Nature is…

City as Nature: “The brambles and trees grew up through the cracks and gullies of the granite cliff face.”

September 6th, 2018
Hales Bar. 35° 2’48” N, 85° 32’22”W

2City as Nature.png

While Hales Bar Dam may not be located in a city proper, it is an example of city reaching out into a natural setting to take resources. In return, the old dam must now repay the debt by becoming part of the ‘landscape’. My interpretation of this image of City as Nature comes from the manner in which nature is slowly making the building part of itself. Engulfed in plant material, the concrete and brick walls are slowly being metamorphosized into a cliff face. Cracks have worked up the walls, chunks of building have fallen to the ground. Plant growth of all manner has opportunistically taken hold in these areas, using the walls as their personal trellis. It will not be long before the black windows will cease to be windows but instead will be cave openings and the transformation to nature will be complete.


Nature in the CIty: Still the big-bad, held back by walls.

September 9th
Paducah, Kentucky. 37° 4′ 20″ N, 88° 37′ 39″ W

Nature in the CIty.png

Historically speaking mankind has long held onto the fear of the unknown aspect of nature; of the parts of their environment left untamed. My image represents how many people still experience nature, that is to say, from the safe confines of their city, generally metaphorically, but in this instance literally, from behind the safety of a wall. I found this label, “Nature in the city”, to be the most difficult to choose a single image for. I have multiple examples of experiential moments of nature within a city, all either caged, or walled in, or behind glass… Nature in the city is doomed to be contained, peeked at, and then closed the door on. Nature in the city is something to be projected from.

Framed with the intent of contrasting the institutionalized grey concrete with the color beyond.


City In Nature: “The Things we Left Behind”
September 9th

Paducah, Kentucky. 37° 4′ 20″ N, 88° 37′ 39″ W

City in Nature

I have often heard the phrase “pristine, untouched land”, which is a phrase, I myself believe to be an oxymoron. The earth may have pockets of recovered land, land not touched in a long time, land that appears to our feeble eye to be untouched, but never touched? Not likely. And more to the point, never affected, even less likely. Our discarded items creep into the very cellular level of our environments. The things we leave behind when they no longer are relevant are left to commune with nature the best they can. City in Nature, observed or unobserved, is perhaps human’s largest legacy. Whether or not this is a criticism or not is in the eye of the observer.

Where and Why do I find Nature?

So much for that last (official) post.  I believe I will accept the fate that this blog will most likely live on for the duration of my MLA program.

The prompt of Where do I seek and find nature, starts our semester.  I myself have never actively sought out nature; I feel that nature screams at me wherever I am.  So while I many not seek nature, I find it everywhere.  By nature, I don’t mean what has been planted in mine or my neighbor’s yard by either me, them, or the people who originally developed this area, but rather the persistent bits and pieces of our surroundings that we have somehow “neglected” to control or do away with.  I suppose by the purest of definition, not even those would be considered nature, but for me, I have to start somewhere, and all those bits and pieces are nature enough for me to feel friendly with it.

In my eye, nature has always just been there, like a perpetual three-year-old child saying, “Look at me.” ” Look what I can do.” ” Did you see me do that?”  “Can you see me now?”  “Look now.”  “Okay, look now. ”   It is in the cracks of the sidewalk, the gutters of the roofs, the rails of a bridge, the board of a fence, the leaf in a garden, the racket of the cicadas, a potentially endless list if we leave things alone long enough for nature to find a space.    I don’t believe I ever have to go far to find nature. Nature is everywhere, but perhaps for some, it is too small to notice, or only comes surrounded by a boundary and labeled “National Park” “Botanical Garden” or “Conservation Refuge”.

I think too many of us are too ready to dismiss the small moments of nature in search for the grand examples of them.  Don’t get me wrong, as a specific example I am as inclined as the next person to gasp in awe at the first view of the Pacific Ocean, dazzling in sunlight as I emerge from the glorious dim that is Big Sur National Park… That too is nature (and yet still altered by human hand…).  But the spectacle of that experience does not take away from the smaller, everyday moments of nature experienced walking from my porch to my car.  Perhaps due to the very fact that we have shaped our national forests and parks, our smaller, more intimate moments of nature really are the truest moments of nature left to us.



