Sea Level Rise & The Ocean State

Searle Design Group has been engaging in research on climate change and how it impacts Rhode Island.  Last September SDG designed and built an educational installation about sea level rise in the ocean state for PARK(ing) day Providence.  During the event, SDG spoke to many community members about their hopes and concerns for the future of the Ocean State.  This inspired a deeper investigation into the unique challenges Rhode Island will face as sea level continues to rise and climate patterns change.  This expanded research has resulted in the development of a catalogue of design strategies for coping with sea level and flooding as well as a matrix of applications for these strategies.

Our conclusion so far - our little state needs to start thinking a lot bigger.  This means shifting the conversation from one about sustainability (the static maintenance of existing conditions), to one about resiliency (the dynamic ability to recover faster and better from disaster), and thinking systematically to plan for worst-case scenarios.

Catalogue of Design Strategies

Catalogue of Design Strategies

Matrix of Design Strategy Applications

What Rhode Island's Coastline will look like during a tropical storm in the year 2100.  (The white line represents the location of the coast as it exists today.)

What Rhode Island's Coastline will look like during a tropical storm in the year 2100.  (The white line represents the location of the coast as it exists today.)

No Child Left Inside!

We need to do more than provide children with opportunities to play in nature, we need to teach them how to protect it. That is the purpose of the 'No Child Left Inside' movement. Research has shown the beneficial impacts of natural learning environments on the development and well-being of children, but kids need to do more than just connect with their environment - they need to learn how to protect it for future generations. As the global push for green energy gains momentum, it is critical that we prepare the next generation of ecologically-conscious citizens to address the environment and the economy of the future. 

At Searle Design Group, we have had the opportunity to work on many educational projects for all ages, such as the Wheeler Farm master plan, and hope that these spaces may inspire the next generation of environmental stewards.

A future landscape architect participating in our installation about Sea Level Rise for PARK(ing) Day last fall.

A future landscape architect participating in our installation about Sea Level Rise for PARK(ing) Day last fall.

Loss of Pollinator Habitats Threatens Food Security

These honey bees are pollinating 'Walker's Low' (Nepeta racemosa) at the Roger Williams Park Botanical Center.  (SDG 2010).

Pollinator species populations, such as the vital Honey Bee, are declining at alarming rates.

Why you should care:

  • Pollinators are vital to agriculture.  Nearly all fruit, vegetable, and seed crops used to produce fuel, medicine, and food require animal pollinators (such as birds, bees, and butterflies.)
  • Intensification of agriculture, pollinator habitat fragmentation and habitat loss are all factors which have negatively impacted native pollinator populations.
  • If populations continue to decline,  crop production could decline with it - causing a spike in food prices.
  • 10% of Rhode Island's total land acreage is devoted to Agriculture.
  • Rhode Island is a leader in direct sales of produce from farms to consumers.
  • Agriculture (including livestock, dairy, aquaculture, nursery and greenhouse stock, vegetables, and sod production) contributes significantly to Rhode Island's economy.

What you can do:

The Heinz Center. 2013. Rhode Island Pollinators and Agriculture. Washington, DC, 46 pp

SDG Among ASLA's "Unsung Heroes"

The American Society of Landscape Architects circulated a survey among its Professional Practice Networks asking members to identify the firms they most admire. Searle Design Group came up among the list of lesser-known practices.  "Members identified general categories of practice that often go under-recognized, such as 'the nameless public realm landscape architect' and the educators and mentors who shape and encourage up-and-coming landscape architects: 'The greatest unknown (or unheralded) landscape architect is the one who reaches out and has a positive impact upon educating the next generation.'"  

Education has always been at the core of SDG's practice. Pictured below, Founding Principal Colgate Searle critiques RISD student's work at Harvard Forest in Petersham, MA (Summer 2015).

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#ProjectUpdate: Swan Point Cemetery

Spring is in full bloom and the pavers are in place for the new urn garden outside the crematorium at Swan Point Cemetery.  A dry-laid stone sitting wall wraps one corner, book-ended by large boulders like those found in the perimeter wall built by the Olmsted brothers in 1910.  As one of the nation's oldest garden cemeteries, the design of this addition is intended to provide a serene setting for a form of burial that is increasingly in demand.

#ProBono #ProjectUpdate: Blackstone Boulevard

As Chairman of the Blackstone Boulevard Park Committee, Principal Colgate Searle has been tasked with creating an inventory and maintenance manual addressing issues of sustainability as the park begins to change in the face of global warming. Blackstone Boulevard was originally designed as a corridor for streetcars connecting to the Swan Point Garden Cemetery, and is now a popular route for joggers and dog-walkers. SDG has been working to inventory and map all tree species and their conditions as well as identify areas for improvement pertaining to erosion and drainage on the paths. Part of the proposal for the park's future is to expand the boundaries to include the street trees on either side, creating a complete segment of urban forest. Colgate recently presented the park's fascinating geologic history (see below) to the members of the Blackstone Parks Conservancy.

Open House Highlights and 10K Small Business!

Thank-you to everyone who came out to celebrate our new office space!  And a special thank-you to those who contributed to the 50 LBS of canned and boxed goods we collected for the Rhode Island Food Bank!  For those who couldn't make it, check out the highlight reel from the event below!

