PWP Landscape Architecture

Designers: PWP Landscape Architecture | City: Berkeley, CA | Scope of Work: medium and large scale work; campus and institutional
Date Visited: 11.16.12

Location: 739 Allston Way Berkeley, California 94710
Firm Size: 35 – 40 (6 partners)
Founded: 1983

Even if the name PWP Landscape Architecture (PWPLA) escapes you, everyone has most likely heard of or even visited their work. Within their varied and high-profile portfolio, the award-winning firm was one of the lead designers on the National 9/11 Memorial as well as the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, TX.

Located in West Berkeley, the PWPLA office is housed in an unassuming, large and spacious warehouse covered in a thick green carpet of climbing fig. Once inside, it becomes clear that the warehouse setting is perfect for this design firm: site photographs, imagery, plans, and construction documents are tacked on the walls from ceiling to floor; wide rooms allow for the displays of large and detailed site models; and the studio towards the back is not only large enough to seat all the designers together, but extra space even gives each designer the luxury of having two drafting tables.

Peter Walker, FASLA, formed PWP Landscape Architecture in 1983, after having successfully co-founded the firm Sasaki, Walker and Associates (SWA Group) with Hideo Sasaki in 1957.

I met with Lauren Hackney, who worked as a landscape designer for PWPLA after recently graduating from the University of Virginia’s MLA program. She took me on a brief tour of the office before sitting down to chat, explaining some of the details in the large-scale site models and leading me through the impressively expansive collection of material samples and model building equipment. It was also pretty neat to see the choice of flooring–most rooms, including the main design room, were carpeted by green artificial turf.

Lauren’s beginnings with PWPLA started with their summer internship program, an annual program “that provides students an opportunity for immersion into the working environment of a firm committed to built work.” This highly competitive program–this year, they selected four interns out of approximately 120 applicants–gives students a fairly comprehensive overview of the landscape architecture field, from field trips and office visits to a one-week intern design charrette.

But once you’re a full-time employee, design work naturally becomes much more integrated. And though positions within the firm are broken down into various categories–partners, senior associates, associates, staff, and interns–the firm doesn’t follow rigid design process where the work is handed down in a linear process starting with the partners down to the interns. As Lauren explains it, the design process is much more fluid in nature. Designers don’t work on the same types of projects or project phase every time, though some work teams reoccur due to specialist skills that develop over time.

Design work usually spans the public and private realm with a focus on medium to large scale works in campus planning and institutional design both within the U.S. and abroad.

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