Final (official) Post

Over the past two plus months of my summer internship I have sat in on several different meetings relevant to the multiple phases of campus beautification projects.  But it was not until this week, during Tuesday’s weekly design meeting, that  I was made aware that the bureaucracy of the University, while it is ever present, occasionally really gets the design team down.  The reason I was made aware of this is because this was the first time that I felt that each person in the room with me was discourage, frustrated, or downright angry about the position the landscape team is constantly put in.  The design team is always the last to be brought into a project, and often time are brought in simply because a project went wrong and there is an expectation for this group of people to fix another groups mistake.  There are many groups within campus projects that do not consider a bigger picture beyond what they immediately are doing and this often causes delays and mistakes.   As the project attempts to move forward the problems created become shifted  to the landscape team to fix — by which time a solution is more complicated.  Because, as landscape comes at the end of a project, (be that right or wrong) this group inherits all of the problems.  It appears that everyone else can walk away with an attitude that the landscape design team “will make it look good.”  This position of ‘end of the line’ leaves everything  that is left undone, or incorrect, in the hands of the design team.

As a generally rule I simply observe at these meetings.  But this seemed to me, to be very out of odds with contracts, so I asked them why do they do it?  If this is the case, and they are left holding the bag for many other groups, why do the fix it?  How can things, that have been bid out, with specific requirements, be closed out without the person or persons responsible, actually completing them?  And the answer was, because the University lets them.
Because of this history the team tries very hard to stay in the loop with what is happening around campus, if for no other reason than to protect what is “theirs” or to control the amount of destruction.  Mess after mess, issue after issue, it never fails to come down from the top, to the landscape design team, to “fix it before the students arrive”.
I imagine that others might have a different take on the same projects, but one thing that I do know, after spending over a semester in facility services, Ted, Bethany, and Jason,  fight for every little bit of landscaping, ever tree, and every stray corner.  They fight for something different, or beautiful, or functional.  They fight for spaces that students would love, and they fight for sustainable practices.  They fight to have less river rock, and more wooded slopes –and for the most part, they lose these fights.  They listen patiently while people mock and doubt what they know to be good, sustainable practices.  They respond back mildly, but without back-tracking on their opinions.  Perhaps it is because of the fact that they remain calm and professional while others loudly dismiss their quiet assertions that, for example, green roofs on campus are a good thing,  that when it comes to funding, they often find the rug pulled out from under their feet.  And yet from what I can see, they still care very much, and therefore, they keep on trying.
I can honestly say that the lessons that I have learned regarding working in a large, bureaucratic, top-down institution, have been as valuable to me as any design skills I have picked up or enhanced during my summer.

My main focus for this week has been the color palette for the spring tulips.  My computer has been a wash of colors for two days and it has been the most cheerful screen in the room!  I found by working on the summer/fall palette last January that

this very pleasant task can quickly become overwhelming due to the vast number of plants, or in this case, tulips! Therefor, for this palette I quickly narrowed my choices (the above being three of about twelve) and then got down to color mixing.  By doing this I was able to cut the time spent on this task by more than half.

For my final interview of the summer I chose to talk with Helen Hennon.  When I asked Helen her official title she began with ‘Mother’ and ended with ‘friend’.  Project Manager – which is actually the title she holds at UT, was not even mentioned.  It eventually did come up, but only after we had been talking for a bit.  Helen values her quality of life beyond just her employment and considers her job at UT to be the perfect job.  It provides her with the challenges she is more than equal to deal with, while freeing her from a job that no longer held any potential for growth, and at which she had the unpleasant responsibility  of  laying off employees, the most distasteful aspect of her previous job.
Helen earned her BS in Civil Engineering  from Tennessee Tech, and her masters in Environmental Engineering from the University of Tennessee.  Helen has been working for UT facilities for two years.  Prior to this Helen worked her way from an intern position all the way to Vice President of an environmental engineering company.
Helen does not feel that as a woman, she has been presented with any particular challenge in her chosen field.  She has always been respected for her hard work.
I always like to ask those whom I interview to tell me something that most people would not know about them.  I have found that most people initially tell me they have nothing interesting about themselves.  Helen was extremely refreshing in immediately having an answer.   Helen has the dubious distinction of being the very first person in North America (not just US, but all of North America) to have endured radio active iodine therapy.  And of all places to have it, in little Johnson City, TN!  The procedure had just been cleared by the FDA trials and Helen, who had been misdiagnosed as having a goiter,  was newly diagnosed with aggressive thyroid cancer, this was immediately following her college graduation.  This was a defining moment in her life.  Helen endured two major neck surgeries, and radio active iodine therapy.  She was sick, and weak, and dealing with all of the life issues that come with being a young adult, newly graduated,  with expectation coming  from different sources.   What came out at the opposite side of battle is the person I know, an amazing, strong individual whose parting sentence to me was “The world has been good to me.”   I liked that she didn’t say life has been good, but rather it was the world that had been good to her.  I think that is an important distinction.




