Chris Flagg, Director of Design in Haskell's Municipal and Education Division, takes a moment to answer five questions about key issues for municipal and post-secondary professionals and how the right approach can relieve their challenges.
Enjoy this conversation with Chris.
1. What do you see as the biggest challenge for municipal clients in today’s environment?
The easy answer always points to funding, but from my standpoint it’s more to do with clients truly understanding the value of a vision. When it comes to design, you must start with a clear, strategic plan of attack from those who make the primary decisions. From Mayors to City Managers to City Planning staffs, it takes an appreciation for creative planning to see what it can do to elevate the status of a community.
Municipally speaking, there is a great movement afoot to change the paradigm of the typical planning processes. Cities are more interested in the “scale” of the urban landscape, from building facades, streetscapes, and spaces between buildings, streets, which all lend to a more pleasing environment for the pedestrian.
Streets, for example, are being considered more like public spaces, not primarily for the automobile, but for bikers, pedestrians, alternative transit. Their components are now becoming more creative for drainage, streetscaping, and pedestrian safety, traffic calming, all working together to create a more user friendly environment.
Post-secondary education markets have been strapped by the economy the last few years, but now there is movement within that sector that seems more positive. We are currently working with upper level institutions that are growing quickly and coordinating our strengths with their needs.
A refined strategic approach to our past relationships is key. As we continue to grow our strength of services internally, we can tailor our approach accordingly to each prospective client.
University of North Florida Master Planning | Read more
2. How is Haskell responding to help them overcome these challenges?
By consistently securing and delivering successful projects like we have been, we can build on that momentum and carry that expertise beyond the borders of Florida. I want us to be known as a national prominence in both markets. There is no reason that can’t be achieved with the talent level we have.
With collaborative opportunities, our clients will experience our full range of design-build services. By realizing our combined strengths as a front end design entity, we can support our customers in the changing marketplace. Design matters!
3. You have a clear passion for landscape architecture. Tell us more about how this service helps your clients.
The beautiful thing about this profession is that it enables me to see the big picture. Just look around. Essentially everything from the ground up is an opportunity to improve. By developing an early entry of a project through design – whether it is an urban design issue, community planning opportunity, transportation, anything related to the betterment for a city, neighborhood or community – I’ve been trained to consider all of the elements of connectivity so that its aesthetic and function can be maximized through good design.
As more clients realize this, they are more willing to invest in a project that can and will make a quality of life difference.
4. You’ve had a huge impact on the City of Jacksonville. What can you take from this urban planning experience to other cities looking to develop?
Knowing what I know about navigating through Jacksonville’s development regulations offers great knowledge as to how to deal with other city processes! It takes a great deal of local knowledge to deal with any city’s level of review.
I’ve had the benefit of embedding myself over the last decade in multiple city endeavors, organizations, committees, etc., and have made many political contacts – all building on my experience to navigate through the processes. It has been extremely helpful to know the level of acceptance and appreciation for projects prior to moving forward with them.
Each city has great potential. The value of vision, once defined, will lead to a greater sense of community.
5. What interesting trends do you see on the horizon for urban planning/education/municipal?
The biggest trend is in the processes related to the development of more sustainable, multi-functional spaces and buildings. Everything now is beginning to relate to the diversity of use, whether it’s an urban space, a parking garage, a street or a campus facility. We consider how much use can be accommodated by this space or building. That, to me can be a drastic improvement to our way of thinking as creators.
Technology is certainly an issue as well. Take virtual experiences, for instance. When it relates to the human experience, the way we use a space or facility directly affects our ability to plan on so many levels. This, I believe, defines the opportunity to become more creative in the early phases of design.
Chris believes streets can become usable public places safely enjoyed by all.
One Spark Crowdfunding Festival in Jacksonville, FL| Photo Credit: ideasforus.org
With vision, there could be such an expansive approach to historically ordinary items. Landscapes become self-contained eco-systems. Material and natural resource re-use in all elements of design becomes commonplace. Streets, for instance, can become usable public spaces safely enjoyed by all. Parking garages can become multi-functional works of art that you just happen to be able to park within. Spaces between buildings in the urban environment can become activity hubs for gathering, entertainment or contemplative use. These all serve as examples of new trends.
We utilize urban design principals in both the municipal and education arena. It’s all about creating a pleasing, multi-functional environment. Everyone knows a great place when they experience it; we just have to continue to create those memorable experiences for our clients using high design. By focusing on our clients, we can posture ourselves to be the recognized resource to deliver those experiences.
Do you have anything else you want to add, like fun facts you want to share?
Actually, yes. I have a true passion for watercolor painting. My profession has enabled me to exploit my drawing, rendering and illustration skills. This led me to watercolor as being the most expressive medium for me.
Chris Flagg painting in his gallery at Jacksonville Landing.
I’m more of a realist when painting, but because watercolor is so spontaneous, it lets me “loosen up” naturally. I enjoy “plein air” painting, outdoors and on-site, so I can make quick decisions and not fester on details. My subject matter is vast, usually what interests me, but overall, I try to paint anything that has a sense of character.
If you have more questions for Chris or would like to discuss specific facility issues, please feel free to directly contact Chris by email.
Jacksonville University Student Housing Complex
Osprey Fountains Student Housing
Sea Walk Pavilion and Town Center Commons
City of Jacksonville Parking Garage