Ecological Factors in Urban Landscape Design

The decay rate of urban infrastructure demands that we address future issues associated with the ecology of place in present-day planning efforts.
Andrea Gaffney
Habitat Group presentation Enlarge [+]

The Fall 2007 studio Ecological Factors in Urban Landscape Design, taught by Rob Thayer, Michelle Dubin, Joe McBridge, Matt Kondolf and Graduate Student Instructor Andrea Gaffney led graduate students from Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning to propose visions for the future of three watersheds in Contra Costa County along San Pablo Bay. Eight teams of students combined their skills in quantitative spatial analysis and three-dimensional creative synthesis to incorporate ecological processes into a variety of infrastructure vision plans on the following subjects: alternative transportation, municipal-scale renewable energy production, habitat conservation for animal and plant species, urban forestry as a mechanism for community development, creek management proposals for a gradient of development typologies, coastal waterfront planning for urban ecological diversity, human ecology habitat restoration, and watershed trail planning. Each of these visions promotes awareness on a variety of ecological processes, thereby increasing the legibility of the watershed as a sustainable unit of land planning and management.

Andrea Gaffney
Energy Group presentation Enlarge [+]

The Energy Group (Nicholas Curtis, Robert D. Lemon, Francesca Francia, Chris Fullmer, and Tim Mollette-Parks) proposed a framework in which a local municipal utility can meet 100% of the current and future energy demands of the population with renewable energy located in the landscape of the three watersheds.

The Watershed Group (Nathaniel Behrends, Rachel Edmonds, Ben Jackson, Kristen Podolak, Jane Wardani) designed a framework, which transformed the fragmented hydrologic system of Rodeo Creek into a well-functioning, restored system that reconnected the community with this natural system.

The Habitat Group (Christopher Moi, Cliff Sorrell, Nick Glase, Nicole Cousino, Ye Kang Ko) designed a conservation reserve network that enhances biodiversity and associated human land uses for the long-term future of the Pinole, Refugio and Rodeo Creek watersheds.

In the Summer of 2008, The Restoration Design Group presented the studio’s material to the Rodeo community as project ideas associated with the restoration of Rodeo Creek.

Xochimilco Archeological Museum and Botanical Garden: The Mexico City Studio

The Mexico City studio conducted during Spring 2007 explored the manner in which the physical and conceptual understanding of landscape can enrich current forms of architectural and urban design practice. The Xochimilco area of Mexico City is well known for its extended series of canals — the remaining vestiges of an ancient system of lakes stretching for most of the valley of Anahuac in the middle of which Tenochtitlan, the impressive capital of the Aztecs, was located. Originally drained by the conquistadors to reproduce the conditions found in Spain, today the lake-bed is almost entirely occupied by Mexico City. The loss of subterranean water has had various ecological ramifications including: the gradual sinking of large parts of the city, loss of natural habitats, depletion of native vegetation, and the obsolescence of traditional agricultural methods of cultivation in the middle of the water called chinampas. Often referred to, incorrectly, as “floating gardens,” the chinampas were in fact, stationary artificial islands created by staking out the shallow lake bed and then fencing in the area with wattle. The fenced-off area was then layered with mud, lake sediment, and decaying vegetation, which eventually brought it above the level of the lake. Chinampas were separated by channels wide enough for a canoe to pass.

The worsening environmental situation in Xochimilco has generated a demand to conserve its landscapes and artifacts while also integrating them to the needs of modern society. The creation of an Archeological Site Museum and Botanical Park was seen as an important catalyst for this goal. Arguing that archeological exhibits need to be conserved within their contexts rather than as objects of display based on their aesthetic values, the studio attempted to connect each exhibit to the historical relationship between nature and man.

To understand the social, political, and environmental context of design, and in order to foster collaboration with Mexican students, architects and landscape designers, UC Berkeley students visited Mexico from January 8th to the 15th. Students were asked to research Mexican culture, artists, and architects; study precedents; create films; and collect rubbings and photographs of the building/construction sites in Mexico. They were also required to draw and research twenty pieces displayed at the Anthropology Museum in Mexico City which would be exhibited in the Xochimilco Archeological Museum. Throughout their design process, students were frequently asked to switch from the urban to the museum-interior scale and vice-versa.

