L | A | N | D Studio

Scope of Work: community development, process management | City: Cleveland, OH |
Date Visited: 09.18.12

Location: 939 West 25th Street, Suite 200 Cleveland, OH
Firm Size: 15 – 16 people
Founded: October 2011 merger between Cleveland Public Art (CPA) and Parkworks

L | A | N | D Studio, an acronym for Landscape Art Neighborhoods Design, was formed in 2011 through a merger between Cleveland Public Art (CPA) and Parkworks. The Cleveland non-profit strives to reinvent and redefine Cleveland’s public spaces by strengthening the city’s urban network. They also work with high-profile landscape architecture firms such as Field Operations and Gustafson Guthrie Nichol. Covering an impressive scope from public art installations to community revitalization, LAND Studio also maintains an interesting tumblr; it was actually through their tumblr that I first came to learn of their firm.

Though the formal merger happened last year in October 2011, it wasn’t until March 2012 that LAND Studio moved into their new space right next to Westside Market. With exposed brick, large windows, high ceilings and an office space that overlooks bustling W. 25th St., the office is already in a prime spot; add that to the whimsical elements left over from their various projects, an office bicycle, and the chillest office dog named Daisy, and you’ve got the makings of a very fun office environment.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Managing Director Gregory Peckham–the former director of Cleveland Public Art–with the help of Marketing Director, Megan Jones. Greg and I started by looking at the nonprofit’s project show wall: 8.5×11 bright and colorful project sheets that line a long brick wall. Greg pointed out some of their most successful and recent projects, such as Perk Park and the Figure/Ground temporary art installation (our talk later inspired my trip out to each of these projects). It was really inspiring to hear the variety and depth of these projects. CPA and Parkworks have long worked collaboratively on similar projects, and now, with LAND Studio, their collective portfolio is extremely impressive. Projects varied from $5,000 temporary urban art projects with a turnaround of a few months to public park development that take nearly a decade to complete; and the types of communities these projects served were equally as diverse, from low-income neighborhoods to the Cleveland Public Library.

But LAND Studio isn’t a design company. Though they might aid in the design development, LAND Studio can be better described as a process management non-profit. Their role is to be constantly up-to-date with city happenings and the needs of the communities. After an opportunity or issue has been identified, they then have to bring together the right people to make a project happen, which may compose a varied group from city government officials to artists to community members. LAND Studio are the initial problem solvers behind the scenes; they take an idea and then begin connecting the pathways for that idea to come to fruition. What’s important to note as well is their advantage over similar government programs–as a nonprofit, LAND Studio can raise money privately and hire certain designers that the city otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford.

Because LAND Studio covers such a wide range of projects, they are composed of a multidisciplinary staff. Their employees come from all backgrounds: creative writing, law, landscape architecture, urban design, and so on, but what ties them together is their passion for Cleveland and ability to work as a team. In fact, when talking to Megan about what was most valuable in new hires, she said that background oftentimes doesn’t matter very much; it’s the personality and the fit that ultimately determines the outcome. And what’s great about a multidisciplinary firm is that everyone is able to learn from one another, a trademark of their office culture.

And the day-to-day work life at LAND Studio seems pretty exciting. When asked, Greg said that there were approximately 50 different projects currently being juggled by the non profit ranging in scale, cost, and development stage. And since their job is to design a process management road map for each project, every project becomes a fresh and exciting design problem to solve. For instance, questions will be asked like ‘who’s the right design firm for the job,’ ‘is this what the community really wants or are these visions just representative a single, highly-vocal person?’ and ‘where will the fundraising come from?’

I really enjoyed my visit to LAND Studio and I think their work is truly inspirational. They are a needed and celebrated presence in the City of Cleveland, and, after having visiting a few of their works such as the Farm Stand at Ohio City Farms, Perk Park, and the Figure/Ground exhibit at the Eastman Reading Garden, I can say that I am sincerely impressed.

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