Damir Hurdich, Lecturer in Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning
This semester you’re teaching “Design in Detail: Introduction to Landscape Materials and Construction”. What’s your favorite part about teaching this class?
I am a graduate of the Master in Landscape Architecture at UC Berkeley - my experience at Berkeley really focused on large scale design and ecological, sustainable problem solving on a very large scale, as is typical with top tier programs. What I enjoy the most in teaching this class is that everything that we examine, design, detail in LA 121 is tangible.
The switching of the scale is not easy. In fact, it feels foreign and often scary to students. But as I tell them, those large scale projects always end up where we are, in LA 121: someone has to think how project elements are constructed and finished, what materials are used, what the materials relate to and how. Any design really comes to life when it is detailed - to walk the students through this new skill is really rewarding and very special to me.
Last year you won a Merit Award from the ASLA Northern CA for “The Taaffe House”. How did it come to life? Looking at it a year later, what does the project mean to you?
When I was approached by the client about this project, the feedback I got was, “think outside the box, make something special”.
The truth is, most of the allowable built square footage was already spent on the house on this site. The limiting parameters were very tight, particularly as they relate to permeable surfaces and cut and fill. I think we did really well, as the spatial configuration feels sophisticated and open and the design intention consistent and clear.
This project is very dear to me. To be more specific, I really enjoyed looking at the limits of the materiality, understanding and pushing the boundaries and in the process to come up with something fresh and interesting, and hopefully timeless.
In general, your practice focuses on high end residential design. What challenges do you face in this field and running your own design firm?
Running a design practice is not easy, though it is very rewarding. Often, business in the creative field is not as efficient as it might be in other parts of the business world. I and my team members create site specific design, from shaping the land, through conceptual design, through design development and construction support. This means, we do not make it easy on ourselves -- we do not reuse designs or do patchwork.
The inefficiencies are inherent in the design process. We do not want the design process to be efficient really, because the design will suffer under those terms. Thus, the biggest challenge is how to design well, create beauty in a sustainable manner, while running a profitable business.
What kind of research or projects are you focused on right now?
My research is generally focused on pushing design boundaries and exploring new materiality and material limits: how to make something unique and special.
How has the onset of COVID changed your research and scholarly priorities, if at all?
My practice was not negatively impacted by COVID. It seems now that many people are working from home, people are rediscovering their homes, inside and out. And living in California, the outside is practically your living room. I am thrilled to be able to draw people out with their outdoor built environments. In fact, I often joke with my clients and say, “Your architect wants you to stay inside. My goal is to get you to leave your house.” That said, one of my favorite elements of landscape design is the fact that we have the ability to blur that line between the inside and outside.