Spring 2014 Studio - Partnering with Camp Montvale

This past semester (Spring 2014) I and my studio-mates had the wonderful opportunity to work with Harmony Adoptions an organization which focuses on connecting families with children through adoption. They have an extremely high success rate of placement and are doing some wonderful programs and counseling in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains just outside of Maryville, TN. This was a very serendipitous opportunity as my previous graduate degree was in professional counseling and marriage and family therapy.

Trail Standards Graphic

Trail Standards Graphic

Our studio wrapped up the works of a previous studio and was additionally tasked to create a master plan for the site. As usual each of the team members chose something to work on. I choose to work on very general design guidelines for trails and elected to focus in more detail on integrating what I saw to be the three key assets of the Camp Montvale property.

Camp Montvale serves as an extension of Harmony Adoptions. The camp, at one time a YMCA summer camp, has become a beacon of hope to children and families regionally and across the US. I saw a lot of potential for the site design and really wanted to harness the ingenuity of landscape architecture in a way which supported the therapy taking place.

So with this in mind I set out to understand the therapy types being used by the counseling staff. I also began to research how design can influence the perception and moods of people. Lastly, I researched how people perceive their world through the natural environment.

I researched in a variety of ways. Some were very formal. I read through peer-reviewed journal articles from the mental health field. I searched the web for trends in topics like forest bathing and forest kindergarten. I looked into the play of children and how people perceive space and nature. My most fruitful efforts came through conversations with mental health design professionals on a LinkedIn forum (group). They were most helpful by helping me understand the details of certain aspects of design and pointing me to resources unknown to me. The conversation which ensued was very engaging and very open to confrontation of traditional understanding and practice. I think this was essential to breaking beyond a superficial understanding of how mental health design facilitates healing, which is a topic I think most people gloss over by generalizing and claiming the restorative benefits of nature and natural things.

So to summarize the above – I created a venn diagram which showed the three most important layers to designing a healing landscape. I will acknowledge that this is a very Western methodology as our Western culture is becoming very formulaic in our knowledge and evidence. I believe this is a result of many factors – but in the mental health world and design world (or health and safety) a result of insurance and litigation.

The three primary topics for influencing my design are these:

1.       Psychotherapeutic Theories

2.       Foundations of Design

3.       Effects and Perceptions of Nature

Primary assets at Camp Montvale

Primary assets at Camp Montvale

These three items overlapped to create topics germane to the design and research. They are

1.       Mixing #1 and #2 = Topic // Designing to Heal

a.       Creates a great conversation on how the way we design affects the healing process

2.       Mixing #1 and #3 = Topic // Nature as Healing

a.       Creates a great conversation on the healing and restorative effects of nature.

3.       Mixing #2 and #3 = Topic // Nature by Design

a.       Creates a great conversation on how we can mimic or harness natural ‘design’ found in nature, in man-made design. This focus is on perception and awareness.

Overlapped Topics

Overlapped Topics

It was an understanding of these three items which would eventually lead to formal and informal sensory stations which were found centrally located in the camp and dispersed throughout the camp so as to accommodate impromptu therapy sessions or de-escalating interventions.

Informed design

Informed design

A second graphic I created places this design process in a linear flow for better understanding.

1.       Therapy Goals and Theories


2.       Guiding Principles for Design

Leveraging design principles and nature to generate

3.       Sensory Stations and Interventions

Linear flow for informed design

Linear flow for informed design

Once this frame work was created I then moved into design and began reviewing the previously conducted site inventory and analysis.

The resulting designs were two formal centralized sensory stations and numerous informal dispersed sensory stations. The staff at Montvale made the request that we design something which:

1.       facilitated vestibular and proprioceptor stimulation

2.       was a convertible space which opened to the outdoors

3.       allowed for groups to circle up

Design 1 - Sensory Stations Playground

Design 1 - Sensory Stations Playground

Design 1 is a formal centralized sensory station meaning, it is sited near the counseling center and has elements which are used consistently as a dynamic part of therapy. Most all of the elements in the crash and bump playground engage youth in sensory experiences and proprioceptive and vestibular activities.

One interesting point of discussion for this area is the chart which identifies the types of experiences a child will have while in the playground. These play elements were also specifically chosen based on Margaret Kernan’s 2006 research on ‘Children’s priorities in their outdoor play.’ All of her six priorities are found in the playground.

Furthermore, a set of guiding principles are provided which should aid the camp or other outside groups in developing additional facilities with similar benefits. This framework is more important than the design as it sets the program within the context of the facility and goals which are adoptive therapy.

Design 2 Sensory Counseling Center

Design 2 Sensory Counseling Center

Design 2 is another formal centralized sensory station. This design however is a site ‘first’ with an accompanying building. Working from the design requests, I considered the needs of the client and sought how a programed structure could be sited within a designed landscape.

