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Celebrating Gustafson Guthrie Nichol (GGN) 1999-2018

by timber press on January 4, 2019

in Design, Gardening

For almost two decades, the firm of Gustafson Guthrie Nichol has sought to realize design’s potential to create significant spaces in the landscape. These landscape spaces are three-dimensional volumes constructed through deliberate and thoughtful design, generating dynamic places that grow, change, and mature with time.

GGN designers have imagined, constructed, and protected such places capable of fostering community and nurturing ecological health. Their work has engaged diverse scales—from the city parklet to the urban master plan, from private residences to whole neighborhoods—while addressing challenges from the commonplace to the remarkably complex.

From its inception, GGN has been committed to solving both the specific and the broad challenges of space and place through the process of design and the realization of beautiful and resilient landscapes. Most often, the firm tackles landscapes in complex urban contexts, notably working with communities and leaders in Seattle, Washington; Chicago, Illinois; Boston, Massachusetts; San Antonio, Texas; and Washington, DC; among others, to make a vital contribution to city life.

These multifaceted projects engage with and resolve a diversity of wicked challenges and, in turn, shape some of our country’s most public realms.

As a firm, GGN approaches its work with bravery, humor, humility, and acute curiosity. Its leaders have cultivated a diverse collective of individuals who come with knowledge in landscape design, architecture, art, engineering, and ecology, as well as the humanities and social sciences. As the firm has grown from the initial three founding leaders, Shannon Nichol, Jennifer Guthrie, and Kathryn Gustafson, it has retained its emphasis on teamwork and partnership, offering each new employee space to grow and contribute. It is remarkable that, during a period when many firms were chasing commissions with starchitects, these designers were building a collaborative culture, one grounded in the belief in work as a joyful and generous pursuit.

A significant extension of this collaborative approach is also reflected in their curation of strong and deep relationships with clients and communities, valuing each as a partner in the design process. Many of their clients credit this respectful approach as an essential ingredient in GGN’s timeless and beautiful landscapes. The firm reflects these shared values in their partnerships with architects and civic leaders; they work together to redefine the role of landscape architects in the twenty-first century.

GGN’s designs have been recognized by countless awards, including the Smithsonian’s 2011 Cooper Hewitt National Design Award for Landscape Architecture and, more recently, the American Society of Landscape Architects’ 2017 National Landscape Architecture Firm Award. Such recognition, however gratefully received and welcomed, has emphasized the finished product: the elegance of the designs and the timeless beauty of the landscapes. Acknowledging the challenges of these projects and the complexity of the systems that comprise the very real landscapes as they are designed is more difficult. This book seeks to build a broader context for understanding and assessing the work of GGN, one that explores how spatial design in the landscape can be used to solve problems while simultaneously creating places where humans, culture, and environments thrive.

The book’s approach explores GGN’s design process from the inception of a project through to its construction and use. It considers the manner in which this process tangles with and then realizes the cultural narratives and ecological processes of the place in a manner that might optimally foster environmental and community resilience. Fewer than twenty projects were selected to highlight—emphasizing those that offer readers the opportunity to learn from a reflective review of the work, focusing on the ways in which design is used to respond to and solve, when possible, problems and challenges.

Gustafson Guthrie Nichol (GGN) is a landscape architecture firm based in Seattle, Washington. GGN was founded in 1999 by Jennifer Guthrie, Shannon Nichol, and Kathryn Gustafson. The firm has been recognized with the 2017 ASLA National Landscape Architecture Firm Award, the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for Landscape Architecture, the ASLA National Awards of Excellence, ASLA and AIA Honor Awards for Design, Tucker Design Awards, Society for Campus and University Planning Awards, Great Places Awards from the Environmental Design Research Association, and more. Learn more at ggnltd.com.

 

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