Reflecting on the Design Process at Tinner Hill

[quote author="Fall Church City Council"]A community draws strength and identity from knowledge of its history and the accomplishments of its forebears, and is enriched by the creative and intellectual talents of its citizens.[/quote]

As a landscape architect, what’s more exciting than strapping on a pair of boots, getting out of the office, and visiting your very first project under construction?! To observe floors being poured and walls being formed that were once beautifully hand drawn lines on a piece of trace paper is an experience unlike any other. I recently visited our project site, The Reserve at Tinner Hill, located in the vibrant and closely knit community of Falls Church, VA, aptly nicknamed ‘The Little City.’ Climbing up wooden ladders and walking through and on top of rebar, I watched as the concrete structural slab was poured for the project’s rooftop courtyards.

Since 2012, The Reserve has played a major part in my professional journey and allowed me to experience all sides of our profession as a designer, planner, project manager, consultant coordinator, writer, marketer, presenter, and artist. Presently, it is the fast-paced, under-the-gun type of decision-making that keeps me on my toes as construction administrator. Entering into the final phases, I look back at the big lessons learned.

Build strong relationships with team members.

Throughout all project phases, I most enjoyed building relationships along the way with the client team, consultants, City staff, boards & commissions, and community members, all of whom were committed to contributing to the authentic design narrative of The Reserve. Remember that these are the people with whom you’ll be sharing working dinners in preparation of late night meetings at City Hall. You can only hope to share those meals in a conference room with windows!

Engage the community.

As the team leader for community engagement, LandDesign placed priority on celebrating the cultural resources surrounding the project site, influencing both the public open space, streetscape, and building footprint. Through engaging work sessions (make sure to bring cookies!), sharing historic documents and images, and conversations over coffee, our team is uncovering the hidden stories of figures that were part of a larger story in the fight for civil rights. We are using the urban landscape to provide a visible record of these experiences and contributions through an engraved timeline in the public streetscape special paving.

Let the “Big Idea” inspire even the smallest details.

Inspired by the remarkable and well-documented history of community transformation, The Reserve will bring to light the genuine stories of the individuals who have contributed to the evolution and strong community identity of Falls Church today. The overarching theme is about getting to know the neighborhood, both past and present. It is about neighbors having face-to-face interactions, taking care of their streets, and supporting their local shops. I have learned to hold strong to the design details that I know contribute to the larger story. Even factors like the arrangement of site furnishings can facilitate the way neighbors interact with each other, local business owners, or visitors.

Visit the construction site with confidence and curiosity.

Show up with questions. Show up with curiosity, and share experiences with others. An eagerness to coordinate with the client and contractor more efficiently and effectively will benefit the overall project, and bolster support for your input and enthusiasm as a team member.

The Reserve is a story of community; a story that I am so proud to share. And it could not have been uncovered without the knowledge, expertise, and passion of the people I have gotten to know over the years within “The Little City” community.

Stay tuned for more updates on The Reserve at Tinner Hill as construction progresses into the summer!