The program for the Archeological Museum was developed in conjunction with students from the Universidad Iberoamericana of Mexico City headed by Isaac Broid, Mauricio Rocha and Luis Villafranca, and an advanced studio from the California College of Arts (CCA) in San Francisco headed by Sandra Vivanco. Mid-semester review for the studio took place along with the CCA and Mexican students at a grand review held at the CCA. The objective of the international studio was to encourage cooperation and collaboration among higher educational institutions in the United States and Mexico, increase the knowledge of cultures and institutions in both countries, and help prepare students to work throughout North America. The work of the three schools was exhibited in the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco from May 18 to June 1, 2007 and will also be exhibited at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City later this year.

Climate for Change

The potential of landscape design to transform the built environment from its current energy-intensive state has largely been overlooked.

Contemporary energy conservation efforts emphasize architectural and engineering solutions. Green building is a trend, still divorced from the landscape and the garden, both which are green to begin with. Integral to any discussion of sustainability or green building should be a consideration of the capacity of the designed landscape to create and modify microclimates and thus conserve energy.

Prior to the oil embargo of 1973 which alerted the world to its overdependence on diminishing fossil fuel reserves, building and growth patterns had become extremely wasteful. In reaction to the prevailing attitudes that our energy supplies were inexhaustible, many architects and landscape architects began to investigate passive design techniques. Unfortunately, our fascination with later Information Age technologies diverted our attention away from these early advances and investigations.

Many of the principles of passive design explored in the 1970s had their origins in the distant past. Throughout landscape history, the harsher the climate, the more ingenious the devices and methods became for creating physically comfortable spaces. A review of historical gardens would reveal many precedents for energy efficient design. In fact, the principles of climatic site planning reach back thousands of years. In Mediterranean climates, such as ours, people lived in close connection with the landscape, adapting their environments to create comfortable living spaces by observing natural patterns and systems. One doesn’t need a complex computer model to understand how the sun moves across the sky.

The move towards an energy responsive ethic provides us with a second chance to incorporate the knowledge and methodologies from our ancient and recent pasts and implement these ideas on a large scale.


A solar-powered limonaia defines the edge of a south-facing terrace at Vicobello, near Siena, Italy. The adjacent formal garden is essentially an orange grove.
As early 36 BC, Varro identified the southeast-facing hillside as the ideal location for a villa. (The form of the typical “suburban” villa included house and grounds together with the total complex understood as a unit.) The southeast orientation allowed the dwelling and the garden to catch the prevailing summer breezes and block the cold northern winds in winter.

During the Renaissance there existed a “Canon of Horticultural Rule” which presented a format for placing elements in the landscape. According to the canon, the bosco or planted woodland was an integral element of the site plan. A dense plantation of evergreen trees placed on the northern side of a structure not only blocked the winter winds, but also played an important ecological role, providing abundant vegetative mass for photosynthesis and wildlife habitat. This is an extremely important lesson for contemporary design: establishing a ratio of vegetative mass to built form and maximizing tree canopy can provide great climatic benefit. A plantation mass can effectively block the sun, and thus reduce ground level temperatures and insulate buildings. Planting large areas of deciduous trees with broad canopies will produce significant quantities of oxygen, while reducing ambient temperatures in the summer.


Contemporary ideas of passive solar design are also rooted in history. All living material can trace its origins to the heavenly fire. Without the sun we cannot thrive. In the past, solar orientation was a guiding principle in laying out garden and dwelling. Leon Battista Alberti promoted the common-sense use of passive solar design as long ago as 1482. He believed that loggias should be designed not only to capture beautiful views, but also to provide year round comfort by admitting sun or breezes, depending on the season. Alberti even proposed the use of glass to keep out the winter wind and let in the undefiled daylight.

