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Michael Vergason Landscape Architects

Michael Vergason Landscape Architects, Ltd. is a studio-based practice committed to timeless design and masterful execution. Established in the Washington, D.C. area in 1987 and incorporated in 2004, MVLA employs 12 landscape architects and 1 administrative staff. MVLA cultivates a purposefully small corps with a diverse range of backgrounds, including specializations in fine art, architecture, and arboriculture.

MVLA is founded on the belief that landscape architecture is a poetic response to the human need for connection to our world. The firm approaches each project with a creative and rigorous study of the site that exercises respect for its history, culture, and ecology. Using this research, the landscape architects identify ways to marry human use and visitation with the land’s temporal qualities and systems. This process establishes a powerful vision to forge places that rekindle unity with nature.

MVLA’s range of project types and scales illustrates that critical thinking and innovation are ingrained in their methodology. The firm’s portfolio includes educational and corporate campuses, museums, memorials, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, parks, gardens, and private residences. These undertakings span from several hundred-acre planning studies to detailed designs of private seclusions. Geographically diverse, culturally sensitive, and ecologically conscious, projects are spread throughout the Mid-Atlantic region and across the United States to international sites of distinction.

MVLA’s meticulous approach to project selection ensures that a high level of care is focused on all clients. MVLA celebrates the client diversity and appreciates that many entrust MVLA as landscape architects time after time. Over thirty years after founding the firm, Michael Vergason continues to be involved with each project, offering masterful guidance and the well-known, provocative sketches that enliven the studio.

Knowing that collaboration is the key to successful design, the team enjoys sharing diagramming, sketching, and visioning exercises with stakeholders throughout the design process to stimulate lively conversation about shared objectives. This dialogue is then polished into clear goals that support a conceptual framework.

Every project is considered with an eye toward proven best practices of landscape stewardship. MVLA believes that successful designed landscapes are not possible without rigorous attention to their sustained performance. The final output, be it an expansive master plan or the realization of an intimate garden design, is forward-looking and flexible in its details, yet firm in its vision to guide built projects and their maintenance in the future.

GOOSEWING FARM


This family farm straddles a ridge-lined peninsula on the southern coast of Rhode Island. Bound by water and set within the Sakonnet landscape patternings of coastal field, forest, pond, and meadow, this property embodies a modest agrarian character while preserving critical habitat for endangered shorebirds, seaside plants, and wildlife. MVLA’s work began with a Master Plan that preserves existing site walls and a road as a framework to organize a series of building compounds into the matrix of windswept coastal fields. This approach uncovers and reveals the site’s intimacy without imposing unnecessary design moves between individuals and their setting. Over several years of incremental projects at Goosewing Farm, MVLA has artfully integrated restrained architectural and landscape interventions with existing terrain, creating a lucid structure that illuminates the peninsula’s striking elegance.

THOMAS JEFFERSON’S MONTICELLO


The David M. Rubenstein Visitor Center and Smith Education Center prepares guests for an immersive experience at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Its 42,000 square foot LEED Gold complex graces a lushly planted central courtyard that weaves into a native Piedmont woodland. The project’s careful topographic intention is in keeping with the historic character of the place and offers sophisticated design solutions to complex issues. For instance, offices and support spaces are sited below the courtyard to maximize programming capabilities. Nearby, a greensward manages the site’s stormwater and ties a previously under-recognized African American Burial Ground into the main circulatory system, featuring it sensitively and intimately in the visitor experience. MVLA’s discerning approach to historic landscapes savors restraint and creates numerous moments for thoughtful reflection. The firm’s work at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello provides space for introduction and gathering so that guests can find distance from their 21st century routines before ascending the historic hilltop.

THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA’S NEW COLLEGE HOUSE

An under-used site is transformed into a new campus gateway that allows the University of Pennsylvania to give back to its city with an elevated public green. MVLA’s distinctive approach to this project explores the interface of communal and private landscapes and employs the firm’s considerable experience with academic design to expand the definition of a traditional campus quad. The result is both destination and thoroughfare, a parklike setting in which to play, study, and sunbathe along the well-traveled passage to the heart of campus. Nestled below this lawn are dining and communal areas that share access to a lushly planted residential courtyard, artfully balancing public and semi-private spaces. The project is rooted in its urban setting, providing numerous moments of fluidity between interior and exterior experiences, as well as opportunities to interface between University life and the city.

THE WHARF’S 7TH STREET PARK AND RECREATION PIER

Community interaction with water can feel surprisingly limited in the District of Columbia, despite its historic setting along the confluence of two rivers. The opportunity to reunite locals with this resource has been realized by the Southwest Waterfront’s 7th Street Park and Recreation Pier, which draws visitors over and into the Washington Channel. In an intensive, collaborative effort, MVLA developed a playful atmosphere that accommodates a wide range of sustainable programming, including rain gardens that provide seasonal interest and floating islands that cleanse the water emerging from an outfall. The firm’s deftness in defining the interface between city and water speaks to its familiarity with reconnecting people to nature, and the resulting design invites everyone to take part in an accessible experience that follows the rhythmic rise and fall of a rolling current. 7th Street Park and Recreation Pier’s popularity in all weather and seasons is a living demonstration of the dialogues between people, land, and water.

SUNDANCE SQUARE PLAZA

Texans are famous for a charismatic hospitality that blends traditional values with a genuine good time. Fort Worth’s Sundance Square Plaza is a prism for this practice at a large scale, a place where everyone can feel at home. The former parking lots on Main Street welcome thousands of visitors weekly to a dynamic tableau nestled within the rich architectural detailing of the city. Equally welcoming on a peaceful morning or a lively evening, the Plaza’s water and light form the backdrop for public life. MVLA revels in inclusive, yet culturally sensitive design, and this project is no different as it welcomes everyone to enjoy the spirit of its community. Its interactive fountains and giant, operable umbrellas provide opportunities to play and relax unlike any other in the surrounding area, complementing a diverse community program that revels in everything from daily exercise to festive annual celebrations. Forming one of the safest, cleanest, and most walkable areas in the city, this spirited social hub is known as the Heart of Fort Worth.

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