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Landscape Architecture and Open Space

RIOS Ideas  |  Vol. 1

The Wild & the Tamed

Design is never without story Design is never without story. It connects people to each other and the world around us. Together we work beyond boundaries to reveal, explore, and invent designs that amplify experiences.




RIOS was founded in 1985 as a multi-disciplinary design firm that maintains that design is everything in the built environment. This innate understanding led to an ethos of design as a continuum, a notion that defined transdisciplinary practice and a body of work that celebrates the connection between people and place. The practice operates at the intersection of architecture, landscape, urban planning, interior design, graphics and signage, exhibit, and product design to inform design at all types and scales — from plates to parks. We believe, fundamentally, that design is better when you think inclusively about ways to solve a problem and we practice this way within our studios and interdisciplinary teams. We are problem-solvers, innovators, and creative thinkers. This proclivity can be seen in the offshoots of RIOS, like notNeutral and Guillermo, but also in our unshakable nature as storytellers revealing the potential each project has to celebrate our diversity and humanity. Our work is irreversibly connected to the narrative of place and the complex order of human culture, creating solutions that are joyful, authentic, and unexpected. Each project is a genuine expression of the important stories that connect us and reveal location, ecology, culture, and ethnography.

RIOS has been recognized for skill and design excellence across the broad spectrum of design disciplines, including as a finalist for the Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt National Design Award for landscape architecture, and as ‘Firm of the Year’ by the California Council of the American Institute of Architects. Our consistent body of unique design work and our redefinition of the boundaries of design practice has also led to numerous national and local AIA and ASLA awards, as well as recognition for graphics, interiors and furniture design. Our work has been featured in numerous publications, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Architecture, Architectural Record, Interior Design, Landscape Architecture and Metropolis. We treat the design intent and execution for every project as a solution unique to each client and to their programmatic requirements. Our clients often actively participate in the creative process. This client- focus has allowed us to produce a consistently high quality body of work which displays a stylistic range as broad as our client list.


Fueled by Curiosit The RIOS landscape practice is fueled by curiosity and compassion for the communities where we work. Every place has a story to tell as we explore the particularities of culture, environment, and history.



We begin each project as landscape detectives searching for clues in the unique circumstances of each site and its context. Our design process embraces many points of view to translate deep insights into authentic form through lively collaborations with colleagues, clients, and stakeholders. Together, we amplify the intrinsic identity of a place to make landscapes of accessible sophistication that are exuberant, multisensory, and dynamic. In 1985, Mark Rios launched RIOS with a singular vision: to imagine, design, and build complete environments. RIOS has grown into a transdisciplinary practice spanning architecture, landscape architecture, planning, urban design, branding, and environmental graphics. Our landscape designers collaborate with internal and external design partners to deliver a wide range of work, from urban parks and cultural institutions to mixed-use environments and private residences. Our willful optimism gives us agency to invent solutions to complex problems. We enjoy expanding the boundaries of landscape architecture by exploring ideas across scales from custom site furnishings to regional conservation strategies. We believe nature is beautiful, healing, and essential, and that every person has a right to enjoy its pleasures. At RIOS, our projects are opportunities to respond holistically to the great challenges facing society, from environmental justice and equitable access to climate change and habitat loss. We sponsor internal research initiatives to investigate issues such as the wild urban interface, extreme heat, pollinators, and play for all. We weave findings from these efforts into our design work in a process of resourceful experimentation that propels our work forward. We also carefully document the landscape performance benefits of the places we make, so that this cycle of innovation contributes to a culture of learning and adaptation. RIOS’s 30+ year legacy of landscape design excellence has been recognized with numerous national and regional ASLA awards, publications, and as a finalist for the Cooper Hewitt National Design Awards. While the firm is best known for decades of creating signature places around Los Angeles, including Grand Park in Downtown LA and the city’s iconic Hollywood Bowl, the landscape team works actively across the country on significant public and private commissions. As we look toward work with new clients, collaborators, and communities in the years ahead, we are mindful of our commitment to tell the story of place with design that is inclusive, hopeful, and inspired.


Our Process Our most successful projects are the result of a deep collaboration among consultants, clients, and stakeholders. This collaboration requires confidence by all parties that their voices will be heard and meaningfully incorporated in a design that reflects their input.



➊ Analysis Our process begins with a robust period of analysis and research. There are past studies to read, histories to synthesize, stakeholders to interview, drawings and maps to pore over, and site conditions to document. All team members and collaborators make contributions that will fuel the conceptual design process.

