The master planning firm behind the creation of Cherry Creek West is Design Workshop and we are thrilled to be working with their amazing team to bring this community to life. We met with their President, Robb Berg, to learn about this incredibly dynamic company and why he loves what he does.
What does Design Workshop do and what role does your firm play with Cherry Creek West?
Design Workshop is in international urban design, landscape architecture and planning firm. We are committed to design projects that outlast us and contribute to a healthier world.
We collaborated with the Cherry Creek West team from the beginning to help create the vision for this transformation by defining project values that have served as a guidepost for the entire master planning process. In a very inclusive and interactive way, we have led the master planning process over the past two years.
Why is landscape architecture and urban planning important when developing a community such as Cherry Creek West?
The public realm creates the aesthetics, vibe and fabric of a place. We like to say the most important part of a project is the “first 30 feet”, or the zone that most people encounter daily. While good architecture is very important, intense thought and creativity must go into designing the public realm for it to be successful. Our vision as a firm is to design landscapes of extraordinary quality that creates a legacy for future generations.
How do you get out of a creative rut and where do you find inspiration?
I have learned to appreciate the design and detail in my everyday environment. My design thinking is recharged as I experience new places. My mind immediately begins to pull apart the layers of a place to try to understand why I feel the way I do in that space. It’s that exploration of truly seeing a place as the sum of hundreds of small elements that contribute to the quality of the experience that gets me energized and recharged.
For our project, what’s been the most challenging part of the process?
Every project is different and comes with its share of complexities and the more challenging the project, the more interesting the project is to work on because we love solving complex issues. The biggest challenge to me is the responsibility and pressure of getting it right. The team feels the weight and the significance of the opportunity to deliver one of the most important 12 acres in all of Denver. This is the cornerstone to a well-established neighborhood and shopping district.
In terms of the design elements for Cherry Creek West, what would you say makes this project unique?
Our very first guiding principle for this project is to design for people first. This principle has driven every decision in the master planning process. You can see this with the connection to the creek, the flexible event spaces, the areas to sit and relax, and the layout of the buildings, which are situated in a way to create a diversity of public realm spaces that will fill in with sun light and mountain views. In the most impactful way, you will see this come to life as you walk freely through the community.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected the design process of outdoor spaces?
People want to spend more and more time outside – at home and at work. What the pandemic brought is an obligation for a comprehensive approach to the design and functionality of outdoor spaces. This brings up a discussion about equity and the access people have to quality outdoor spaces. From the beginning of this project, we were driven by a goal to provide this neighborhood with a new “Front Yard” to serve as a gathering space and place to build community. To me, this appreciation of quality outdoor spaces is one of the incredible effects of the pandemic and there is no better place to implement this then in this climate and in this special place here in Cherry Creek.
What’s your favorite part about designing a project?
That’s easy…the sausage making! Legacy projects take a great deal of time and effort and there are countless pivots and adjustments made as new circumstances or constraints are revealed. My favorite part of these complex projects is being at the table with the full team, including clients and design partners, all working through the latest design challenge. Each person brings something special and you never know where the best idea of the day will come from. It’s honestly a magical thing to be a part of.
In your website bio, we learned that you are passionate about education and mentorship. How did you get started with mentoring? Do you have any ‘go-to’ advice? And, what’s something you’ve learned from your mentees?
I am so lucky to be the President of a firm that shares these same values. I have had some of the very best mentors in my life and would not be where I am today if they didn’t share their very valuable time with me.
Mentorship begins with realizing it is as simple as just sharing what you know. I realized early on in life that I enjoyed the feeling I got when I was able to teach and see the sense of understanding on the face of the students I was working with. When mentoring, what you have to offer increases with time and experience, but these things should not hold someone back from mentoring. We all have something to give. I believe that everyone should teach someone something. It’s the most rewarding thing you can do. It benefits others, and recharges your battery making you a better learner.
I learn so much from those that I mentor…sometimes I feel like I get more than I give. Recently I’ve been working with our Dr. Charles Fountain Internship students on a project in the Five Points neighborhood of Denver. This project aims to bring green infrastructure to this underserved neighborhood to combat the effects of global warming through addressing urban heat islands and solving for the lack of tree canopy and natural spaces in this neighborhood. It’s a great opportunity to learn from students representing very diverse backgrounds on what is important to them and how they approach such challenging projects.