'll learn about David Anderson's work testing materials and concepts to make sure they work in the Utah environment. You'll also learn how he is planting the results and ideals from those tests in the minds of future Utahns. And if you're wondering why none of your friends want to hang out outside your house or apartment, you might be able to play on your patio or your backyard. And David's going to tell you how to fix that, too. But before we get too deep, I was confused about the difference between an architect and a landscape architect and a civil engineer. Luckily, they cleared it all up for me.


Dave Anderson: [00:02:13] There is a lot of overlap and ideally in a kind of utopian work environment, all of these professional people are working together to identify the best solutions for whatever it is they've been hired to do. Traditionally, architects deal with buildings. They deal with the exterior appearance, as well as designing the inside of it landscape architecture. We're dealing with everything on the outside and it can be as simple as planting around a building. But it also includes a whole host of other things vehicular circulation, pedestrian circulation, any sort of outdoor recreation amenity. Engineers do a lot of these things as well. Civil engineers are very technically oriented. They precisely design things to to function in a specific way. Landscape architects are a little bit looser, I suppose, and are able to address things not only from a functional standpoint, but also an aesthetic, the social and cultural components that also would factor into a design that's kind of landscape architecture. What's environmental planning has to do with large scale questions and topics and issues that a community or a region may be confronted with? For instance, there are all kinds of issues in our state, in Utah that have to do with natural resources, the availability of water, how do we store it and deliver it and all that kind of thing.Humidity's close to wildlands need to deal with the threat of wildfire. Planners help with that, as well as helping us make our giant Utah blocks walkable, affordable and not look like a suburb that could be ripped out of California. David Anderson and his colleague Jake Powell will be presenting on how Utah communities can find their sense of place in a research landscapes event. If you'd like to tune into that, there's a link in the description.


Wyatt: [00:04:24] If somebody is trying to have a quintessential Koolade mom, pleasant backyard for people to be hanging out and what things should they be paying attention to and having a vision of the big Koolade guy coming through the fence, you know, blasting, I think easy access from indoors to outdoors, especially from the kitchen to outside.


Dave Anderson: [00:04:48] The direction your home faces is really important. If your backyard faces west, for instance, what are you going to do about it? You have to have some shade. You know, people want to gather in the evening. You're not having a party at 9:00 in the morning when that leader of the House is in. She'd be a great place to go out in the summer and have your breakfast, but you're not going to have a barbecue there at six in the afternoon if there's just blazing sun on that that area. And it's so shade is really important. I think privacy is really important. The kinds of plants you put in different areas. As an example, you can save a lot of money on your air conditioning bill with large shade trees on the south and west side of your home doesn't make much sense to put large evergreens on the west or south sides of your home, because then you eliminate the possibility of the winter sun doing anything for you. The degree of enclosure of a space is important. As you said, you grew up in the middle of nowhere and so you had lots of privacy, but it may not have felt very enclosed. That idea of creating an outdoor room is important and that can be in the form of larger shrubs, trees, of course, fencing. And there are certainly more kinds of fencing than white vinyl. There's all kinds of really cool fencing that I don't believe are any more expensive. And I said I'm starting to see some some newer stylization of fencing around my neighborhood. And I think, you know, Joanna Gaines or somebody is having a big influence, somebody on on Instagram.


Wyatt: [00:06:32] Instagram can be a great place to get ideas and you should go follow this show at instead podcasts on there right now. But one of the problems with getting ideas off Instagram is that Utah is a temperate and harsh climate. So if Joanna Gaines has inspired you to plant a magnolia tree in front of your front door, make sure to check out US use extension resources because only a few varieties can survive here. So we need solutions from Utah for Utah. And that's one of the roles of U.S. Botanical Gardens in Kaysville. And Dave Anderson was on that project from the start. Back in 1998, a new interchange on Highway 89 meant that USA had to move experimental agricultural facilities from Farmington to Kaysville.


Wyatt: [00:07:20] The Kaysville project that's something you worked on a lot, right? A lot. A lot. A lot of luck. You probably had a lot more control there than you would have had over other things.


Dave Anderson: [00:07:29] I did have a lot more control. It was very challenging. We kind of had to feel our way. We were hired originally. Bill Varga was the director of the an old garden that the university held in Farmington, Utah. And so Bill was our boss. And and Springer and I, we we worked together to develop a master plan for a new facility, just basically a blank slate. And then we were able to develop some some master planning direction based on input from the community and stakeholders here at the university, legislators and other special interest groups, those kinds of things. And we really set a mission for the place to promote the conservation of really important resources. Right. Water plants, energy, all those kinds of things.


