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Where home meets land. Park Circle’s landscape architect tells all

Park Circle is, of course, a wonderful place to find your new home (goes without saying!). But ours is also a community where some of your best moments happen outdoors—on a picnic blanket in the park, jumping in the pool, strolling with the mom's club on Heritage Trail. That’s by design! And that’s where In-Site Landscape Architecture, Inc., comes in.

With offices in San Diego, CA, and Orchard Park, NY, this landscape architecture firm is working to make our Park Circle community a refreshing haven, from the organic curves of our pathways to our gathering spaces framed by grassy expanses and leafy trees.

“Park Circle is a place where you can watch a concert, hang out with friends playing bocce ball, throw a birthday party for your children at the clubhouse, or hike a trail and exhale out the stresses of life while smelling the flowers or watching a butterfly,” says Tim Jachlewski, President, PLA, ASLA, of In-Site Landscape Architecture.

What kind of flowers? (And are they drought tolerant?) What’s the overall vision? We chatted with Tim about the firm’s plans for Park Circle’s landscape and its shared outdoor attractions. Check out the interview below!

In a few words, could you describe what you do as a landscape architect?

Landscape architecture is a combination of art, land planning, architecture, civil engineering, environmental science, horticulture, and sociology. Landscape architects design outdoor environments for both people and wildlife at varying scales including residential backyards, giant regional parks, master-planned communities, trail systems, natural habitats, school campuses, office parks, urban environments, and many other types of projects.

What’s your vision for the landscape of Park Circle?

Our vision for the landscape of Park Circle is to maximize the value of open areas by providing usable green space for recreation, exercise, wildlife observation, socialization, and rest from our often-hectic lives. The theme of the Park Circle landscape is to create natural environments that complement and enhance the built environment.

What areas of the community are you designing?

In-Site Landscape Architecture, Inc., designed the public park (which the community is named after), three private recreation centers including pools, playgrounds, and dog parks, the community trail system, system of linear open space parks, environmental enhancements along Moosa Creek, the community garden area, water quality basins, community signage features, and the pedestrian areas for the retail complex including outdoor cafés, outdoor dining areas, fire-feature gathering areas, and public art.

What is the feeling you want people to have when they’re outdoors in the community?

The goal of bringing nature to people in urbanized areas and people to nature in preserved environments promotes the mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits of exposure to nature. Park Circle is a place where you can watch a concert, hang out with friends playing bocce ball, throw a birthday party for your children at the clubhouse, or hike a trail and exhale out the stresses of life while smelling the flowers or watching a butterfly. All of these very different outdoor environments and experiences have exposure to nature as a unifying element.

What were your inspirations while you were designing these spaces in Park Circle?

As a kid, I used to play in the woods a lot, it seemed like every day. I hiked, built forts, played in the creek, fished, road my bike, and loved observing the birds and wildlife. During the last generation, there has been a major shift from outdoors to indoors. Kids seldom play outside anymore unless under the direct supervision of a parent and often times as a scheduled visit to a ‘tot lot.’

In his national best-seller, Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv explores the missing connection to the natural world and describes how we can save our children (and ourselves) from ‘Nature Deficit Disorder.’ Feeling the warmth of a boulder, seeing hummingbirds drinking nectar from flowers, hearing the rustle of leaves, or experiencing the fragrance of a plant species can connect us to a green space. That was the inspiration for designing these spaces at Park Circle.

What are some of the plants you’ll be using?

We designed Park Circle using primarily native plants such as coast live oak, sycamore, elderberry, toyon, California sunflower, agave, and sage along with climate-appropriate non-natives, that provide four-season interest and that attract wildlife including birds and pollinators. The plantings at Park Circle will provide varying colors, textures, heights, seeds, flowers, and berries. One great thing about the landscape is that it changes with the sky and sunlight, time of year, and age. It is dynamic, which makes it both beautiful and interesting!

How do you balance greenery with areas for play?

During college, I studied the spatial qualities and elements and materials of design of three waterfront spaces in Sydney, Australia. That study in my budding career helped grow my appreciation for the design of outdoor spaces ever since.

The sense of enclosure, massing versus open space, colors and textures, and rhythm of expansion and contraction as one moves from one space to another all help form a person’s sense-of-place and what they experience. For Park Circle, we balanced and provided a rhythm by using various-sized open lawn areas, trails and walkways, trees and shade shelters, ‘nature-based’ play areas, and drifts of plantings. For example, you can have a large grass area to play catch in any park, which serves the function, but when that is framed and balanced with trees and drifts of planting in the foreground, houses and restaurants in the background, and mountains in the distance, it changes the feeling of the space. We designed all the outdoor environments at Park Circle with this creation of sense-of-place and a person’s personal experience of these spaces in mind.

Tell us more about the drought-tolerant features?

The landscape at Park Circle was designed using an exclusively low-water use plant palette except for areas that will naturally be wetter, like the Moosa Creek corridor, water quality basins, and daylighted stream that runs adjacent to the public park. We also designed the project with a state-of-the-art irrigation system that changes how much water is applied to the plants based on actual weather conditions. (Which is now a requirement for all projects in California.)

Anything we missed that you’d like to add?

We couldn’t have done this without Touchstone Communities, being such an open client who really wanted to create the best community they could, and our in-house team of Max Vedder, Ron Moreno, Pat O’Connor, Jeff Richardson, and Beatriz Perez Soto.