Pliny the Younger’s Laurentine villa near Rome contained a unique solar device called the heliocaminus, or heated sunbath, which was a garden room enclosed on four sides and open to the sky to capture the sun’s rays. The solar-heated heliocaminus of the Romans evolved into the giardino segreto or secret garden, ever popular in Italian Renaissance gardens. Usually a sunken space with decorative stone or stucco walls, the enclosed room deflected cold winds and collected heat from the sun. One of the finest examples of the giardino segreto can be found just outside of Florence on the grounds of the Villa Gamberaia. Located directly across from the central entrance to the villa is a narrow secret garden, hardly more than 20 feet across and 100 feet long. This diminutive garden runs east to west to ensuring exposure to the morning and afternoon sun.

Being aware of the movement of the sun also allowed Renaissance designers to develop garden elements for the year-round growth of crops. The limonaia was one of the first solar-powered spaces in temperate climates that harnessed and stored solar energy for the winter storage of citrus plants. Similar in form to the loggia, the limonaia faced south and was enclosed with large plates of glass, like a greenhouse. Operable windows regulated interior heat. Plants were placed on tiered platforms at the base of the solid north wall to receive plenty of sunlight.

The Villa Medici at Castello, a few miles from Florence, had over 300 varieties of fruit trees in cultivation, essentially making this villa a functioning agricultural landscape set within a beautiful formal garden. The ornate formal gardens of the Italian Renaissance, so often criticized as exercises in geometry imposed on nature, continue to have relevance for designers and planners today. As agricultural centers they provided sustenance for not only their owners, but the families that cultivated and maintained them. Most of the farming villas produced cash crops and could be considered self-sustaining in many respects.

The limonaia, integral to the Italian garden, can be retrofitted into contemporary gardens to serve as the foundation for sustainable communities. Relevant today for its ability to capture and store the sun’s heat, a limonaia can be an instrumental device for growing food as we move towards a more sustainable future where gardens provide not only beauty, but sustenance.


nishat (3)
A shady pavilion built directly over a canal and filled with jets of aerated water at the Nishat Bagh, in Kashmir, produces a form of natural air conditioning.
Garden designers have sculpted the movement of air and designed air-cooled spaces throughout history, particularly in Mediterranean climates. Today’s designers can exploit the cooling effects of moving air to reduce the energy and environmental costs of using mechanically-cooled air-conditioning systems. Microclimates can be designed to take advantage of the cooling properties of air flow. Air can be directed, funneled, and accelerated with simple landscape and architectural forms such as seats, arbors, pergolas, garden pavilions and porches.

The Alcazar Gardens of Seville contain one of the cleverest air-cooled seats in garden history. This extraordinary bench is situated in the Jardin de la Danza, a small garden room within a series of enclosed patios. Extremely thick walls enclose the garden on the east and west, while the southern wall addresses the prevailing summer breezes with an intimate niche. Between two built-in benches, a small arched window with a decorative metal grill frames a picturesque view of the adjacent lower garden. As the breeze flows, it is forced through the small window, thus increasing its velocity at its point of exit on the opposite side of the opening. (We now understand this phenomenon as the Venturi Effect.) In addition to being naturally air-conditioned, the enclave remains cool in the summer because the thick walls that enclose it act as an insulator, while the white walls reflect the heat produced from the intense rays of the sun. This ingenious form of air conditioning remains effective to this day.

Alleés are parallel rows of evenly planted trees placed on either side of a path, avenue, or roadway, and are usually long enough to create a walk or promenade of some distance. They are commonly used to direct views, organize spaces, create vistas, and unite various parts of a garden. An alleé can also stimulate the movement of air and be used to direct air currents into specific areas of the garden, garden structures and dwellings. When planted along south-facing slopes, alleés benefit from naturally rising air currents that push air from the shaded space into building interiors.

In desert climates garden pavilions were commonly built with a south-facing porch balanced over a large pool. The shaded interior porch with its high ceiling would catch the cooled air that passed over the pool. Many variations were possible, but a connection to the garden was essential. To augment the cooling effect of the porch, the Persians suspended a curtain from the façade of the pavilion to block the hottest rays of the summer sun. The curtain was pulled back in the winter to allow the sun to enter and warm the space. A soft and luminous quality of light filtered through the fabric. When the curtain was fully extended over the pool, it acted as a large air scoop, concentrating the ephemeral breeze, and capturing water evaporating from the pool. In addition, the cloth could be moistened with rose water, cooling and scenting the interior as the moisture evaporated. The Persian garden pavilion and the Italian summer house are both designed for natural coolness. As intelligent passive design devices they represent relevant footprints for reducing energy consumption in the contemporary built environment.