We are also excited to share that we have been accepted into the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business program hosted by the Community College of Rhode Island this summer!  This program provides educational classes and workshops on business growth, as well as access to capital and a network of support to a competitive selection of small business leaders.  

SDG Obtains WBE Status!

Searle Design Group is proud to announce we are now Women Business Enterprise certified in Rhode Island (Massachusetts comes next)!  

Top L to R: Principle Taber Caton, Principle Colgate Searle, Associate Principle Melissa Bagga.  Bottom L to R: Intern Rebecca Ladd and intern Jess Wilson.

Top L to R: Principle Taber Caton, Principle Colgate Searle, Associate Principle Melissa Bagga.  Bottom L to R: Intern Rebecca Ladd and intern Jess Wilson.

#ProjectUpdate - Swan Point Cemetery Expansion

Searle Design Group LLC has worked with Swan Point Cemetery - the largest green space in Providence - for over 20 years. This historic, 200-acre cemetery was one of the first "garden cemeteries" in the country, and one of SDG's objectives over the years has been maintaining its elegant historic character while facilitating necessary expansion. Last summer, SDG seamlessly implemented a burial plot expansion into the subtly rolling topography with permeable paving, native plantings, swales and a series of check dams addressing environmental concerns related to an adjacent wetland.

This week, plans went out to bid for a new cremation garden and burial plots within the expanded area. Swan Point recognized a trend toward cremation over traditional burial in recent years, so they asked SDG to create a serene, contemplative setting. SDG's design incorporates schist pavers and artfully arranged boulders paired with a colorful planting palette to create spaces for reflection and celebration.

#ProjectUpdate - Wheeler Farm

In 2009, Searle Design Group completed the master plan for Wheeler School Farm.  We continue to work with this client to bring site ecology to the forefront of their curriculum by integrating hands-on learning opportunities into the landscape design. SDG just finished siting three new pavilions which will serve their outdoor learning programs and summer camp. The pavilions will be erected this Spring. 

#ProjectUpdate - RISD Ewing Multicultural Center

The Ewing Multicultural Center is an important site on RISD's campus - it is home to the office of Inter-cultural Student Engagement and serves as a small gathering space for RISD's many clubs and organizations.  Its central location and proximity to important buildings on campus make it a high foot traffic area, but it is also one of the few quiet outdoor spaces where students can stop and rest amid the bustle of their day. Years of wear and tear on the steep site led to deteriorated conditions, so SDG was asked to improve the safety and accessibility of the upper terrace leading to lower Frazier Terrace by replacing the steep, uneven paths. This project will be completed in the Spring.

Infrastructure and the Providence River

This historic image shows the river when it was 70% paved over, before the mid-1980s when the River Relocation Project began. Watch the video to see how the river looks now.

#PVD has done a lot to re-purpose old infrastructure. The Providence River in downtown was once covered by a multi-lane road and is now a beautiful asset for the community. #Waterfire has become a major tourist destination and revenue generator for the city. Providence is a supporter of #parkingday which brings pop-up parks into downtown in the Fall each year. We also have a state-wide network of bike trails, many of which are old railways. What infrastructure repurposing project should Providence focus on next? Underpass parks along the 6-10 corridor? More parks in the I-195 redevelopment? Watch the video, created by Nicholas Lin, to see the Providence River as it is today. The video starts where the old I-195 ramp was and travels up river, before turning back to where it started. 

Upcoming Rhode Island ASLA Events: SITES Training and Green RI

RI ASLA has some great events coming up!  Our Associate Principal, Melissa Bagga, is involved with organizing these events as President Elect of the RI ASLA chapter:

1.  URI Bay Campus (215 South Ferry Rd., Narragansett, RI, 02882) will be hosting a three-part training series explaining The Sustainable SITES Initiative (SITES). REGISTER HERE. SITES is a system for evaluating the sustainable success of a landscape architecture project (similar to LEED for architecture.)  Part One (February 14th) will be an introduction to SITES and SITES v2 and will cover Analysis & Planning.  Part 2 (February 28th) will cover Soil & Vegetation and Water & Materials.  Part 3 (March 21st) will cover Human Health, Education & Performance, Construction, O&M Innovation.  These events will take place from 8:30am - 12:30pm and will be presented by Steve Benz of SITE Green Solutions, LLC.  This event is part of the RIASLA continuing education series and will aid in preparing participants to take the SITES AP exam.  ASLA Member price = $250.  Non-member price = $325.

2.  Green RI will take place at the Roger Williams Park Botanical Center (1000 Elmwood Ave. Providence, RI) on May 4th.  This event will feature presentations and a Sustainable Design Showcase.   RI ASLA is working with AIAri and IIDA New England Chapter to host this event. More details to come. 

 

Roger Williams Park Botanical Center

Roger Williams Park Botanical Center

We're moving to Pawtucket!

After over 40 years in our cozy basement office it is time for a change. We will be moving to Hope Artiste Village the first week in January. As sad as we are to leave, we're looking forward to having a more open floor plan that allows for the firm’s expansion. Stay tuned for an upcoming open house in the new space.

Our phone number remains the same: 401-272-5783

All the best this holiday season and see you in 2017!

Taber + Melissa + Colgate
Searle Design Group, LLC