➋ Concept Workshops Next up is a series of conceptual design workshops in which the design team can engage the client and stakeholders in interactive exercises to daylight and explore lots of ideas. This series of workshops funnels from broad listening sessions and brainstorming to alternatives and eventually the selection of a preferred conceptual design.

➌ SD + DD + CD With a strong conceptual design and broad consensus in hand, we begin the careful refinement and elaboration of the concept through schematic design, design development and construction documents. This process involves regular work sessions with our consulting team.

➍ Check-ins Throughout the iterative design process, our client is engaged for milestone reviews to confirm design direction, weigh trade-offs, and coordinate the physical design with related stewardship, programming and operations progress.

➎ Construction With a thorough construction document package complete, bidding, contractor selection and construction observation can commence. Comprehensive delivery and coordination of the construction process allows the enthusiasm and creativity of the engagement and design phases to be translated into a timeless and enduring place.


Research & Explorati

At RIOS, we emphasize the power of research, material touch, clear illustrative graphics, and physical models in our ability to tell the story of place. Our research delves into an array of topics that instigate and inspire to deepen our connections to the possibilities of design.


ion Towards a Playful City A playful city is a sustainable city. Play is vital to human development and is a necessary fixture of daily life. In fact, qualities of playfulness should merit attention equal to that of sustainability in terms of urban design and development. We believe that a playful city can be envisioned as a system of spaces or open-ended moments that exist to support exploration and movement within urban life. This document looks at the history of play, types of interventions to spur interest in play, and case studies for implementation to create vibrant interactive opportunities in the public realm.

Invisible Infrastructure: Integrating Pollinators into Urban Sites We believe there is an urgent need to enhance, connect, and create the “hidden” infrastructure needed to support a robust urban ecology. One of the most consequential wild urban interfaces in our built environment is nearly invisible. Nearly 75–95% of all flowering plants rely on the work of pollinators — including bees, bats, beetles, butterflies, flies, moths, and birds. This research looks at we’ve holistically considered the impact of our designs on the built environment, including the often invisible context and the opportunity for design to positively impact ecological health.


Our landscape architectural expertise draws from the rich opportunities presented at the intersection of place and culture. From an urban village complete with pocket parks and bike plazas to an entire city park, our work is inextricably related to its context and users.



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Our ideas come to life through collaboration with our clients. The following projects represent some of our favorite partnerships.

Selected Projects 15

Pocket-s Am


sized menities The Exchange’s collection of programmed public spaces includes pocket parks and lush rain gardens scattered throughout the project The Exchange at Mission Bay Location San Francisco, CA Size 750,000 sq. ft.

Services Provided Architecture Landscape Architecture Experiential Graphics

Sustainability LEED Platinum WELL Gold




The Exchange on 16th consists of two 6-story buildings and two 12-story towers. All four buildings are interconnected, enabling each of the bottom three floors to feature contiguous 90,000-sq.-ft. spaces. Each building will also offer high ceilings, plenty of natural light, and one-of-a-kind views of downtown San Francisco and the Bay Bridge. Plazas and courtyards at street level will provide open space for building users and the public alike. The Exchange’s collection of programmed public spaces also includes pocket parks and lush rain gardens scattered throughout the project. Setbacks along the primary facades create opportunities for terraces, private gardens, and balconies for building users. Each building will have a roof deck planted to provide lush access to nature in the San Francisco climate. The Exchange also holds the unique distinction of being one of the first major buildings that drivers on Interstate 280 see as they arrive in San Francisco. That makes it a symbol for the entire city. Construction began in September 2015.



An echo in Atlanta


a Echo Street West revitalizes an important neighborhood on Atlanta’s Westside while feeding connectivity to surrounding areas and building off of the industrial fabric of the site Echo Street West Location Atlanta, GA Size 18 acres

Services Provided Master Planning Architecture Landscape Architecture




RIOS is working with Lincoln Property Company on the development of an 18-acre mixed-use residential and commercial center for the Echo Street West project in West Midtown, Atlanta. The rich history of industrial development and railway impact on the site is a foundation for creating a unique place that builds on new city-wide interventions such as the Beltline extension, the West Midtown revitalization, and the Georgia Tech expansion. The design envisions a new Westside mixed-use district that is inspired by the industrial fabric along the former Kudzu Line that ran through the site, while employing a combination of building scale and programmatic mix to contextualize the existing urban nature of the different adjacent communities. This strategy will create a plan that is natural, respectful, and inventive in its site response.