This design was a lot of fun. I explored monastic cloisters, Greco-Roman peristyles, and Japanese architecture as design precedents.

Peristyle - Credit: Google Images

Peristyle - Credit: Google Images

It was important that the entry to the building be cited on the edge of the woods. This provides visitors with a feeling of entering the woods and not just a building. This edge condition becomes a threshold which signifies a departure and simultaneously an entering into a safe place or refuge. As they travel through a hallway they are decompressed from the outside environment and into an interior courtyard (peristyle/cloister/courtyard).  The three other hallways lead out, or rather further in, into the forest interior where patients, visitors, and guests can walk through a naturalized garden setting. Eight rooms encompass the courtyard with an extended deck and shading roof elements.

The courtyard is also a sensory station, well, really a new counseling center. But senses are focused on here. I looked into color theory a bit and looked at studies of human perceptions of nature. One example I was directed towards was Nacadia, which was designed by Ulrika K. Stigsdetter. It is a mental health facility for veterans. Being mindful of my findings I used the shaded lighting from the overhead tree canopy and shading structural elements. I was also mindful of the ground textures and how they create a change in pace and sensation when transitioning from paver courtyard, to wood deck, to gravel paths, etc. Color in the courtyard was comprised of blues and purples to generate calm emotions.

One thing which I was excited about was that this location was chosen because the previous structure at this location was the well house. I thought it would be nice to restore this artifact by creating four water features in the center of the courtyard. These are not in the very middle though. They are broken into four raised planters which divide the space into four private seating areas and one group circle up area. As groups circle up in the middle of this courtyard they are surrounded by these four water features. The sound of a natural element is calming and also creates a white noise which helps mask the conversations of the courtyard visitors.

The ability to meet in the center of the courtyard is distinctly different from the Peristyle and Cloister. A Cloister was designed to allow a monk to walk around a space and look into the interior while contemplating and praying. The center was not for inhabiting. The Greco-Roman Peristyle was a formal garden. While people could enter the interior space, the middle was often occupied with a fountain or focus piece. Here, in this design, the center has been freed for use by people. Here people are the focus.

Credit: Google Images 

Credit: Google Images 

Most organizations in today’s day in age have to generate extra income to support their primary purpose. The primary purpose for the rooms surrounding the courtyard is therapy (individual, family, and group) and housing office staff. Secondary purposes such as events and leadership training could be accommodated in these spaces. Sliding walls both on the interior (between rooms) and on the exterior (opening into the gardens) help open up the space for large numbers and greater connection to nature.

Dispersed sensory stations

Dispersed sensory stations

Design 3 is a series of informal dispersed sensory stations. They were conceived to accommodate a variety of situations which could pop up while walking the site with a client. I really wanted to utilize the landscape and think about ways in which a therapist could take clients out of a building and into nature. Numerous studies have proven the beneficial effects of nature on peoples physical, emotional, and psychological health.

I figured if this is true, why not take therapy outside?

The stations are designed to be easy to build and small. This way they can be driven in by a four wheeler and used by any person on staff. If a child is escalating I wanted a solution to be present in the woods for the counselor to use to help de-escalate the child. There are at least two ways this can take place. If a child is escalating during a walk and nothing is around but this station, they now have a solution.

But more than having physical solutions, it is important for staff to understand that solutions are everywhere. If a family or group of clients is at a campsite and setting up while an child starts to escalate, things exist presently which can help. Setting up a tent, raising the family crest, or swinging are all simple ways to help the child calm down.

Perceptions of space

Perceptions of space

Design 4 is an attempt to understand and utilize a person’s perception of space and the landscape. I developed a series of images/icons which show how a simple platform can be placed in a variety of landscapes. This platform can have mood altering affects which are different from person to person. For instance, some people may sit in a forested valley and feel comforted and secure while others may feel closterphobic. The important thing here is the availability of these on site and ensuring that visitors know their location. Counseling staff can also assign visits to these locations.

Well that’s it for now. I think this could turn into a really interesting paper or theory or something but I currently don’t have the time myself, so it is, for now, one more piece to help us understand our relationship to design, nature, and healing.

I will also upload some of the designs, graphics, and my notes. They are most likely un-edited due to time constraints.  I hope to edit them soon for my portfolio.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or to share your thoughts at CameronRRodman@comcast.net


You can find more of my works and thoughts at: www.CameronRodman.com


Cameron Rodman

Discontinuing portions of site and updating others...check it out

I have enjoyed writing Landscape Architecture Project (LAP) reviews for my webpage over the past year. I have also enjoyed writing the first two LAP’s for my Italy travels. I have decided to discontinue this portion of my website so that I can focus on my writing responsibilities at Landscape Architects Network (LandArchs.com). I guess I can’t do everything I want that’s out there. I still plan to write in my Blog, despite its recent inactivity.