The sunken room at Villa Gamberaia in Settignano, Italy, functions as an effective solar collector for winter comfort.
The importance of water as a commodity cannot be underestimated, especially in California. Without water there can be no life. And in past cultures, the collection, storage, and movement of water was a priority in order to maintain a predictable supply throughout the year. Only then could passive microclimates be enjoyed and the art of the garden flourish.

In California, every drop of water that falls on a site should be captured and stored. Extremely high temperatures combined with lengthy droughts have turned the American west into a tinderbox. In many regions of the world water is being used more quickly than aquifers can be replenished. Water tables are falling. If this trend continues it will have a profound impact on food production and living standards.

The control and disbursement of water in California has become a politically explosive issue. Perhaps only through enlightened watershed management and a change in public attitudes toward consumption can a dependable supply of clean water be preserved. Continued research of both historical precedents and current technologies, combined with the promotion of sustainable agricultural practices, are the first steps towards redefining our relationship with water. Water is not merely a resource to be exploited for human convenience, but rather a nurturing force that links and sustains all life on earth.

In many arid climates cisterns were used as a fundamental method of storing as much rain water and runoff as possible for use during the dry season. In Los Angeles, before aqueducts brought water from the north, residential cisterns were critical elements in a system that had to balance the effects of both droughts and floods. This tradition can be resurrected in the contemporary landscape. Runoff can be directed into insulated closed cisterns built into new structures or retrofitted into existing structures.

Long before modern drip irrigation, the Persian gardener developed a simple yet efficient method for subsurface irrigation. In Yazd, one of the hottest spots on the Iranian plateau, “condensing jars” significantly reduced the amount of water lost to evaporation. Earthenware containers were placed in the soil between rows of plants, set with their narrow necks protruding just above the surface. When filled with water these containers “sweated” moisture through their porous earthen sides, directly irrigating the roots of the vegetation. Condensing jars, removed from exposure to sun and air, effectively conserved water by protecting it from evaporation.

Aerated water was often employed to cool garden structures. Forcing water under high pressure through miniature openings or thin slots would suspend fine drops of water in the surrounding air, humidifying it and lowering the temperature. To produce this effect, water would first be pumped into reservoirs on the roof. With gravity pressure, the water would descend through columns pierced with thousands of tiny holes, creating an almost invisible mist that gently cooled the room. Aerated by thousands of tiny misting jets, these garden rooms were a tranquil oasis for the body and mind.


Many advances have been made in green architecture and alternative building. The US Green Building Council has established standards for sustainable buildings. However, these achievements need to be integrated with energy-conserving, sustainable landscapes that create new gardens on a regional scale. New and exciting opportunities lie ahead for the creation of unified garden and architectural forms that not only conserve energy, water, and agricultural lands, but are also works of art and places for spiritual renewal.

LIFE SUPPORT: Creating a Prison Hospice Garden

In the spring semester of 2006, seven graduate students completed a five-week module on restorative landscapes by designing a garden for a hospice in a prison—perhaps the first such garden ever proposed.

Life Sentence

The California Medical Facility in Vacaville is the major treatment center for ill and/or dying inmates in the state prison system. In the mid-1980s many inmates were dying of AIDS, often dying alone in their cells. This barely-noticed crisis inspired Nancy Jaicks Alexander and Robert Evans Alexander, FAIA (dec.), working with Father Patrick Leslie (then the Catholic chaplain) to establish the first hospice in an American prison.

A unique aspect of this seventeen-bed hospice is that the hospice volunteers, of which there are forty, are all fellow inmates. Many of the volunteers are serving life sentences for murder with no possibility of parole. They receive weekly ongoing training in hospice care. When a patient is close to death, volunteers sit around the clock in eight-hour vigils so that no man will die alone. The principal fatal diseases at this time are lung cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, and HIV/AIDS.

