©EDSA | Insight | Doing More. Taking Less

When Ian McHarg published Design with Nature in 1969, he set in motion a concept for space planning that has steadily evolved into a guiding principle of modern development. The idea of doing more while taking less was novel 50 years ago, but today is essential. EDSA founder Edward Stone, Jr. went a bit further imparting his viewpoint that environmental and social functionality was not an either-or consideration, but a standard to uphold.

In the decades that have followed, landscape architects and land planners have worked to enrich spaces with multiple benefits and uses while also preserving as much of the existing ecology as possible. Commercial, residential, hospitality and entertainment offerings demand the value that only integrative design can deliver. If a space is to provide jobs to a community, is it not worth more to everyone if it also reduces the impact on local resources like water? If a school is to teach our children about the world, aren’t gardens that grow living plants and food a powerful introduction about the way nature works? Designing spaces for multi-purposes and multiple functions not only supports return on investment, but it also enhances the relationship between people and place.

©EDSA | Insight | Pumpkins

With a universal outlook on how spaces evolve, multi-functional design not only incorporates the beneficial performance of ecosystems, it provides for innovative solutions that improve functionality and appeal with a composition that adds to what one can experiences in a place. To that end, EDSA designers are passionate in their beliefs – advocating for adaptability, flexibility and accessibility in the essential relationship between a site, its purpose and user.

It is important to realize, however, that multi-functional environments are not the same as mixed-use development. For a space to realize its full potential, it should align with natural systems and welcome diverse activities that can take place independently or side by side. A downtown plaza, for example, might host a farmer’s market on weekends as well as a children’s theatre program with an outdoor stage. It could serve as concert stage for an intimate ensembles or as outdoor café seating for food trucks or restaurants. It may even be used for a public meeting while also acting as a bike-share hub. Fundamental changes or modifications to the space are not needed for each distinct activity, as the site itself has been designed to deliver integral amenities that are useful to everyone. Adequate shade, evening lighting, appropriately paved spaces and hardscape, seating and access to services enhance and support the diversification of activities and expand the use of a space beyond a single function.

©EDSA | Insight | Outside Seating

In designing for multi-function, outdoor green spaces become much more than parks. Communities are revitalized by diverse populations coming together, sharing experiences and ideas – providing opportunities for collaboration and partnership that may drive further innovation in public and private sectors. People are once again connected to the land in meaningful ways that invites social, economic and environmental growth. The results are inspiring and are becoming more common around the world – a progressive step along a path we should all take.

©EDSA | Insight | Park Aerial