Wyatt: [00:08:25] Yeah, if somebody pulled up the Kaysville Botanical Gardens on Google Earth kind of describe what they would see.


Dave Anderson: [00:08:35] The Botanical Center in Kaysville is is kind of this oasis, there's three quarters of a mile of frontage along Highway 15 where there's not a house in Kaysville, which is a bedroom community about 20 miles north of Salt Lake City, immediately off the freeway are for quite linear ponds that make up, I think if I remember right somewhere between 20 and 25 acres of water. And so now those have been reconfigured, reshaped and functioned much better. But you'd see water, you'd see some structures. It's a fairly soft landscape looking out over it. And if you were looking down, you would also see the beginnings of a nice arboretum that our colleague Jadi Gunwale, who's with USC extension, he started and planted now into the hundreds of landscape trees. You'd see green house operations that Richard Anderson and Jerry Goodspeed, they're working on new varieties of native plants that could actually be introduced into the the marketplace. The cool thing is the the Botanical Center serves kind of as a one stop shop for the three-fold mission of Utah State. There's research going on there. There's education in a variety of ways and then extension is there as well. So the service component of the university, as I said, it was it was intended to fit into the community and not be this sort of place where you can't walk on the grass. It's an important thing that people feel welcome and, you know, able to go and find out what's there.


Wyatt: [00:10:24] How did that landscape shape the buildings and the design and the choices?


Dave Anderson: [00:10:30] The pond property was in very bad condition, as I described, but it had cool amenities, had water, and we we worked to establish wetland environments would actually function to help filter stormwater that was coming in from parts of the city. We began building some facilities that were very green or environmentally friendly places. The Utah house is one of those. We built a lead platinum classroom building along with some other facilities there that at the time it was still agricultural fields. And so really the architectural influence and stylization influence came from farming, from agriculture. And so if you look at the buildings, they're still very simplistic. They either have a shed roof or some other fairly simplistic or architectural styling, not not that far off from something you'd find on a farm yard with with some obviously some some improvements. But that was really the the driver is how can we kind of connect it to its its roots there? We didn't want the buildings to be so large that they would be so imposing and not feel like they were part of the neighborhood. We wanted to use quality materials, as many from the local area as we could acquire. And so those were really the drivers. And the gardens respond to that because they're they surround and support into into and through those buildings.


Wyatt: [00:12:08] Yeah, yeah. I haven't traveled much in my life, but a few years ago I was able to take a little trip to London and just walking around experiencing a city with thousands of years of history was fascinating to me. What are the challenges of living in Utah, where most of us only have 100 or 200 years worth of ancestry here and we don't have buildings that go far back?


Dave Anderson: [00:12:33] We don't have that character or patina that that identity that older places have, you go to the East Coast, even in the United States, and there's more of that because it's four and 500 years old or whatever. And and as you said, most things, especially in the West, have been inhabited by settlers from the east and other parts of the world for only, you know, 150 to 200 years. There were certainly native peoples here and they did probably better at it being more adaptive and working with what they had than certainly than what we do now. Early settlers had to figure out how to make it work here. You know, people didn't used to have air conditioning. People didn't used to have refrigeration. How do you deal with that? Those kinds of issues in a harsh environment, they figured things out and they they made it work. But without having that sort of long centuries and centuries or millennia, as you described that history, we're sort of infantile. And sometimes I wonder if we kind of think that way as well, where we were not taking into account as much what happened in the past. And, you know, we're not honoring the past as much as as perhaps we could or should be.


Wyatt: [00:14:07] How do we start honoring the past and how do you pick what passed to honor?


Dave Anderson: [00:14:12] Those are those are tricky questions. I don't advocate that we we go back in time or that we try to preserve every single thing. Certainly there needs to be progress and new things need to be built, which we shouldn't think of things sort of with a disposable mentality. We need to think about what are the consequences of things happening beyond the property line of of the project we're working on. What are the influences that that could could make the project better? How can we live a little bit more lightly?


Wyatt: [00:14:52] All those kinds of things? I think we can learn from the past and draw from good examples and not so good.