Students in LA 256: Healing Gardens and Restorative Landscapes, taught by Clare Cooper Marcus, took on the challenge of creating a garden for this hospice. This class was not a studio; rather it was principally a seminar with reading, lectures, discussion, and experiential exercises. The garden design was in lieu of a term paper, and the students had just two weeks to produce their proposals along with suggested budgets. Preliminary designs were reviewed after one week by Associate Professor Louise Mozingo, and landscape architect Vince Healy who, as a student at Harvard, had written his MLA thesis on hospice gardens.

The Dog Run

IMG_4198 As a first step, Nancy, Chaplain Keith Knauf (current director of hospice volunteers), and I met with some of the hospice volunteers to solicit their ideas. They talked about the current 35×12-feet outdoor space of the hospice – a concrete slab completely caged-in with chain link – which the staff calls a patio and the inmates term “The Dog Run.” They were enthusiastic about the idea of expanding it and creating a garden.

I asked them what they thought would be important in such a garden. “The sight and sound of water,” said one man. “I grew up near the Southern California coast and the sound of water is really important to me…” “Lots of color,” offered another. “The hospice wing is pretty cheery.” And another suggested, “Things to eat! We have some cherry tomatoes and peppers in the Dog Run. People really like that.”

I asked what might be some of the objections which the administrative or custody (“security”) staff could raise and among the responses was, “It would have to have a roof like the Dog Run so we couldn’t climb out and escape.” Additionally, I was told that, “Chain link would have to be anchored all round in concrete so a person couldn’t tunnel out.” Another informed me, “They wouldn’t allow anything that could be broken apart and used as a weapon.”

As enthusiastic as they were, the inmate-volunteers were well aware that the biggest impediment would be the cost. “But we could do some of the work ourselves,” volunteered one man, “I have a degree in civil engineering from Sacramento State. I could build a fountain.” Another, who had worked in construction, said he could build planter boxes. “We could get local nurseries to donate plants.” “Inmates in the horticulture and landscaping program could raise plants and take on the maintenance,” was the inspired suggestion of another man. The most surprising idea came from a grey-haired, stocky man. “Twice a year we hold food sales. We sell pizza and donuts – stuff like that. We make over $6,000 each time. We could give that money for the garden.”

No Trees Allowed

IMG_4208The prison authorities agreed, after appropriate security checks, to permit the students to tour the prison and measure and photograph the proposed garden site. For all of us it was quite an emotional experience: none of us had been in a prison before, most had never visited a hospice.

Like most prisons, the environment of the California Medical Facility at Vacaville is grim. The building is a quarter mile long and houses 3,300 inmates, of whom 550 are diagnosed with HIV. Within the prison there is no color and little sound beyond men shuffling along the corridor to a clinic appointment, guards calling out to inmates to stand against the wall as visitors pass, and the clanging echoes of security gates opening and closing.

Cell blocks open off a wide concrete corridor like the teeth of a comb. Between the cell blocks are areas of open space, some used for exercise and weight training, others filled with dead grass and inaccessible. On one side of the prison are sports fields used at designated times for running, baseball, basketball, and socializing. Here, some of the inmates feed seagulls with food left over from their lunch. There is no shade; there are no trees. In July 2006, outdoor temperatures reached 108°. A lone tree in a courtyard next to the chapel was once climbed by a patient from the psychiatric unit trying to escape. The tree was cut down and the courtyard permanently closed.

The one bright spot in the whole facility is an area for vocational training in horticulture comprising a garden, greenhouse, lath house, and compost bins. Perhaps the most touching experience in our whole prison tour was entering the shady verdure of the lath house and meeting a slim, white-haired man with deep blue eyes wearing a neat blue work shirt. “Please come in – come in! My name is Richard; just – Richard…” He proudly showed us his domain – gravel paths winding between ferns and tropical plants, each neatly labeled with its Latin and English names. “This was nothing when I came here two years ago – all overgrown, no labels. And I didn’t know anything about plants! Now I have my California State Certificate in Horticulture.” Unfortunately this little oasis in the prison is a quarter mile from the hospice wing and security restrictions do not permit inmate-patients being brought here to enjoy the plants and the garden.