Week 9

After two weeks of not being able to meet for one reason or another, this weeks design team meeting covered  a tremendous amount as problem after problem was brought to the table. Sink holes showing up by bio swells along Volunteer, open lawn spaces being used as parking, steep slopes that are difficult to maintain, and the ever reoccurring steam heat, causing problems in almost every environment imaginable. The easy answer  that the University generally gravitates toward (encouraged by maintenance) is to fix all problems by simply putting in river rock.  However, this time, when that suggestion was brought to the table, the solution was balked at by several of the design team.  The resistance began with the general observation that slowly, the entire campus was becoming river rock.  And while it was acknowledged that ease of maintenance was essential, river rock was not necessarily the answer to everything.
The success of the “mini-forest” that has been planted behind the music building was pointed out as being a possible solution for some of the problem areas that had been discussed during the meeting.  The initial, automatic knee-jerk reaction from some was to shut down the idea.  But as discussion continued the logic behind the idea spread around the table until  enthusiasm for mini forests  vibrated through the room and pushed aside the known solution that is river rock.  All in all, it was an interesting evolutional process to watch!miniforest.jpg

On Thursday morning I was given a new assignment to create two renderings of  the proposed Baker Center rooftop garden.  I was provided a plan, and photos of the empty roof top and requested to create renderings in photoshop.  By the end of the day Thursday we were informed that the renderings were needed by Monday at noon.  It is not necessarily a problem to create an image that represents what the plan says will be up there, but it is still challenging to create a photoshop image that either doesn’t look like photoshop, or that is aesthetically pleasing.   I continue to find this frustrating because my eye can clearly see that the image looks wrong, but I struggle to correct it.  I have contacted Andrew regarding specific techniques he showed us in tutorials last semester.  I am hoping some of these finishing treatments will help the end result.    The accompanying image is not finished.  It is my opinion that the plan that is being presented is much too crowed and overwhelming.

Roof top Garden.png

This week I interviewed Bill Wilson.  Originally earning an associates degree in greenhouse and nursery management,  Bill came to work for the University of Tennessee because nursery work just didn’t pay enough.  Bill has worked for the University  for 17 1/2 years and came to UT from Fountain City Baseball park, where he maintained the baseball fields.    Bill works for facilities as an equipment operator – I know him as the employee van driver.  At facilities, parking is located about a mile from the building, so sometimes, if you time it right, you can get a ride from the lot to work – Bill provides those rides.  There has rarely been a drive with Bill that I have not learned something new.  I have often thought that Bill would make a good contestant on some sort of trivia show.  It was through our interview that I realized why Bill knows “things”.  Bill is a huge history buff and in his off time he does research.  He discovers something that interests him and he goes out and researches whatever that is.  Currently Bill has a contract with McFarland & Company for a book he is writing on the Knoxville Giants.  An African American baseball team in Knoxville, that was in existence from 1872 to 1938.
Bill was quick to notice the College of Idaho bumper sticker that I had on my car and he asked me about that. Right out of school Bill was hired by the Forest Service for a summer and was stationed in Orifino, Idaho.  Having lived the majority of my life  in Idaho it was a pleasure to be able to talk to someone who had spent some time there and love it.


