Since its inception, landscape design has been a fundamental part of the Lawson Building East project. The site, over 2/3 of an acre, provided us with a unique opportunity to create a dynamic, sustainable landscape in the heart of downtown. Intellectually, this project was enhanced by the contrast embodied in our neighbors, the Norfolk and Southern East-End Shops. We wanted to provide a stark juxtaposition between the history of Roanoke, manifest in the industrial shops, and its future as a sustainable mixed use community focused on the Valley’s natural resources, and engaged in a renewed commitment to and connection with the mountains, indigenous plants, and wildlife.
The landscape design for the Lawson Building East begins with the site’s topography. We created a system of vertically stepped terraces that enhance and make usable the natural slope of the land without effacing it. From there we explored (and, where possible, restored) the site’s existing trees and vegetation, creating a planting diagram that would focus on local fauna. The idea is not merely to create a pleasant, “natural” environment, but, crucially, to encourage people to engage with the landscape. To this end we created space for raised beds and shared community gardens. These gardens are located to the west of the building, and take full advantage of the site’s best light, offering dynamic views both of the cityscape and Roanoke’s past, the industrial train yard.
It is a landscape that can function only with tenant participation, and we sincerely hope that a desire to shape one’s own surroundings figures prominently in any decision to live in the Lawson Building East.