As the students measured and photographed the potential site of a garden for the hospice (under the watchful eyes of guards in a nearby tower), we all become aware of the limitations that would have to be dealt with: a large steel storage container that could not be moved, a driveway for delivery vehicles that could not be transgressed, a security restriction that said, “No trees,” and the requirement that the whole site must be surrounded and “roofed” with chain link fence. Nevertheless, the students saw the potential to create a healing oasis in this otherwise grim environment.

The Most Creative People in California

IMG_4277The last class meeting comprised a return visit to the prison, and formal presentations by the three student teams to prison officials, including the chief medical officer for HIV treatment services, the associate warden, a lieutenant from the custody division, and the director of hospice volunteers. Unfortunately, the inmate-volunteers themselves were not permitted to attend.

Prison officials were impressed with the quality and sensitivity of the designs, as well as the goal of reducing costs by proposing drought tolerant plants and solar panels. The students took note of the requirement that every square inch of the garden should be visible when a guard steps out of the hospice into the open space. They also responded to suggestions from lectures and reading that a hospice garden needs places where a person alone, or a patient and a visitor, can find some privacy; places where a family group might sit comfortably with a chaplain or counselor; raised beds where a patient in a wheelchair might pick tomatoes or water strawberries; opportunities to visually “escape” by viewing the hills beyond the double chain-link and electric fence which surround the entire prison. The prison authorities were also pleased to note that student-teams recognized the potential for horticulture trainees to raise cuttings and annuals and plant up beds in the hospice gardens, thus linking these two elements of the prison population.

All the designs recognized the essentials of a healing or restorative landscape in a healthcare environment, whether in a hospice, a hospital, or a nursing home: seasonal color, intricacy of texture, the sight and sound of water, close in and distant views, plants that move with the slightest breeze, flowers to attract wildlife (the restrictions of the chain link fence would restrict this to hummingbirds and butterflies). The goal is to create a rich, sensory milieu since empirical evidence shows that “nature distraction” has the affect of reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, and reducing the heart rate.

A few design elements were vetoed by the head of security. We had urged the students to propose quick-growing vines that could withstand the summer temperatures of 100°-plus in Vacaville and that would soften the effect of the required chain-link “cage” around and over the garden. Too late, we discovered that prison security goes the rounds, shaking every piece of chain-link three times a day in case they are being filed through prior to an escape attempt. The one team who proposed a split bamboo fence inside, and separate from, the chain link got the green light. Irrigation systems, proposed by two teams, were also vetoed in case inmates dug them up and “re-used” the metal couplings. A final surprise veto came for four lemon trees in large pots. At first we thought it was for the pots; we had been told to avoid anything that could be broken and used as a weapon. But it was for the lemon trees. “They’ll take the fruit and make it into alcohol. There are stills in the prison. We don’t know where they are. They’ll use anything – raisins from the cafeteria, fruit brought in by visitors.” On recounting this to colleague Randy Hester, he remarked, “It sounds like some of the most creative people in California are in prison!”

An Island of Compassion

IMG_4170At the end of the presentations, prison officials were very enthusiastic about creating the garden and were, I think, totally persuaded as to its potential psychological benefits for staff, inmate-patients, inmate-volunteers, and visitors. They were delighted that we could leave copies of all the designs with them, to use in any way they wanted. The problem of actually creating a garden, as always, is money. The prison system budget is hugely over-stretched; crowding has resulted in indoor gymnasia and recreational facilities being converted into dormitories. “We cannot use taxpayers’ money to make a garden,” we were told by Dr. Bick. “But five years ago, they told me I couldn’t have a new clinic, and this year it opened. We’ll create that garden somehow, however long it takes!”

Nancy refers to the hospice that she helped to create as “an island of compassion in a sea of violence, fear, and paranoia.” We are hopeful that the garden, when it is created, will become a restorative oasis for those who are dying, for the medical staff, and for the inmate-volunteers who care for their peers.

