Client Q&A with Dan Van Leeuwen
For five decades Design Workshop has provided landscape architecture, planning, urban design and strategic services to clients in North America and throughout the world. We are committed to creating special places that meet today's needs and that are sustainable environments for all time. We wouldn’t have been able to work on all of these incredible projects without our clients. Today, we would like you to meet one of these amazing clients – Dan Van Leeuwen, Managing Director of Development for Canderel MDC Development, collaborating with us on the TAZA project for the last 3 years.
Why did you select to work with Design Workshop?
The knowledge base and experience that Design Workshop brings to a project, along with their ability to digest and give advice about placemaking and development ideas was critical for us. They don’t just look at landscapes, they study all the components of the public realm – the integration of streets, building interaction, etc. – To develop a space that has personality and invokes an emotional connection is an art, not science. The signature of their work is high-quality projects that lead and innovate. They are leaders of the public realm, which made the team a natural choice.
What has the project taught you so far?
Developers are known to be type A and strong-willed. We think that we always know best. Design Workshop is willing to challenge our pre-conceptions and provide alternative ideas encouraging us to try new approaches. This project has made me realize what it means to put together a good Master Plan where the long-term strategy is tested against our business goals and priorities. The Design Workshop team helped me see how the project should evolve over time, ‘future-proofing’ it for the long term. Our teams work best together because we are focused on the quality of the ideas and less on ego.
What was the ‘light bulb’ moment for you during this project?
The Design Workshop team repeatedly reminded us of the importance of living up to the values of the Tsuu T’ina Nation and that this would require a much higher degree of sustainability and future-proofing than we originally believed. We chose to further explore how water is delivered back to the earth, based on the philosophy and cultural heritage of the Tsuu T’ina Nation to not impose and respect the land. In order to re-shape the plan, the team suggested we start with the existing natural environment doing a recognizance of the whole site letting the natural environment inform us where critical features need to be. This approach made this project even stronger and more well received as the Tsuu T’ina Nation said they ‘see’ themselves in the plan.
What was the biggest challenge?
Challenging the status quo. The original plan (done another consultant) was quantifiable and easy to estimate and relate back to others. Convincing the Board to “trust me, this is going to work” and getting buy-in to take a leap of faith has been a huge challenge. Design Workshop helped us reshape the Master Plan which reduces costs while increasing real estate values allowing us to get the approval needed from investors.
How did you convince the Board to take this leap?
The experience of the entire team gave the Board confidence that we are learners, critical thinkers and understand how to balance risk versus reward. The Design Workshop team presented successful projects to the Board that demonstrated how innovative development could lead to financial success which outweighs the risk factors that they feared at the beginning.