The design leaders at FORMA have been practicing “upcycling” for many years. Upcycling in design is the process of taking an underused building, material, image, or furniture and bringing it up to its potential as a contemporary design solution. Different from recycling, and opposite of downcycling, it is interesting to see the process of upcycling become very popular with the current generation and the influence of this trend on modern lifestyles. There are many “things” existing that cannot be duplicated because of cost, history, patina, availability and resources. People are finding upcycled items to be fun, cost effective, and environmentally responsible. Evidence of this trend is even shown with the proliferation of TV programming that feature houses, cars, toys, building parts, etc., that are brought forward and re-entered into the consumer cycle with better usefulness and profit. Urban Designers have known and advocate that a building or a tree with history has intrinsic value to its site, the neighborhood, and the story of how we got here. The development cost to build something new can be much more than upcycling a piece of history.
Carol MacFarlane, Principal-in-Charge of landscape design, has had dramatic success with found items in her design work. Carol said, “Even model homes are places to provide design surprises with materials and familiar fixtures from earlier lives”.
“We have had success with our staff that has harvested some amazingly simple items and featured them as focal points”, said Carol.
The upcycling trend is more evident with historical context and ever more popular processes of building new expressions of these aesthetics – reminding us of the past. The City of Palm Desert has been planning on upgrades to the landscape and signage of the world-famous El Paseo Drive Shopping and Art District. The core of Carol’s design team recommendations has been to accentuate the public art destination element by designing and installing artistic “Palm Springs” mid-century style signage features that serve the pedestrian shopping and art experience.
Many top-quality developers are using the trend of upcycling as a means to be able to reflect upon the area’s history and show environmental design sensitivity that distinguish their new communities. FivePoint Communities, in its delivery of the Great Park Neighborhoods, has shown that purposeful reuse of a closed military base, its transplanting of mature trees, and a theme of “Americana” in a region of Orange County’s saturated Mediterranean aesthetic can be quite distinguishing.
Integral Communities is developing a new community in the City of Tracy that has a long agricultural history and a small town lifestyle. Integral is bringing this history forward in the design of its first neighborhoods. Features include a modern interpretation of a barn shape as a public amenity building. They are also proposing to use hints of windmills and rusty metal as identifiers for the Tracy Hills community.
Greer Ranch is a master planned gated community with over 600 home sites, a central recreation facility, a public park and pocket parks. The project was named after the patriarch of the property, Everett Greer, and the recreational facility was named Everett’s Place. The project design relocated over 200 specimen oak trees and within the landscape design, FORMA used hardscape elements that were taken from Everett Greer’s home that stood on the property. Items such as a sycamore imprinted concrete
pad that was a landing outside his back door and unique rocks from a hand-constructed retaining wall were placed within Everett’s Place and were used all along the spine road of the community within pilasters niches making for unique accents within the community preserving some of the heritage established by Everett Greer.
sycamore imprinted concrete pad in park site rock in pilaster niche