If you would like to contribute to the creation of the hospice garden, you may send a check made out to “PCS/hospice,” with a note on the check, “For hospice garden.” Please send the check to: Pastoral Care Services Program, Chaplain Keith Knauf, CMF, PO Box 2000, Vacaville, CA 95696-2000. Donations are tax-deductible.

Disturbed Harmony | Flight 93 National Memorial

By Leor Lovinger, MLA ’03




In July 2005, Disturbed Harmony, by Leor Lovinger MLA ’03, was chosen as one of five finalists out of more than 1,000 entries for the Flight 93 National Memorial. The winning scheme will be announced in early September 2005.


On Sept. 11, 2001, our cities, our landscapes, and our lives were under attack. Their rhythms and harmony were disturbed. That day, the 40 passengers and crew of Flight 93 acted as the country’s first line of defense.

Our concept for a Bravery Wall, with its inscriptions crossing the rolling rural landscape, was inspired by the stories of the telephone calls between the heroes of Flight 93 and their loved ones, through which we all learned about their collective acts of sacrifice and courage. As the wall moves north to south toward the Sacred Ground, ending at the Circle of Heroism, it symbolizes how 40 individuals, bound by fate, confronted evil and chose to act. Because of their actions, Flight 93 will be remembered forever — not in infamy but for their unconquerable human spirit and messages of hope and love.

The scale of the proposed Flight 93 Memorial Park and the rural setting provide the opportunity to create a unique experience. The dragline tells the story of a land in the process of reclamation. Learning about the site’s mining history and witnessing its reclamation resonates with visitors to the memorial, as they acknowledge the past while looking ahead and anticipating the healing of our wounds.

The Bravery Wall, the memorial’s spine, has a strong presence in the 2,200-acre site, yet it will complement the landscape rather than overpowering it. The Bravery Wall unfolds before the visitors as they move through the park, providing many levels of intimacy and opportunities for remembrance and contemplation. Wind, sunlight, sky patterns, and snow transform visitors’ experiences of the wall, making every visit unique.



The full length of the Bravery Wall, crossing the Field of Honor, conveys the magnitude of loss of human life on Sept. 11, as one imagines 3,021 people standing hand-in-hand, stretching the wall’s entire 11,000-foot length across the landscape. An anniversary walk will transform this line in the landscape into a ribbon of life, as participants remember those lost and learn about Flight 93 and the heroes, acknowledge their sacrifice and heroism in the face of infamy, and gain a better understanding of the enduring human spirit.

The hard rock qualities of the granite used in the Bravery Wall blocks are a fitting testimonial to the strength exhibited by those aboard Flight 93. We propose an earth-toned granite, similar in color to the local fieldstone, that will blend with the environment and withstand the harsh site conditions for centuries to come.

As heroism is the outcome of bravery, the Bravery Wall ends at the Circle of Heroism. The Circle of Heroism symbolizes the 40 individuals coming together in an act of collective courage that would change history. Forty stone columns have been carefully located within a setting of stepped terraces, with views across the meadow to the Sacred Ground. Annual events in the space will encourage us to reflect upon the heroes’ connectedness and celebrate our own, while acknowledging them and ourselves as individuals.

We envision a memorial that engages visitors beyond the park boundary, including nearby towns and neighbors. Commemorative benches, donated by local youth, provide resting spots along the Bravery Wall, and convenient locations have been planned where local “ambassadors” can continue to enrich visitors’ experiences. Both serve to link visitors to local communities. Views of the dragline, and out to the surrounding countryside and Laurel Ridge, connect visitors to the region. The Circle of Heroism includes an area where visitors from across the nation and beyond can weave a tapestry of tribute to the fallen heroes through words, symbols, or cherished possessions left behind.

As visitors watch others experience the memorial, commune with the wall, and hear the echoes of the heroes’ voices, they may be drawn to reflect on the values by which they live their lives. Though we are creating a national memorial, which will be a place of inspiration and hope for all who see it, the site will forever remain the setting for the Sacred Ground, the final resting place of 40 very uncommon souls.