Students participating in Advocacy Day

Students participating in Advocacy Day

(Advocacy Picture) Over the next year I will be serving as the Student representative to the American Society of Landscape Architects Board of Trustees. This is a position that I hope to elevate and serve well. This will also require a fair amount of my time. As I enter my final year in Graduate School I hope to actively continue my website. I will be posting soon on my last semesters activities.

Design Overlay

Design Overlay

Keep your eyes out for my Spring Studio Works where we explored a wetland design for the UT Gardens and assisted Harmony Adoptions with a Master Plan for their Camp in the Foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Sensory Counseling Center

Sensory Counseling Center

 I also will be updating my website with recent designs that I have completed. A wildlife attractor garden is already on the site and I plan on adding a 5.25 acre master plan which I completed last month.

Project Sketches from Residential Master Plan

Project Sketches from Residential Master Plan

A group of four of us recently completed a co-dependent study where we researched threats to the resources of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We explored sound pollution, light pollution, invasive exotic species, and roads as stressors. This was a fantastic study and we had a lot of fun.

Flash Commercial

Flash Commercial

 In my remaining class, I and fellow classmates explored the latent realities of the large scale effects of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) on the Tennessee Valley. Well known for their 1930’s Works Progress Administration Dam building, we attempted to look backwards at the massive geologic and sociologic efforts that were their works.

Valley Displacement South Holston Dam

Valley Displacement South Holston Dam

I will be revisiting these works throughout the summer and changing and amending the visualizations and designs. For now, I will place what finished work I have and change as time allows. I find myself busy this summer conducting research for the Landscape Architecture Foundation and the University of Tennessee and spending time hanging out with my family. I hope you find the upcoming site changes of interest and value to your works. 


New Landscape Architecture Project cover - Villa Adriana | Tivoli, Italy

Villa Adriana also known as Hadrian's Villa is the newest addition to my Landscape Architecture Projects - Italy series. Be sure to visit the newest project page and learn about Emperor Hadrian's villa and gardens. Roman baths, swimming pools, maritime theaters, and much more once adorned Hadrian's palace complex. Read and see more here: 


Protecting park resources and reducing human impacts.

Light Pollution, Sound Pollution, Invasive species management, and stormwater management are all sources pollution that you and I contribute to. Each of our individual research topics are under way. The below are our final precedent studies. We looked at visitor management. Numerous techniques and programs are enacted in parks to protect resources and educate users about their actions both positive and negative. Check them out by clicking on each image.

We have begun our research for GIS data and are currently developing our individual projects. Zijing Xu is going to be creating an education module on light pollution. Macvan Scott is exploring the impacts of sound pollution. Jessica Neary is looking into vegetation management and exotic invasives. I will be exploring the historical design of national park roadways and how pollution is created from these roads and parking lots.

Our research will explore GIS data sets such as hydrology, topography, roads, vehicle counts, vegetation cover, soils, surrounding cities and airports, and much, much, more. Over the next few weeks we story board our ideas, present to the National Park staff, and refine our ideas and presentations/modules. 

Be sure to keep checking back for our updates!

Vote for this years ASLA student representative to the Board of Trustees


Cast your vote for the ASLA student representative! It’s that time of the year again. Monday morning, ASLA will open the voting polls for the student representative to the Board of Trustees. This position is the direct line between the students of ASLA and the Board of Trustees. I encourage each student ASLA member to review the announcement here: http://asla.org/ContentDetail.aspx?id=42523  and read each of the candidate’s letter for consideration. As a candidate for this position, I would encourage you to review my request for consideration. If you would like to explore my qualifications, thoughts, involvement, and works please feel free to visit my website where you will find my portfolio, resume, writings, and other works. (CameronRodman.com) Thank you for taking the time to engage each of the candidates and investing in a stronger student ASLA voice!  - Cameron

South Knoxville Butterfly Garden Design

I recently had the opportunity to complete a design for a South Knoxville residence not to far from the Seven Islands State Birding Park. After removing unproductive plantings the owner wanted to have a garden which attracts bees, birds, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other wildlife all year long. This is part of a larger effort to return the property to an animal supporting habitat over time. The garden will provide year round interest with wild columbine in the spring, numerous milkweeds during the summer, Joey Pye weed and Aster's in the fall, and sedges and seed heads during the winter. Planting beds are color schemed and incorporate the use of plantings from neighboring beds. Hopefully you are inspired to create your own garden this year! Enjoy.

