About Strada

Strada means “street” in Italian. Streets matter to us. They’re the fundamental infrastructure of our cities and the core of our civic lives. They’re the connections between buildings, people, and public spaces. This is why we’re so inspired by them and it’s a shared commitment to these values that brought our principals together. Just as people mingle on city streets, our office is a place where we freely exchange ideas, challenging and inspiring one another to create exceptional work.

Latest Post

Sustainability and Architecture

04.2021

Sustainability is fundamentally about having the humility to use only what we need, live within our means, and let the specific climate and ecosystem of our region inform our daily lives. It lies in the humble acknowledgement of mistakes, and the sacrifice to change our way of life.

Read More >>

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Pittsburgh

611 William Penn Place
Suite 700
Pittsburgh, PA 15219

p: 412.263.3800
f: 412.471.5704

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info@stradallc.com

Philadelphia

325 Chestnut Street
Suite 909
Philadelphia, PA 19106

p: 215.440.0190
f: 215.440.0197

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Street Talk

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Three Key Steps Towards inSITEful Reconnaissance

01.2021Ideas, Stradistas POV
By Jayson Livingston, PLA, SITES AP, ASLA

 

in·sight·ful
/inˈsītfəl,ˈinsītfəl/
:having or showing an accurate and deep understanding; perceptive.

How do we become intelligently familiar with the full potential of a project? How does architecture integrate thoughtfully with the site? These interventions are determined through careful investigation and exploration, or site reconnaissance. Typical site reconnaissance consists of taking pictures, taking notes, and gathering existing conditions information. As a designer, are you willing to take it to the next level? As an owner, are you willing to require the same? Stradista Jayson Livingston has coined the term “inSITEful reconnaissance” to describe our detailed process. He has also offered three key steps towards achieving inSITEful reconnaissance.

Three Key Steps Towards inSITEful Reconnaissance

ACCURACY
It is crucial to formulate a clear picture of existing conditions when beginning any new project. Ninety-eight percent of the design process is completed in the office, so a lack of accuracy can lead to confusion, schedule conflicts, and most importantly, a loss of revenue. It is easy to get mired into producing a detailed survey level drawing, but that is a detailed task that we can rely on surveyors for. Being inSITEful is NOT knowing whether or not we are looking at a 7” curb or a 6” curb; it is knowing whether the curb is functioning properly, adding value to a space, or acting as an unnecessary barrier. Our role is to paint the WHOLE picture. To do that, we must resist the tunnel vision that focuses on only certain aspects. Hand sketches are becoming a lost artform. The ability to produce simple hand sketches to capture key moments or insights about the project can go a long way. At Strada many of us enjoy attending John “The Godfather” Martine’s (A Founding Principal of Strada) sketching lunches! Sound judgement is made when we have facts at hand to inform and drive decisions. InSITEful design begins with inSITEful recon.

  1. DEEP UNDERSTANDING
    In most cases we don’t live in close proximity to our projects, and therefore do not have the luxury of daily interactions with the site to influence our understanding of place. In order to deliver a comprehensive final design, we need to understand the place and the context (view sheds, environmental patterns, intrinsic beauty, etc.) because we don’t design in a bubble! Our designs impact everyday life and operations. Having information is great, but knowing what to do with it is greater! Knowing the site is vital, but understanding the people and situations (i.e. a bus stop, noisy business, community culture etc.) that are an active participant in the site’s existence is mission critical. InSITEful investigation includes online public surveys and/or any public engagement opportunities that facilitate our ability to understand. Listening is as important as seeing! Listen carefully to the community, the client, and even the stream in the distance! It all impacts a sense of place.

  1. PERCEPTION
    Experience teaches us what to look for, trains us to see the unseen and to predict the unknown. Perception is the intrinsic tool that facilitates these instinctive abilities. A unique setting should stimulate unique perceptions which should ultimately lead to unique design. Thoughtfully utilizing perceptions allows us to unweave a complicated situation and to celebrate context cues, intertwining them into the final design (i.e. the local downtown’s vernacular relies on traditional site furnishings; the agricultural community needs a place for a farmer’s market…) All the good sites are gone! We have to see through imperfections and enhance the positives. Keen inSITEfulness is the vehicle to delineate the positives and utilize these site characteristics for our projects.

Is there such a thing as too much inSITE?
Sure, too much insight can hinder creativity! It can lead to statements like “that can’t be done!” instead of “how can this be done?” What do we do with site complications like utility conflicts, environmental impacts, historical patterns? We simply note them, discuss them with our clients and develop a well-crafted game plan to address them.

What does inSITEful mean to our clients? What is the value added?
Being InSITEful is more than gathering and documenting data succinctly. It is synthesizing that data into a successful design and a built project. InSITEful reconnaissance leads to immersive design which leads to excellent projects. There is tremendous value in illustrating to the client considerations that they didn’t originally have. Through inSITEful reconnaissance, we are able to culminate our explorations into an inventive, creative, enduring legacy.

Jayson S. Livingston, Landscape Architect

Our jobs are to solve complex puzzles that require a specialized skillset that has been honed through diverse experiences. However, we don’t just solve those puzzles and keep the results to ourselves. We must express those results in a clear and concise fashion so that others can digest that information and understand realistic, implementable solutions.” – Jayson S. Livingston

While being exposed to a multitude of complex projects, Jayson stumbled upon his passion. He truly thrives in environments where he is involved with public outreach and intelligent site reconnaissance. Jayson feels very strongly that in order to have successful design, you must understand not only the ground that will be manipulated, but the people that will ultimately inhabit the space.

Sustainability and Architecture

04.2021Ideas, Stradistas POV
By Cotey Anderegg, LEED Green Associate, EcoDistricts AP

Sustainability is fundamentally about having the humility to use only what we need, live within our means, and let the specific climate and ecosystem of our region inform our daily lives. It lies in the humble acknowledgement of mistakes, and the sacrifice to change our way of life.
Read more >>

Reimagining Significant Places – Part II

03.2021Ideas, Stradistas POV
By Street Talk Editor

"I can imagine Western State Penitentiary becoming a mixed-use development (along an extended light rail that goes to the airport!) that could include housing, hospitality, cultural uses, and community functions." - Larry Fabbroni
Read more >>