Dave Anderson: [00:14:58] The Kaysville Botanical Center has two good examples of buildings that you can experience in person. The Wetland Discovery Point Classroom Building was the first publicly owned LEED Platinum certified building in Utah. It uses solar panels and rainwater collection systems. My favorite part is the windows. The building and the windows are angled just right to protect the space from the hot sun in the summer. But in the winter, the heat and the light can shine right in and without traditional heating and air conditioning, it's also incredibly and wonderfully quiet. These buildings are open to the public. If you want to visit them, there's a link in the description with information. So I've been in the wetland classroom building, but before talking to Dave, I didn't know anything about the Utah house.


Wyatt: [00:15:42] Tell me about the Utah house. I haven't heard of that. And what is the goal of that building?


Dave Anderson: [00:15:48] The Utah house was a project. I think it was finished in 2003 or for now. And the intent of it was to create a model sustainable home, something that would illustrate to homeowners what they could do, both indoors and outside. I did not direct that project. I was a part of it, but it was modeled after a something that some of the USC extension folks had seen in Florida, actually, and they had built a home there. There's also one of the Desert Botanic Garden in Phoenix where home is built that that is very adapted to where it's located. So the Utah house has a lot of objectives. Healthy indoor air was one and certainly water conservation, energy conservation. Another really cool thing about it is it's 100 percent universally accessible. There's not a step to get into the house. The shower doesn't. You can have a wheelchair in the shower, in the hallways.And that was very progressive for 17 years ago or so. It was a long, hard fought effort to develop this this facility that was very different from literally the homes across the street.


Wyatt: [00:17:08] Yeah, yeah. Tell me what people should be picking up on or might be picking up on as they're walking through the Utah house space.


Dave Anderson: [00:17:19] No one is. It looks and feels somewhat different, but it's not weird. People kind of still think perhaps of environmentally friendly homes or, you know, more adaptive Grenelle adaptive kinds of houses, that they're going to see some weird set of materials like old exposed tires or whatever.So the intent of this facility was to have as much curb appeal as possible to help people be attracted to it and be interested in learning about it. So you go in it and and there's a nice vaulted space, turns out hot air rises and up high there, operable windows that you can open and you can let the hot air out. There's a set of lower windows that you can open and it pulls cooler air in and helps ventilate the house.


Wyatt: [00:18:21] What are comments that people entering the building say?


Dave Anderson: [00:18:25] So the Utah House has has a director and so asking Jane would be the thing to do there. But Jane, out here, people were always a bit surprised that it looked and felt no one very much like a home, but that it was very functional, but also various aesthetically pleasing as well. And so there were a lot of times I mean, if I took someone through it or we were with people looking at it for the first time, they'd say, oh, I could live here.It helped break down some misconceptions or preconceived ideas about what an environmentally friendly building in this case of residents could be.


Wyatt: [00:19:10] What could contractors or builders like learn from that, or what have they learned from that that could be incorporated into housing being built?


Dave Anderson: [00:19:18] Now, one thing we really tried hard to work toward with the Utah house is to make it as timeless as possible and not put in a bunch of technologies that had a very short lifespan in some respects is probably a dinosaur now in terms of, say, the heating system or something versus what's now available, active solar panels now are extraordinarily common. They're finally at a return of an investment that's released. Their contractors could learn all kinds of things, especially stuff related to accessibility. It's not that hard and doesn't cost that much more to make a building more accessible. Those kinds of things eventually drive the marketplace. And if people are asking for them and contractors know how to do that and they can also promote it, then it kind of turns into an economic engine and takes off.


Wyatt: [00:20:24] How do people plan the outside of their homes or I guess that's a bad question and. 


Dave Anderson: [00:20:32] It's a really good question.They actually need to plan and that's something that people often don't do. They need to think about where in the world they live, what the conditions are, if they have new construction or if they're doing trying to remodel an older space planet and design it, analyze the soil where you are, choose plants, carefully, put plants that have like type water needs together. That's a very simple concept, but it's amazing how often that doesn't happen. Using water carefully and wisely, choosing the irrigation system that will work for the particular place, having a reasonable or practical area of lawn, using mulch and then taking care of the place. Well, those are seven very simple principles. But if you if the people would do those things, they'd be much more pleased with what they do with the outcome.


Wyatt: [00:21:32] If somebody was walking around the botanical gardens for the first time, what things would you point out to them?


