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idea lab 2022: eric stranghoner & ian dippo


Ian Dippo of Austin and Eric Stranghoner from Dallas joined forces to examine material sustainability and longevity as well as networks for material reuse. They specifically looked at this in terms of durability and reusability – both short and long-term. Eric focused on the durability aspect, with Ian on reusability.

“What Eric and I intend to investigate is the primary unit for creating memories – material,” says Ian. He points out that when materials are made to endure, we’re able to connect across space and time.

One responsibility of a landscape architect is material selection. It’s extremely important to choose material that is durable and sustainable, and to use appropriately. Otherwise, the industry standard is to trash it.

Durability comes from three things:
• Strength – the ability to withstand forces of nature over time
• Utility – that which is useful endures
• Beauty – creating timeless design is the only way to ensure it will always be appreciated

Reusing a found material in a new way is a deliberate act of acknowledging the past. That act preserves stories and memories from that place. It also is an act of creativity, says Ian.

Why is reusing a found material so difficult to achieve? Well, demolition is simple, but deconstruction is complicated. Eric says the greatest challenge to him is accessing materials from a deconstruction site. It requires expert knowledge to imagine how a material can be reused. We need to be the experts in our arena and the process.

Throughout the process something became clear to the cohort: connection to labor is key. Having a relationship with contractors and processes related to construction and deconstruction, trusting labor and construction efforts, are critical to material reuse. There’s a lot to be learned from relationships with experts in the construction field – contractors, laborers, owners and architects who value and take pride in their work.

The two concluded that developing a vetted materials library you know and trust is one step toward greater durability and material reuse. Another is again forming relationships with professionals in surrounding fields who work closer to materials, and incorporating an introductory use of found materials in practice.

This blog is part of a series of TBG’s IdeaLab program – a structured fellowship that allows participants from every TBG office to explore a topic of their choosing related to TBG’s work. The process consists of tailored mentorship and guidance and firmwide support. Read more about the program here.