Summer at UT facilites, week 8

  This week proved to be a fairly uneventful week, filled with tutorials to improve, or learn new skills.  With current deadlines behind me, and no new task at hand I have had time to work on technical skills.  I am thankful that self learning at work is encouraged by my supervisors.
   Because we deal heavily in Photoshop I have been working on Photoshop skills.  I find it rather ironic, that as I work on learning new approaches, quicker methods, images look worse before they look better!  I think I can honestly say that small amounts of Photoshop go a long way!
  This week I was invited to sit in on a meeting with the landscape architecture firm working on the Pedestrian Mall addition, the University police, and the city police and fire departments.  The purpose of this meeting was for the LA firm to get feedback from emergency response teams for the initial design.
Presentation techniques; computer application
  For a large part the clients we work for at facilities are the university, and the  professionals  (internally or externally) who will be undertaking the job of implementing a design.  Many of the design ideas are communicated via construction documents for these professionals.  However, for those projects that come to us from departments looking for us to design something specific, or from outside the university in the form of memorial and gift gardens, we create a plan using AutoCAD, which is then dropped into Illustrator for refining.  Additionally a render or two is created with Photoshop.  These are print out, usually at an 11 x 17 size, and presented to the client.  While two of my designs have been presented to clients, I have not yet been involved in any client interactions.
CBT from CAD
                                       Mashburn Gift Garden, From CAD to Illustrator
  This was presented as a concept plan to the client, to gauge if the direction the design is taking meets their approval.  Moving forward this will be refined into a more specific planting plan, and materials to be used.  The Photoshop render presented with this plan was to convey a sense of feeling for what the space could be. (image coming, but is not on this computer)
  The landscape design team at UT facilities relies heavily on CAD, Illustrator and Photoshop.  SketchUP is also used, but not as often as the afore mentioned programs.  The team is very content to use these programs and feels that they get their design ideas across with these technologies.
  For my interview this week I spoke to Preston Jacobsen.  Preston is UT’s Sustainability Manager and he has held this position for five years.  Preston is in charge of greening up campus and tracking all aspects of sustainability: environmental impact, activism, cost (funding) resiliency,  student green fees, projects –  All of this equals data, which Preston has used to map all the connections that he is aware of throughout the university that can, or have the potential to relate to sustainability.  You can see these connections at work at the Sustainability Portal:
  I had a lot of fun exploring this link, which is not yet live, but should be going live very soon.
  Preston’s job, in large part, is selling sustainability to different entities at the university,  showing a business model that sustains itself, and works with the environment.  He must show people how sustainability is cost effective.  The hard sell being that this is more of a long term benefit, rather than an immediate payback.  The easy sell is that for UT, sustainability is not really a choice, but part of the law as the campus is supposed to be carbon neutral by 2061. Preston is not a sustainability ‘pusher’.  He empowers those who want to be more green, and he educates those who don’t.  He currently is working toward shifting the culture.  Policy limits the reality, and current policy is culture bound in what has always been.
  On the side, Preson owns his own weather station ( and he makes snow.  He can claim the unique distinction of having the only snow in Knoxville this past year on Christmas day, making enough to be able to make a snowmen.

Summer 18, week 7

There are different types of clients that UT facilities works for.  There is the University itself, that is technically the client and employer.  There are individual departments that reach out to the landscape design team for special projects, and you occasionally have a member of the public come to the university with a donation  for creating a space on campus (a memorial space for example).   Upon completion all projects remain under that maintenance of facilities.

Projects are at times discussed and designed to almost completion but are often put on hold until it is determined where funding will come from.  This is a question that is often discussed and equally often unanswered at the end of design meetings.  These projects are also prioritized by the University and often time as a priority shifts, so does funding.  Memorial spaces are driven more by the private individual who is funding the project and their agenda, but even so, they are often restricted by the university standards, and often time university construction schedules.

Interactions happened through meetings, emails and phone calls.  Site visits happen by the design team, not necessarily always with the client.  I believe as employees of the university it is their job to make sure the university standards are being met.  So in that sense, their primary client would be the university.


0712181633aThis week I ventured outside of the design and landscaping people of facilities and interviewed Beth O’Neill.  Beth is the Training specialist assistant at facilities. She Runs new employee orientation and OSHA training.  This includes dealing with all the reports that training generates, and insuring that all 650 FS employees are up to date on safety training.   Beth has been with UT for about 8 months.  She and her husband relocated to Knoxville from Middle Tennessee for his job.  Beth has a degree from Belmont University in theater and specializes in voice acting.  Beth is also a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity and acts as a crew lead for the women’s build.