Breathing N Life into


New o History A 30-acre transformation that uses landscape design to complement industrial materials and raw, utilitarian details within this reimagined creative office and retail campus ROW DTLA Location Los Angeles, CA Size 1,300,000 sq. ft. 30 acres

Services Provided Master Planning Architecture Landscape Architecture Furniture Design Experiential Graphic Design

Sustainability LEED BD+C Pending


ROW DTLA incorporates 100 years of Los Angeles history into an ambitious 21st-century commercial district linking downtown to L.A.’s burgeoning arts district. A century ago, this site was the terminus of the Southern Pacific Railroad, a hub of a different kind, where goods were unloaded from railroad cars, loaded onto trucks, and delivered across Southern California. Our design re-imagines the 30-acre campus, embracing its historic character through the use of industrial materials and raw utilitarian details,


while transforming ROW’s long rows of warehouse-style buildings into 1.3 million sq. ft. of creative office space. Over 100 unique retail stores and 30,000 sq. ft. of space for the arts and seasonal events enliven the complex at all hours of the day and night. The existing 7th Street Produce Market, where L.A.’s bodegas have long sourced their fruits and vegetables, remains largely unchanged by the design as a vivid reminder of the area’s historic origins.



A rooftop park appropriates a more recent addition, a 10-story 4,000-space parking garage. The walls of the garage are enveloped with greenery and the ground floor is laminated with retail that brings a pedestrian scale. It’s emblematic of the landscape approach to the entire site, which encourages nature to gradually encroach on the old industrial site, harkening back to an even earlier, pre-industrial era. Building lobbies embrace an industrial modern aesthetic while providing comfortable seating and unexpected spaces for gathering to work or wait.




E WILD This landscape renovation strengthens the connection between structures and nature throughout the complex in San Diego’s Sorrento Valley The Park at San Diego Tech Center Location San Diego, CA Size 650,000 sq. ft.

Services Provided Master Planning Architecture Landscape Architecture Furniture Design Experiential Graphic Design


The redesign of the significant outdoor park at the development’s center promotes a biophilic work/ play campus environment with the amplification of the site as a shared amenity, the renovation of an existing fitness center and studio, design of a grab-and-go farm stand café, and new sitewide branding and environmental graphics.

The new drought-tolerant plant palette takes cues from native vegetation types with diverse mixes of grasses and native groundcovers, perennials, and annuals to support biodiversity, habitat creation, and seasonality. New stormwater biofiltration basins filter runoff from site and create pockets of wetland-like spaces integrated with the topography of the site.

The landscape builds on the existing forest-like character of the site to create a wandering, immersive experience which weaves through alternating areas of forest and meadow. The extensive mature tree canopy was protected and enhanced with the addition of new specimens.

A redefined recreational program for the campus includes an active area at the north end of the park, featuring a basketball court, scrimmage soccer pitch, and beach volleyball court. The south end of the park features a new flexible lawn and elevated deck that can support performances and large events. Smaller scale gathering spaces – both for outdoor meetings and recreation – are peppered throughout the Park, and are supported with power outlets, Wi-Fi, bocce courts, ping pong tables, BBQs, and fire pits. SPOTIFY LA | JULY 2020



Timber from existing redwoods that were removed were repurposed to create custom furniture and art pieces for the site, creating moments of surprise and delight.



Hangar Ca


ampus The redevelopment of the former Marine Corps Air Station in Tustin, CA offers us an opportunity to re-imagine the site as a new urban neighborhood FLIGHT at Tustin Location Tustin, CA Size 870,000 sq. ft.

Services Provided Architecture Interior Architecture Experiential Graphic Design


This project is an innovative twist on the office park storyline and a prime example of how innovative workplace mimics the redefinition of work life by rethinking the office campus layout. The design flexibly accommodates multiple types of tenants and connects them to the greatest amenity — the Southern California climate — while working within a familiar building type. The site is designed as a new urban neighborhood. Each building is designed with adaptable, tall, uninterrupted and light-filled spaces— inspired by the aviation vernacular that surrounds and underpins the story of the place—that offers tenants the ability to customize the building interiors to their needs. The hangar-like structures feature a


unique design parti that positions the lobbies, elevators, stairs, and services at the perimeter of the buildings to produce more usable interior space while maximizing the indoor/outdoor lifestyle. The collaborative environment provides inspired indoor-outdoor office environments that encourage curiosity and creativity, while exploring the boundaries of efficiency and productivity. The program includes 4 four-story open plan office buildings, 4 incubator-style office buildings, a chef-focused food hall, indoor/outdoor meeting spaces, and a conference center, linked by walking trails, native landscaping, and an abundance of outdoor spaces.