LEED facilities and pollution studies in the Smokies.

This past week we had the opportunity to meet with the parks' science coordinator Paul Super. We were able to view an amazing research facility and more beautiful landscapes. We also discussed some of the work that the park is doing to identify and treat pollution in the park. 

Twin Creeks is an amazing LEED certified research facility found within the park. Paul led us out there to meet with the park's GIS manager and to show us around the building. We had an opportunity to discuss what the park is currently doing to identify the relevant issues in the park which are threats to the parks resources. We spoke briefly about research which has studied system wide affects, sound pollution, light pollution, acid rain pollution, stormwater runoff, habitat protection, and so much more.

Over the past two weeks our research group has focused on pollution, sustainability, and low impact design. We have research these issues through readings, precedent studies, and by reading the Landscape Architecture Program's most recent publication, Low Impact Development: Opportunities for the PlanET Region. Below are our precedent studies. We explored materials, restorative designs, atypical pollution types, and more.

We look forward to the rest of our research and findings. Our current idea is to create educational modules which park visitors can access via their mobile devices. These could be downloaded on the parks website or viewed on the web after scanning a QR code found on park signage. Here are few images from our visit to Twin Creeks Research Facility. Keep checking back for more research and pictures.

Research in the National Parks.

We have officially begun our group independent study. Our team is comprised of Zijing Xu (5th yr. international architecture exchange student), Macvan Scott (3rd yr. undergraduate architecture ), Jessica Neary (2nd yr. graduate landscape architecture), myself (2nd yr. graduate landscape architecture), and Tracy Moir-McClean (faculty architecture).

We have numerous partners and advisers lined up to help us throughout our process of discovery. We were not awarded the Carlos C. Campbell Memorial Fellowship. While this will limit what we can do financially, we find ourselves in the position to expand our focus. 

Our first few meetings have been great! We have been conducting precedent studies which parallel our readings on values and pollution. We have explored the ecological restoration efforts proposed by MVVA at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, The Waller Creek restoration in Texas also by MVVA, The Red Folding Paper in the Greenway by Turenscape, the removal of Elwha and Glines Canyon Dams on the Elwha River in Olympic National Park, and the Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum in Starkville, MS.

We have also spent time learning ESRI's ArcGIS. We have hopes of creating a  unique research project which looks at ecological and social issues as they occur in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  We have our first meeting with Paul Super and Imelda Wegwerth who are the science coordinator and the landscape architect at the park. We hope to narrow down our areas of focus with them as we travel through the park. 

We hope to blog about our progress at least every other week so stay tuned for more.

New adobe illustrator tutorial uploaded to site.

Have you ever been confused and turned around by the pen tool in Adobe Illustrator? Check out my new tutorial. I cover the basics of creating an artboard, editing artboards, using selection tools, and using the pen tool. 

I also show you one way to import and trace over images within Illustrator for the purpose of creating icons.

Check it out here.

Peter Walker Interview: Modern Design Pt. 1

Interested in what Peter Walker has to say on Modern design in landscape architecture. Read my recent interview with him. We talk about Dan Kiley, IIT, Minimalism, and his personal works. This is a two part interview. The second part will be released on Monday January 20th.

Find Interview here: Peter Walker Interview


Walker, Peter_closer.jpg

Risk Taking. Are you up for it?

Risk Taking.

I’d like to think I am a risk taker. Most of us do really, I think. Risks are exciting. Risks expose our vulnerabilities and weaknesses. Risks challenge us. Taking risks also gives us the incredible opportunity to grow, through trial and much error.

As designers we take risks every day. As students we make calculated decisions, but essential our choices are risks. The classes we take, the networking we participating in, the seminars and conferences we choose to attend or not attend are all choices and therefor risks.

Risks are scary. Taking risks does not make sense. Risks defy. Risks challenge the traditional way of thinking. I like risks.

This semester I and a group of design students have decided to take a big risk. We are venturing out on our own and pursuing an independent study in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We have decided to do this for numerous reasons. We want to do this for reasons personal, ethical, professional, and academic. We are accompanied by a faculty member who will guide, steer, and advise.

Our task for the semester will be to work as researchers and advisers within and to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. So far our defined goal is to look at anthropogenic (human based) sources of pollution (cars, waste, etc.) and how these affect the ecology. Our focus will be less about the science and more about planning and design. We will move back and forth between researcher and advisor, scientist and designer, student and professional.

We are like many adventurers who have set out into the unknown. Risk-takers. Don’t mistake me for being dramatic or dreamy. We are aware of our doubts, fears, and hesitancies. But we will meet them head on. And we will finish our goals.

We are creating our paths and asking others to follow us.

Join us this semester as we chronicle our journey on this blog.