Summer at UT facilities, week 6

This week is the first week that I have felt earnest pressure due to my job.  While I have continued to work on the Clarence Brown Theater Garden, the arrival of the hard due date, which is the first deadline I have been given, has increased my stress levels.  Our weekly team meeting focused this week on what I have completed to date.  It made me more aware of how the process of design, check in, see what works, design again, check in some more… really works.  The importance of working quickly, which has not actually been something discussed at work, has become a more concrete concept that is clearly an skill that is really valuable to a productive (and budgeted) design as possible.

This week I steered some conversations around the office toward the question of keeping relevant with new technologies.  The landscape design team is required to each earn 12 continuing education credits a year.  They do this through conferences and through lunch and learns.  It is through these types of events the designers are introduced to new materials that they may want to use in their projects.   Due to the University Standards however, it is not often that the designers veer from the material that is currently approved for University use.

When a new material is up for consideration, often it has been something that an individual has seen at a venue as mentioned above, and they would like to try it at UT.  The material is researched by the specific person who is interested in it, and generally a sample is procured and installed somewhere on campus as a trial.  For example, a new type of sod was installed for the circular lawn behind the torch bearer statue.  After a year the new product did not meet expectations and was removed.  Since then the lawn has been replanted to its pretrial state.

During the time a new material is introduced, the information is disseminated during the weekly team meetings. Consideration is taken for how maintainable the material is, and depending on its application, how well it stands up to foot traffic.  Another major consideration for UT is steam heat.   The design team has been actively looking for materials that can hold up to the extreme, consistent heat levels created by UT’s steam tunnels when they leak.  The heat from these tunnels is incredibly destructive, and leaks are something that happens frequently.   Planting material cannot withstand the temperatures the come from these leaks and even concrete cracks, separates and begins to fall apart at the site of these leaks.  Because these leaks are often neglected for long periods of time the landscape design team is actively searching for material that can be used in place of concrete that is attractive when used as pavers, but will also not deteriorate with the heat.

The University organizes the resources that are approved for use through the University Standards.  This method does not necessarily keep UT working with innovative materials.

My interview for this week was with Keith Downen.  Keith is a project manager at facilities services for capital projects.  Capital projects are the multi-million-dollar projects as opposed to the in-house projects that are just in the thousands of dollars.  Keith is not exclusively limited to capital projects and has been involved with in-house projects as well.  While his focus is the multi-million-dollar projects Keith does have a preference for the smaller in-house projects.    With the capital projects Keith must deal with outside consultants and construction.  There is a huge variety of people involved and lots of “moving parts” potentially waiting to go wrong.  Additionally Keith enjoys having a larger, more personal role in projects that are smaller in scale.

Keith earned a business degree at Illinois College before joining the Air Force where he began doing surveying and site development.  After leaving the Air Force Keith came to the University of Tennessee and earned a second degree in architecture.  During his last year as a student Keith began working for MHM and continued to work for them for seven years after graduating.  After MHM Keith worked for Lockwood Green, which is an engineering and architecture firm.  He worked for them for 13 years before they went out of business and Keith started at UT.  He has been at UT for 14 years.

Having worked for both small and large firms Keith offered the advice that he feels it is better to work for small firms before working for larger firms because at a small firm you learn every aspect of the job.  Due to the small size, these firms don’t necessarily have the resources for people to specialize, and everyone needs to help in all areas.  He feels this is valuable experience to take with you into a larger firm.  Keith feels that larger firms allow individuals to specialize.

As an architect, Keith rarely gets to design at UT, so he enjoys it when he has the chance to.  Originally UT architects did do their own design work, but now all the architectural work is contracted out.  The reasons behind this feel like a potentially like a delicate topic.  There are people who feel this is a liability issue, while others feel that it is more politically motivated.

