There are so many great gardens with public access in the DC area. With spring finally here it’s time to venture outside and visit one of these lovely spots for a picnic or tour.

My 4 favorite gardens:

1. Dumbarton Oaks: Nestled in Georgetown, Dumbarton Oaks is a 1920s garden with many distinct areas to tour like the informal Lover’s Lane Pool and more famous Pebble Garden designed by landscape architect Ruth Havey. Garden tickets $10. Museum free.

2. Hillwood Gardens: Just off the bike paths of Rock Creek Park and only a 15 minute walk from the Van Ness metro, the Hillwood Gardens is a transit friendly escape. Tour Marjorie Post’s house and grab lunch at the cafe or bring a picnic and sit at one of the many tables overlooking the Japanese garden. Suggested donation $18 for house and garden, includes tour.

3. Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens: On the river and across from the Arboretum these aquatic gardens have a different look with lily pads and bridges. Snack alongside colorful dragonflies which are the garden’s natural mosquito control. Entrance is free.

4. Brookside Gardens: A little further away in Maryland, just off of the Northwest Branch Trail are the Brookside Gardens. One of the bigger gardens, there is lots of variety here with hiking and walking paths. During colder days their conservatory houses seasonal exhibits. Entrance is free.





image from IDEO.org’s website

IDEO.org is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the lives of people in poor and vulnerable communities through design.

We’re an interdisciplinary mix of designers, storytellers, businesspeople, and systems-makers, a team of creative problem-solvers that is tackling the world’s biggest challenges through design. We partner with NGOs, governments, foundations, and nonprofits, going big in areas where we think design has something serious to say to the challenges of poverty.

The organization was formed in 2011 out of IDEO, a global innovation and design firm. They have created several guides and tools which can be found online in effort to spread their knowledge and the impact of design. IDEO.org’s latest online publication is Impact: A Design Perspective their first impact report. They also partner with Acumen for Human-Centered Design courses which you can read about in this previous post.

Visit IDEO.org for more online material.




image courtesy of DC LBCC

Last year the DC Living Building Challenge Collaborative organized a design competition for an affordable housing project in Washington DC. The competition was for 10 affordable single family homes in the historic neighborhood of Deanwood in Washington DC that are designed to meet the International Living Futures Institute’s rigorous sustainable requirements of their Living Building Challenge. Award winners will be presenting their work February 1, 2016 at Catholic University.

1st Place: The “Urban Grapevine” team was Mike Binder (Binder Regenerative Design,) Marcie Meditch (Meditch Murphey Architects,) Thomas Serra (Independent Engineering,) Lael Taylor (Meditch Murphey Architects) and Jenny Wienckowski (Rain Underground, LLC.) The project excelled in all of the Living Building Challenge v3.0 petals:  Place, Water, Energy, Health and Happiness, Material, Equity and Beauty.

2nd Place: The “Deanwood Market” team was made up of William Teass and Charles Warren (Taess Warren Architects,) Ryan Moody and Jason Reibold (Moody Landscape Architecture) and Chris French (District Homes.) This project also excelled at all of the petals, most of all energy and place.

Honorable Mention: The “Coming Together” by team 521 composed of Lindsey Falasca (Hickok Cole Architects,) Elin Zurbrigg (Mi Casa Inc,) Paul Totten (WSP in the USA,) Daniel Moring (IBC Engineering) and Apryl Webb (Skanska.) Bethany Bezak of DC Water thought this project was the most innovative in its water treatment. This project also incorporated a workplace strategy for the community.

RSVP for the event. See more from the award winners and their submissions on the DC LBCC website.



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What is human-centered design?

It’s a process that starts with the people you’re designing for and ends with new solutions that are tailor made to suit their needs.

Advance your social impact skills this year by taking a free course on human-centered design. The design kit and online course are organized by Acumen and IDEO.org.

The Course for Human-Centered Design is a seven-week curriculum that will introduce you to the concepts of human-centered design and how this approach can be used to create innovative, effective, and sustainable solutions for social change.

The course starts February 16, 2016 and runs through April. Folks are responsible for assembling a team of 2-6 who can meet in person 5 times for each 5-hour session.

Read more about the course and other offerings on the Acumen website.


I’d like to share with you the Jitegemee Education Center, a wonderful project that I worked on as a volunteer architect with AFHdc (formerly Architecture for Humanity DC). The first phase of construction has been completed, including a new kitchen building, eco-toilet building by “A Place To Go”, and a new main building featuring classrooms, a computer room, and a community library. In 2009 AFHdc members organized a community workshop with Jitegemee, an organization which provides street children with access to formal and vocational education, in the small town of Machakos, Kenya. Six years later, the design developed by this initial team has been realized with this new facility that serves Jitegemee as well as the community. The project was presented on behalf of AFHdc at the Public Interest Design Institute in DC last year.  

See more photos on the Jitegemee website here.



There’s a reason you became an architect. It wasn’t just about buildings. It was about people; it was about making communities more livable.

Inscape Publico awarded Joel Mills, the Director of the American Institute for Architects’ Center for Communities by Design, with an Excellence in Social Impact Design Award. This arm of the AIA has worked with cities nationally to address all sorts of issues like density, livability, and resiliency, through their Sustainable Design Assessment Teams and Regional/Urban Design Assessment Teams. They organize week-long community engagement workshops with experts and stakeholders to analyze urban conditions and design ways to address them.

The Center is a leading provider of pro bono technical assistance and participatory planning for community sustainability. Through its design assistance programs, the Center has worked in over 200 communities across 47 states. 


See more about Communities by Design here.



Every year, in September, DCBIA organizes a community improvement day. I volunteered with my work colleagues this year on a gorgeous end of summer day. We chipped stones and hauled dirt and even learned a thing or two about landscapes. Here’s why you should try it next year:

  1. Yes, you will work up a sweat. Many organized volunteer activities leave participants bored  without feeling like they’ve helped out. Not with DCBIA, they had enough work to keep 100+ people busy for 5 hours building a park + community garden.
  2. Spending time ‘in the field’.  It’s rare to get to build something without a mouse click.
  3. You can get involved before the big build. Volunteer architects, planners, engineers, and other designers start working on the plans months before the build day. See how you can get involved.

See more about the volunteer day here.