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Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

As designers, we all know that collaboration is key to producing a successful outcome for a project. When each contributor to a project focuses on their area of expertise and submits their best work, usually the result is a great project. Most of our industry works through the design collaboration process in a very methodical and segmented manner. Planners begin with the reflective aspects of the project first. What do we want this space to be used for and how do we create the best long-term value for the client in this design? How have we seen this successfully implemented in the past? How can we best plan for future projections and changes?

From initial conceptualization, then a project passes through Landscape Architects and Engineers, each focusing on their specific area of expertise: typically, the Landscape Architects on creativity, innovation, and aesthetics, while engineering will look to create practicality and functionality. Each contributor is necessary to the public space design process and adds value to the overall project by lending their expertise and utilizing the knowledge that experience lends to each design, but when we’re focusing on public space design projects, our collaborative process could produce much better results if we were able to remove the segmented lenses each discipline is looking through and create a truly collaborative design team from the beginning of the project.

After years of working in this traditional design structure, I’ve recently had the opportunity to lead, encourage, and shape a team of planners, landscape architects and engineers on projects from the inception stages and the results of creating a truly collaborative design process have been amazingly successful in producing high-quality end projects and client satisfaction. By removing the silos and independent creative processes across the disciplines, we’ve been able to achieve the ultimate goals of our clients and the full design team, rather than compromising one disciplines’ vision to implement another’s.

Recipe For Success

Each discipline can provide input and expertise into the design process by offering knowledge and insight from their respective strengths:

  • Planners are typically big picture thinkers and are focused on the 5–10-year goals of a space. They tend to understand the use and needs for different spaces based on the past and evaluations of trends.

  • Landscape architects are focused on the landscape and hardscape of a project and how people will interact with those spaces.

  • Engineers are typically focused on the implementation and practicality of a project. How can we make it functional and cost effective?

Portacool Park - Center, Texas

I have found that if a team leader can build a collaborative team of planners, landscape architects and engineers at the inception of a project, it has a direct and positive impact on the end project. This type of inclusive design team can result in:

  • Timeliness

  • Fully meeting client needs

  • Streamlined planning without having to pass projects back and forth between design groups

  • Each team member understanding and considering specific input from other disciplines

  • More efficient design tactics

  • Team bonding

  • Projects can be delivered within a budget because of communication between teams. No one ‘over designs’ and needs to trim on the back end.

We are all aware that “collaboration” and “teamwork” are big buzzwords within the design industry, but by implementing intentional collaborative processes, MHS has made it a priority to make these practices more than just a marketing strategy and achieve and produce a truly symbiotic design relationship that allows each discipline to offer their best work and fully understand the motivations of each team member to produce the best possible project outcome for each client. As a team, we’ve seen the countless benefits of creating this true environment of teamwork where each member seeks first to understand, then secondly to be understood and we think it’s proven the old adage to be 100% true: Teamwork really does make the Dream Work.


About the Author

Hunter Rush

Hunter Rush is the Senior Planner and Partner at MHS Planning & Design. Hunter has 15 years of experience planning for and designing public spaces across the State of Texas. As a team lead who works directly with Planners, Engineers, Landscape Architects, and Visual Artists; Hunter understands the importance of working as a team to ensure a quality project for the communities that he serves.


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