Getting to learn about some of the ins and outs of working at a firm with the name sake of one of the most famous landscape architects,in this case Peter Walker, was especially eye-opening. Monica Way, who has been at Peter Walker and Partners for 3 Years, and Eustacia Brossart, for 5, were able to provide great insight into the firms goals, relationship with clients, acquiring commissions, and what they look for in an aspiring young professional. During their talk, one of the revelations that struck me the most was the true effect of the ‘Starchitect’, or designer who has transcended the popularity of their respective piers into that of the wider public consciousness, and how that effected the practice of PWP. With a famous landscape architect at the helm, PWP hasn’t had to work very hard to find commissions as much of their potential work shows up at their door. Work from approaching clients tends to offset other project pursuits and commission seeking opportunities like the traditional RFQ (Request for Qualifications) and RFP (Request for Proposal) and, the much less advantageous, design competition. As design competitions don’t pay off as often as the other project pursuits, due to the amount of time and resources invested with little chance of winning the commission, PWP tends to be extremely selective in which they take on.
One of the design competitions that paid off greatly was the design for the 911 Memorial located at Ground Zero in New York City. Because this memorial was of monumental importance to so many people and the country as a whole, it was vital to get right. With the 911 Memorial, PWP’s goal was to create a powerful and memorable landscape of place that not only regarded the footprints of the Twin Towers, but created a landscape that performed as well with 500 oak trees and effective water retention and reuse. The memorial was a practice in balance as there were 26 different committees, ranging from the FBI to the NYPD, to city officials who all had a stake in and say in its success and security. This complexity, also present in many of PWP’s projects like the Jamison Square in Portland, Oregon and Barangaroo in Sydney, Australia, drives the best ideas and solutions, while encouraging community engagement.
Image Credit: 2013 PWP Landscape Architecture from http://www.landezine.com/index.php/2013/03/national-911-memorial-by-pwp-landscape-architecture/