2020 Annual WASLA Conference

Precarious Beauty: Developing the Cultural Crossing Project within a Difficult Landscape


As landscape architects, we are often challenged with transforming complex, sometimes vulnerable or damaged sites into places that are immersive, inclusive, and responsive to human needs. In this presentation, Chelsea McCann, Danielle Pruett, and Desirae Wood will discuss the unique approach the design team took to developing the acclaimed Cultural Crossing project at Portland Japanese Garden. This project transformed a highly challenging site perched within Portland's west hills into an award-winning collection of new buildings, open spaces, paths, and gardens that augment the educational and cultural mission of The Garden. They will present the underlying complexities of this incredibly difficult site, which includes an active landslide; reveal the unique technical approaches to creating a design to stabilize the garden; and discuss the challenges of the continuing management and maintenance needed to care for this Northwest landmark.

1 LACES CEU; HSW Approved

Speaker Bios:

Chelsea McCann, Principal - Walker Macy

As a landscape architect and the firm's Managing Principal, Chelsea brings strong leadership to complex design efforts and leads the firm's day-to-day business activities. As a leader, Chelsea is committed to advancing large-scale projects that offer transformative public benefit, and for fostering creativity in the firm's design work and culture. Chelsea's approach is based in her strong leadership of large-scale projects, especially waterfronts, programmed urban parks, and reclaimed brownfield sites. Her projects are noteworthy for their transformative influence, complex conditions, design challenges, and integration of innovative sustainable design and the arts. Chelsea's passion for advancing the region's design culture is also evident in her involvement as a steering committee member for Portland Winter Lights Festival, which integrates lighting design, urbanism, landscape architecture, and public art in an annual public installation.

Danielle Pruett, PE, CPESC - KPFF

Danielle is a civil engineer and KPFF Associate with over 15 years of experience. Danielle led the civil design for the Japanese Garden expansion project, which involved thoughtful planning for stormwater, erosion control, and utilities. Over her career she has focused on parks and natural area projects, from planning through design. She is currently working on U.S. National Parks projects throughout the West Coast and Alaska, as well as K12 school campuses locally.

Desirae Wood, Garden Asset Manager - Portland Japanese Garden

Trained as a gardener, Desi serves as the Garden Asset Manager for the Portland Japanese Garden and is a licensed Landscape Architect in Training. She believes you can never build a garden better than yourself and pursues this belief through study of Japanese cultural arts, garden design, maintenance and construction. Her recent work includes the Zen Center of Denver, the first Chabana Niwa in North America, green infrastructure based on Japanese gardening aesthetics, and research on the habitat value of ecoroofs.

Learning Objectives:

  • Learn technical approaches and specific techniques used in the landscape design to limit earth movement of a historic landslide site.
  • Explore alternative ways to collect, cleanse and convey stormwater within a culturally significant landscape.
  • Discuss lessons learned in the development of a culturally significant site, identifying challenges and successes.
  • Understand the ongoing approach to management and maintenance of the systems to ensure long-term success.