The Rhythm and Sounds of Montana De Oro

Gregory Han:

If you live in California and you’ve never visited this stretch of San Luis Obispo coastline, I beg you to schedule a trip.
Montana de Oro is like seeing our state with virgin eyes; it is easy to imagine the first people living there before European settlers made their way westward, and each time I’m overwhelmed by the splendor of California’s gold [said in a Huell voice].

Originally posted on AHBE LAB:

All Photos by Roxana Marashi All Photos by Roxana Marashi

Last weekend I visited Montana De Oro State Park. Spanish for “Mountain of Gold,” this section of Central California coastline earned its name because of all of the golden wildflowers that bloom across the park during springtime. It is one of California’s rare gems located in the county of San Luis Obispo.

Click photo for a full size panoramic view, Click photo for a full size panoramic view.

As I walked down a serene path along the coast, I came across some tilted rock formations that were so intriguing, I found it incredibly difficult to look away. The sea would crash in and out of the coves, creating an amazing rhythm of sound and movement which complemented the landscape. This 8,000 acre State Park was full of life along its rocky cliffs, eucalyptus forests, sandy beaches, coastal plains, streams, canyons, and hills. It was a place of wonder and exploration that…

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AHBE Lab / Friday Five for September 4, 2015

Gregory Han:

The numbers remaining look big, but human activities have led to the loss of nearly half the world’s trees (45.8%) in short time.

Originally posted on AHBE LAB:

LA gets its first look at proposed bridge for mountain lions, wildlife: Project planners released the first details of a proposed wildlife bridge that would cross over 10 lanes of traffic along the 101-Freeway in Agoura Hills. Actor Rainn Wilson makes his case for helping the right type of cougars of Los Angeles cross neighborhoods…

Structural Fabric Weaves Tent Shelters into Communities: A Lexus Design Award recipient, this lightweight, mobile, structural fabric could potentially close the gap between need and desire as people metaphorically weave their lives back together, physically weaving their built environment into a place both new and familiar, transient and rooted, private and connected.

Scientists reveal there are 3tn trees in the world in latest count: Most accurate count to date is over seven times as many as the last estimate – but almost half have been cut down since the start of civilisation, say scientists


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In Search of a Beautiful City

Gregory Han:

Los Angeles isn’t beautiful in any traditional sense. It’s missing many of the characteristics outlined by Alain de Botton’s treatise, “How to Make an Attractive City”. But the city is inching forward, rethinking how to add back beauty through both architecture and native nature.

Originally posted on AHBE LAB:


I’ve just returned back from the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica, where I left the recognizable landscape of the city for one wholly different. Lush, wild, somehow both chaotic and orderly, the coastal rain forest in the southern end of Costa Rica is where some of the world’s first skyscrapers arose, trees towering so high a whole ecosystem of birds, insects, primates, and even sunbathing iguanas can be seen, albeit sometimes only with the aid of a telescope. My eyes were stimulated by the sheer amount of data and detail to process, yet not overwhelmed. Instead, there was an undeniable sense of awe felt within this landscape encompassed within the womb of a forest. It’s not too often I feel this sense of experiential joy within a city. Why?

A landscapes beauty can be an immediate emotional and intellectual experience. I felt many moments of this in Costa Rica. Photo: Gregory Han A landscape can be an immediate emotional and intellectual experience. In Costa Rica these opportunities are many, while back in Los…

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Sunset Boulevard: A Storyteller’s Street

Gregory Han:

The most famous street in all of Los Angeles is rich with history, both real and imagined.

Originally posted on AHBE LAB:

Sunset Blvd on a Friday night. Creative Commons photo by: Steven Bevacqua. Sunset Blvd on a Friday night. Creative Commons photo by: Steven Bevacqua.

I recently discovered Environmental Detectives, a teaching tool which educates young kids to appreciate the sciences through the joys of exploration. I like this phrase – “Environmental Detectives” – and believe it is applicable to the research we do as a studio. Our process is perhaps less scientific (though not exclusive of science), more pragmatic, and heuristic driven in comparison to the teaching tool. But both approach problem solving using a similar inquiry-based process.

In our case our design process begins with site research. And from there, design inspiration emerges from multiple influences: site, people, environment, history, and much more. Ultimately, landscape architects want to create a design that tells the intrinsic story of a place and engages people through use and stewardship, so it is important for us as designers to understand a place to narrate…

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Paying Back Mother Nature

Gregory Han:

Trees – like friends, pets, and family – are only truly appreciated in their absence. One of the AHBE Landscape Architects reminisces about a tree which provided energy-saving shade her home for years…

Originally posted on AHBE LAB:

Photo by Linda Daley Photo by Linda Daley

A large Eucalyptus street tree once stood directly in front of my house until it fell onto the road many years ago. We were lucky, the house was not damaged, nor was anyone hurt thanks to the time of the day and the direction the tree fell. Interestingly, I only appreciated the tree most when it was gone.

In its absence we recognized the tree shaded our house from the afternoon sun. I have not calculated the increased amount of energy we have used to cool ourselves inside our home since the loss of the tree, but I am sure it is significant. I also discovered that the tree abated the sounds of our busy street, yet another of many benefits of living with trees. In the absence of the Eucalyptus, we now have to keep the front windows closed at the busiest times of day.

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The Garden as Inspiration of the World We Wished We Lived In

Gregory Han:

I like this idea: The garden as an idealized world we’d like to live in, blurring the transition between our world and nature’s…while also a buffer of all the things we’d like to keep at bay.

Originally posted on AHBE LAB:


“Even though there is a lot going on, there’s this incredible sense of calmness – the garden never excludes the landscape, it’s always welcoming.”

Filmmaker Howard Sooley has been visiting author Anna Pavord’s residence, Sunnyside Farm, in the Southwest English countryside for a decade, noting how the author’s garden gently transitions into the surrounding natural landscape to the effect of “a series of doors leading you from one room to the next with signs telling you to drink the potion.”

Pavord, the author of The Tulip: The Story of a Flower That Has Made Men Mad, a horticultural love affair with the wild flower, created her garden dictated by the rhythms and forms of foliage, flowers, and ferns to shape what she believes is a person’s best defense against the worst of the outside world – the garden as an idealized landscape of the “world that we wished we lived in”. She invited Sooley to film her in this…

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Interstitial Landscapes: Discovering the Beauty Between Here and There

Gregory Han:

These interstitial – the spaces existing inbetween here and there – can be buffered zones of peace and tranquility, whether dividing busy urban zones or natural ecosystems (e.g. marshes, the pause between coastal and riparian zones).

Originally posted on AHBE LAB:

Lagoon-in-Santa-Barbara_photo-by-LDaley Lagoon in Santa Barbara – Photo: Linda Daley

What defines beauty in the landscape?

The question is meant to be rhetorical, as I recognize responses will differ person to person. But for designers the question is an especially relevant one, as the exploration for beauty helps shape our work.

I remember a particular moment when I sensed a connection with a particular landscape. I was in my early twenties and working in midtown Manhattan. As a typical New Yorker, I regularly weaved through the streets of the city in a rush, maneuvering through the throngs of visitors who, to my youthful annoyance, all walked too slowly. Didn’t they know I had a pressing “to-do” list to accomplish during my precious one hour break?

Then one day, Paley Park stopped me in my tracks.

Creative Commons Images by saitowitz Creative Commons Images by saitowitz

Long before I learned about the profession of landscape architecture Paley Park made we aware of the nexus between landscape and architecture, an interstitial…

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