David Seiter, Future Green Studio
Future Green Studio is a twenty-five person landscape design and urban ecology firm based in Red Hook, Brooklyn founded by principal and design director David Seiter. His portfolio encompasses award-winning private and public-use projects – with recent high-profile commissions from institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Children's Museum. David is author of SUP: Weeds in NYC – a book about the overlooked ecological value of weeds in the urban landscape. Additionally, he founded the website spontaneousurbanplants.org, which won a 2015 National Honor Award in Research from the American Society of Landscape Architects.
I’m David Seiter with Future Green Studio, a landscape design and urban ecology firm based in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Balance is multifaceted, and it takes on different dimensions within different processes. There’s obviously a kind of balance to be distilled from the iterative design process, as you build consensus among social, ecological, and historical influences that play into any idea. And then, there is design and day-to-day life — the broader sense of balance between home and health, friends, and work or practice. That’s a very rich topic, and something that informs my design work in a real way. For me it’s been the reason to create my own business and essentially craft my day-to-day life: to be able to strike a balance between not only work and home life, but also between different practices within the design field. That kind of stretching of scales — the balance among different aspects of landscape architectural practice — is something I’m really excited about and think creates a much more dynamic product.
On the changing role of the landscape architect
One thing that our studio is thinking a lot about is a rise in green infrastructure. That is, landscapes that are ecologically performative, that have a benefit to society. These typically aren’t large-scale spaces, but smaller scale interventions: the rain garden and the tree pit and the green roof and the facade that’s colonized with window boxes. In their isolation they don’t carry all that much weight or transform the city, but in aggregate, they can create an urban ecological system. That is the future vision that we have of the city, of a balanced city, that is both dense yet livable.
Sustainability means a lot of different things. There’s the literal, practical sustainability of best practices — the approach to constructing things responsibly and appropriately. We try to weave this practical approach into every project, putting those ideas first and making a strong case for them. But then there’s a broader meaning of sustainability — a new way of thinking. The bigger thing we can do as designers is to inspire people to change the way they think about things. That’s where our research for Spontaneous Urban Plants comes in: we’re really looking to change people’s perceptions about the plants themselves, and open up their minds to the ways they might be beneficial for us ecologically if we reconsider them and harness their benefits for our greater good.
You have to keep both versions of sustainability in mind. Yes, I need to recycle and be as responsible as possible, but I also have to think about the big picture and where we are all headed.