An Arroyo


o Vision A strategic planning effort with rigorous analysis of existing conditions in order to make strategic proposals that increase usability, enjoyment, and connection to the trails & the Arroyo One Arroyo Trail Plan Vision Location Pasadena, CA Size 26 miles 900 acres

Services Provided Master Planning Community Engagement Landscape Architecture


Northern Arroyo Gateway Potential New Restroom*° Potential New Parking*° Main Entry Improvements (typ.) Hahamongna Main Entry West Improvements Hahamongna West Perimeter Habitat Restoration* Potential New Parking at Devil's Gate Dam Overlook * Tunnel Aesthetic Improvements

Hahamongna Main Entry East Entry Improvements Potential New Restroom Information Stand* Hahamongna / Central Arroyo Gateway Potential New Restroom* Potential New Parking Arroyo Wilds Exploration Area (Upper/Central) Central Rim Trail Improvements*

Central Arroyo North West Entry Entry Improvements Information Stand* Greenstreets Improvements (typ.)

Concept Plan Legend

General Trail Improvements

Central Arroyo North East Entry Entry Improvements All Main Trails* • Trail surface restoration • Vegetation maintenance • Erosion stabilization • Furnishing & amenities • Edging • Planting

New / Improved Segment Trail Wayfinding Road Crossing Improvement Tunnel Improvement

Potential New Bridge at Trail Extension

New Bridge Improved Bridge Arroyo Gateway

Neighborhood Entry Improvements (typ.)

Main Entry (Special)

Lower Arroyo Wilds Overlook

Main Entry (Typical) Neighborhood Entry Interpretive Signage Special Arroyo Area Greenstreet Improvement

Lower Arroyo Bridge Aesthetic Improvements Lower Arroyo Main Entry Improvements * † Information Stand

Parking Expansion New Parking Area

Memorial Grove Restoration *

New Restroom Information Stand


Aligns with Master Plans

Previous Concept by DPW


LA County project


Camel's Hump Loop *

Lower Arroyo Bridge Aesthetic Improvements


renewal a res


and silience The master plan recreates a sense of inclusivity and community and embraces the site’s sacred natural history to enhance its functionality through an improved experience La Casa De Maria Retreat Center Location Montecito, CA Size 26 acres

Services Provided Master Planning Landscape Architecture Architecture




La Casa de Maria is a spiritual retreat center. The hermitage welcomes people from all walks of life who seek renewal, meditation, and prayer. The 26-acre site was significantly impacted by the Montecito mudslides of 2018. RIOS’ master plan looks to restore the site while addressing a resilient future within a dynamic landscape. The master plan also looks to enhance the performative aspects of site and buildings through water conservation, recycling, renewable energy systems and high performing natural materials. The restoration and re-building is designed to create the sense of inclusivity and community, embrace the site’s natural history, and enhance its functionality through an improved hospitality experience.





WARENESS SIBLE Sustainable Defensive Space aims to increase resistance of structures to wildfire, safeguard firefighters’ lives, improve conservation values, and protect California’s natural heritage Sustainable Defensible Space Location Montecito, CA Size 26 acres

Services Provided Master Planning Landscape Architecture Architecture


Defensible spaces extend into neighboring properties The Community Risk examines the outermost part of your zone, extending into your neighbor’s property. We believe in order to maximize the benefits of your work, it’s important to work collaboratively with neighbors to reduce those risks.

Know your Fire Risk We designed an interactive geographic information system (GIS) map to learn about the individual qualities of your location within the website. Our GIS map provides a visualization of how your property fits within the local habitat.


Zone 0: The Ember-Resistant Zone (ERZ)

Zone 1: The Home Protection Zone

This area includes the first 5 feet around your home and the structure itself. No vegetation is recommended within 5 feet of any structure. No landscape mulch or wood chips. Use clear soil, rocks, gravel or concrete.

This zone should be designed to promote fire-wise landscaping and water conservation. The recommended minimum planting zone starts with low-density planting to medium-density planting as you move outward from the house. The goal is to create a low-ignition landscape capable of slowing down fire spread.

Zone 2: Reduced Fuel and Thinning

The Surrounding Wildland

This zone supports habitat connectivity and wildfire discontinuity. It serves as a connection with the natural environment promoting habitat restoration while eliminating continuous, dense vegetation to decrease the energy and speed of a wildfire.