Keith is currently writing new Standards for facility services.  This was first brought to my attention in a conversation that several of us were having about green roofs.  Keith made the comment that he is thinking of writing in green roof as standard for all new visible roof surfaces.   Because of this comment I asked him how he could make that happen and I learned that Keith is rewriting the architectural standards for UT. We talked for some time about this aspect of Keith’s job. He takes this task seriously, as the guidelines are not meant to stifle creativity in those creating the design, but to reflect the aesthetic of the University look.

A little-known fact about Keith is that In addition to his survey and site development work while in the service, Keith was also a navigator and flew F-4’s.  He described this experience as a “wild ride!”   Requiring the wearing of a G-suit Keith took part in dog-fights, and dive bombing.

He described dive bombing as “racing toward the ground in a dive” and pulling up before hitting.  This conversation turned toward commercial flight and interestingly enough, despite (or maybe because of) this history Keith does not like to fly.


Keith is also a runner and has run dozens of marathons, always swearing at about mile 20 that this will be his last,  but inevitably always being lured into another – “just one more” (My quote, not his, and I get that.).

Week of June 18-22

I have continued to tweak the Clarence Brown Theater gift garden this week and have received a hard deadline of July 6th to have a plan and render to show the client.   The landscape team leans very heavily on photoshop for photo realistic renders, which continues to force me to improve my photoshop skills.

I spent some time this week talking to Ted Murphy regarding ‘market strategy’.  I was curious at to how much of the work the landscape team does is self assigned, and how much was mandated from the top down.  As one would expect the University is a top down institution.  Within reason, the landscape design team has a budget to their discretion for smaller projects (under 100,000).  Ted and the landscape team regularly tour campus, making sure that problem areas are addressed and maintenance is happening.  Anything above 100,000 would be a capital project and these projects come from the top down.  What I did find interesting in the conversation was the understanding that many of the capital projects are a result of Ted’s campus tours.  About 10 to 12 years ago Ted started pressing the point that something needed to happen along  Volunteer Blvd.  And while it took more than a decade to happen the result was the project that is currently entering phase three of a campus beautification project.  The cost of Volunteer Blvd makes it a capital project and while Ted had pushed for something to happen here, it came from the top down.

Within the boundary of the campus, if it has to do with the outside, all projects come through  the landscape team.  As such, the design team works with whatever department on campus is looking to change something.  Whether or not facility employees actually do the end work, the design is either approved by the design team, or a member of the design team creates the design, and works with the department in question to try to achieve the goal of the request while maintaining University standards.


This week I interviewed Sam Adams.  Sam’s official title is Horticulturalist for facility services.  Technically Sam is an arborist, which means he is in charge of the care, maintenance, and inventorying of all the campus trees.  If it is a tree related question Sam is to be consulted.
Sam received his degree from Warren Wilson College and worked his way through school with various campus jobs.  Sam soon moved to forest management and helped to manage the 800 acres campus.  By his senior year Sam was part of the arborculture crew, which started his tree climbing career – who would not love to be paid to climb trees?
Sam worked as a tree climber for Cortese in Knoxville before moving to Florida where he worked as an arborist for a design school.  Eventually Sam returned to Knoxville, but this time he worked as a general manager for Cortese.  Sam started working for the University because he thought it was a great opportunity to get out of commercial work. Having worked for the University for three years now Sam describes his experience at UT as great.  While UT and the city of Knoxville do not collaborate on too many projects Sam does have a close relationship with the city Urban Forester .
Not many people at UT know that Sam is an experienced rock climber.  He climbed for twenty five year or so and has climbed in North Carolina, and out west in the Cascade Mountains.  Of late climbing has begun to take more of a physical toll on Sam, so he has switched his activity of choice to mountain biking.


Week of June 11-15

The flow of my weeks do not change much from week to week.   I attend our weekly meeting and I work on projects assigned to me.  One aspect of my week that has changed is the inclusion of a weekly crit session with Bethany every Thursday.  Mostly what these crits end up being are “tips and tricks” sessions on AutoCAD, along with getting clarification to questions that crop up during the meeting.

I find that I am somewhat discouraged by the direction that the university tends toward as far as reaching outside the box for the campus vision.  I understand that the main consideration is cost, and more than construction cost is maintenance cost.  But I find some people immediate reject an idea before any opportunity of dialog is even approached.  It is unfortunate that those are the voices that are the loudest and most aggressively dismissive. It is the dismissive quality of these voices that tend to shut something down more so than any research can,  positive or negative, and it is this lack of professional respect that should be corrected.