Dave Anderson: [00:21:40] We purposely kind of broke things up or fragmented aspects of the design to create smaller pieces that actually had some sort of relatability to the homeowner. So you could be wandering through an area and and it's not so immense or large or elaborate or anything like that that you could make the association and say and in your mind say, oh, I have that kind of situation at my home on the north side of our house, maybe we could do something like this. We we began using native plants and trying to promote the use of native plants as well as we call them, noninvasive, exotic plants so noninvasive and well adapted plants to our area. Those were also certainly acceptable. And there are lots of those. We were willing to essentially be the guinea pig in some respects, trying new materials, new construction materials or new plants or whatever, and to see if they would work well in our area.


Wyatt: [00:22:48] In some of your work, you've said that the next wave of development or building is density. Why is that?


Dave Anderson: [00:22:56] It's being driven by a number of factors. Obviously, the availability of.Usable land that we can deliver services to in an affordable way, that availability is decreasing because there are more and more and more of us.Population growth continues to happen in Utah. We've been the fastest growing or in the top five of the fastest growing states for years. And you know, how much land do we gobble up? How much land do we actually leave for things like agriculture? We all need to eat. And sometimes I think we just expect everything to show up in our grocery store.Also cost you know, affordability is certainly something.People live in dense places and they do very, very well. Lots of New Yorkers love living in New York. People love living in Chicago and other places. But how do you do that? Do it? Well, I think that it has to come to a place like Utah at some point because where you just aren't going to continue to have viable, affordable spaces kind of in the traditional mode.


Wyatt: [00:24:13] Yeah, yeah. Where I grew up, there's like probably a quarter mile between each home because we do so like rural. One of my friends was just in Logan a few years ago. She was bothered by how close the homes were here.


Dave Anderson: [00:24:31] So it's all relative.


Wyatt: [00:24:32] Yeah. Yeah. Even moving to like Logan, the big city to me. I've wanted to get a kayak for a few years, but I just have nowhere to put it. And so there's definitely consequences to density. But there are also some question. Yeah. Unexpected benefits of it. Like it's so nice to live close to, like friends and just be able to, like, walk over to a friend's house in 20 seconds.


Dave Anderson: [00:24:55] Walkable communities are so important being able to get somewhere safely and and relatively quickly. That's that's invaluable. And it needs to that needs to continue. Lots of these intermountain west communities, though, the older part of town is a higher density. You know, you look at Logan was built in or began in the eighteen 50s or 60s.And for probably the first 70 years or so, people lived relatively close to one another. They went out into the, you know, out into the fields, to farm, but they all lived relatively close to one another. It's only sort of post-World War Two, the the the suburbs and mentality that we need a single family residence that that that idea came around.


Wyatt: [00:25:46] Yeah. Yeah. So you finished working on the case Fell Gardens in 2014 13, actually. Yeah. And what do you do now? What is your focus now?


Dave Anderson: [00:25:56] The majority of my time is is devoted to teaching and then I also have an extension and a service component to my position. I really gravitated to teaching freshmen. I love teaching our introductory course and we've actually grown that course tremendously in the last few years where we're offering that it's a general education course to hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of students every semester. Now, the opportunity of introducing young students to the to what landscape architecture is, that's really valuable.Only only a small fraction of the people who take that class or are going to become interested in and enroll in the landscape architecture program. We know that. But most of those people are going to go on to be homeowners in some way. They're going to visit parks and they're going to use open space and they're going to be on planning commissions and school boards and other other community kinds of service activities. Something that they learned in that class will hopefully crop up again later in their lives, either and planning their own residential landscape or, you know, talking about parks that, hey, we need we need some more consultation here from professionals or we need to remember to protect these places. It's a really cool opportunity to be able to teach freshmen.It's been really fun for me to become a part of a really dynamic and amazing group of people.


Wyatt: [00:27:42] David Anderson also works with graduate students to continue providing Utah with a fresh crop of landscape architects. Thank you for listening to this episode of Instead Make Sure to subscribe, because next week you'll hear from Dave's colleague, Jake Powell. He's also a landscape architect and environmental planner, and he's going to talk about his work helping Utah's gateway. Communities deal with the challenges that come with increased demand on outdoor recreation experiences. Don't forget to check out the links in the description. This episode was produced and edited by Nick Vázquez and me, Wyatt  as part of our work in the Office of Research at Utah State University.