Common sense has always said that as the leadership of the University changes hands the priorities shift.  Being placed in proximity to unofficial conversations I have been made aware of the shift in priorities since Chancellor Davenport has been fired.  While the University does not seem to be able to claim being actively pro-green infrastructure, Chancellor Davenport had been fairly involved in the appearance of the campus and made sure that her preference where known to the landscape design team.  Additionally the Chancellor supported green infrastructure and the idea of the University being situated to lead the way.  Since her removal, two green roof projects have been cancelled due to funding. These types of technologies are simply not valued enough to be invest in.  This week a discussion around me shifted momentarily off of green infrastructure funding,  to the purpose of higher education, prompting me to challenged the idea of green technologies as being a benefit not only environmentally, but to students learning as well.  I was told that it would simply be a very limited number of students effected, the assumption being only MLA students would benefit.  When I countered that collaboration between many programs could be considered, from engineering (structural integrity) to Ag. (research crops), and a variety in between, widening the number of students directly impacted by the projects I was met with silence.  It took awhile for the response to come back to maintaining spaces above ground when they didn’t have the ability to maintain what they currently have on the ground.  And I cannot ignore the truth in that statement.

I do think that the way large and influential organizations prioritize aspects of the landscape needs to be addressed.  The typical mindset is not only narrow, but it is out of date.  I have found that the desire to expand the potential of landscapes is high among the landscape design team, but at the same time it is not them who have the final say.  In the end, they do what they can, within the standards of the University.  But that does not mean that they stop trying to promote landscapes that have a variety of programmatic potential.

This week I approached 5 different individuals regarding interviews.  Three did not respond to me and the other two postponed until next week due to scheduling conflicts.

Typical approach to maintenance concerns.


Concept for ROTC flag pole memorial. Not the final design, as we did not step down.

Week of June 4 – 8


Week of June 4-8

This week at Facility Services my focus has been to experiment with a variety of alternative designs, plant list and planting guide for the Clarence Brown Gift garden in autoCAD.   Ultimately, although the basic design was approved, with some changes to make, the most ‘creative’ aspect of the design, which was a bench that ran along a half wall and wrapped around a large, existing shade tree, was rejected in  consideration of University standards. All benches (along with other furniture) on campus are uniform, creating connectivity across campus.

2Make 2D Perspective CBT space [Converted].jpg

10 Clarence Brown garden with S benchNO hatch Layout1 (1)

(Final plan toward a render)                                                 (Curve bench to be removed)


Additionally, this week I worked on finalizing the design for Hoskins Library flag pole and creating a finalized plant list and planting guide to be submitted to the landscape team next Tuesday at the landscape meeting.

This week’s personal interview is with Ted Murphy.  Ted’s official title is Campus Landscape Architect.  His responsibility is to see the landscape vision of the University realized and site standards met, from development through to construction of site related projects. Ted has been with the University for about 20 years.

Ted earned his bachelor’s in landscape architecture at Purdue and worked in both the small landscape architecture firm setting and the large, multi-disciplinary firm setting before returning to school to pursue his master’s in public horticulture. Ted and his wife choose the University of Tennessee, where he was offered funding for his program, because it was ‘middle ground’ between their two families in Alabama and Indiana.

Ted enjoys the fact that because he is the landscape architect for the university, he does not come and go from project to project, site to site.  Working for the university allows him to stay around and enjoy the fruits of his labor.  He is proud of the changes that are visible on campus due to the efforts that he and the landscape team put forth.  He sees the impact that these changes have on the students and how the campus community interacts with their outdoor environment now vs. 20 years ago.

Something that I found to be particularly interesting about Ted is that during his high school years, Ted was on the rifle team and was his state champion, going on to take 3rd in the Nation and going to the Jr. Olympics.  Due to this success Ted was approached by the US Army in an attempted to recruit him as a sniper.  This was a failed attempt as Ted had no desire to use his skills to knowingly kill a person.  I really like Ted and I enjoy working with him, so I just have to say that I am really glad that he has not killed anyone.