As intact habitat is lost, the numbers of rare, threatened, and endangered species rise. These species contribute to biodiversity and serve extremely important roles in natural ecosystems. Do not modify vegetation (except removing identified invasive species) unless required by local Fire Departments. 59

RIOS collaborated with the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains (RCDSMM) to develop an initiative that transforms the way people receive information about fire protection. The project aims to increase resistance of structures to wildfire, safeguard firefighters’ lives, improve conservation values, and protect California’s natural heritage. The mission for the initiative, as part of the California Climate Investments Program, is to provide accessible solutions that improve the resistance of developed properties and structures to wildfire loss in the Santa Monica Mountain region. The research focuses


on the immediate area around a home, starting with the use of fire-resistant materials and architectural features. It extends beyond the home with well-maintained fire-wise landscape to reduce ignition risk and slow firespread, supporting native vegetation, wildlife, and local ecosystems. The research is featured on the website DefensibleSpace.org with detailed information and resources to help improve management of homeowners’ defensible space zone.

The Wildland Urban Interface – structures and developed landscapes located within a mile of large open lands – are the most susceptible to wildfires.




PITALITY By infusing nature into 1 Hotel Hollywood through various moments across the property a natural and authentic sense of place provides travelers with a unique, yet quintessentially LA experience. 1 Hotel West Hollywood Location West Hollywood, CA Size 33,000 sq. ft. Landscape 13,300 sq. ft. Interiors

Services Provided Interior Architecture Landscape Architecture


RIOS completed landscape and interior improvements at the newest addition to the 1 Hotel portfolio in West Hollywood. The exuberant planting strategy maximizes the experience of the exterior and interior spaces and softens the existing cool-toned surfaces with warmer nature-based materials and colors. The design envelopes you in a natural experience through the surrounding materials like wood and clay along with an abundance of plants and flowers at every glance. The 1 Hotel brand is envisioned as a platform for change, leading with the hospitality-forward goal of “sparking conversations” between guests and innovators. Inspired by nature, the design aligns thoughtfully with hotel’s high standards for design — from building materials to room furnishings and lush planters.






Each detail fulfills the goal to meld landscape with interiors spaces through enthusiastic planting. Materials are combined and contrasted to emphasize their differences, similarities, and beauty. 69

urban chore


eography Setting the stage for activities and events that attract plaza life and serve the entire region with diverse cultural programming Lynn Wyatt Square for the Performing Arts Location Houston, TX Size 1.5 acres

Services Provided Landscape Architecture Architecture




Downtown is a growing part of Houston as residents and visitors seek a vibrant pedestrian and transit-friendly environment with proximity to jobs, amenities, and high quality open space. Within Downtown, the Theater District and its many venues create a “magnetic field” of culture that generates buzz and catalyzes investment in the surrounding neighborhoods. The Lynn Wyatt Square for the Performing Arts, at the epicenter of the Theater District, will provide an inviting green oasis that enhances downtown life and it can flexibly accommodate a wide range of outdoor performances and special events that serve the entire region. Discovery Green anchors the east edge of Downtown and Buffalo Bayou as a complementary resource on the west edge. Wyatt Square is a jumping off point from the city to the Bayou’s open space network. At the same time, it is a gateway to the Theater District which engages this cultural context through a series of visual, physical and programmatic relationships. From the Downtown to the district to the human scale, the spaces for urban life at Wyatt Square are shaped by and reciprocally shape flows of urban life. We call this placemaking strategy Urban Choreography. Inspired by the movements of the performing arts, these gestures connect Wyatt Square to the city and articulate diverse spaces for gathering. These spaces will become stages for creative discovery in partnership with the institutions of the Theater District and the citizens of Houston.



Jones Plaza is a multi-use venue and open space, as denoted by the various configurations for events, festivals, and performances.


The north and south corners of Wyatt Square from Texas Avenue and Capitol Street act as important first impressions and serve as welcoming thresholds. The top of the existing garage structure, requirements for planting depths to support large trees, and retention of significant existing retaining walls were all important considerations in the design process.

The west and east corners of Wyatt Square are configured as important areas of the park to inhabit and create spaces that are oriented both towards the surrounding streetscapes and into the park. A proscenium walk, with multifunctional media towers, frames the Center Green of Wyatt Square, and allows for diverse types of uses, performances, and activities to utilize the space at a variety of scales.




Let’s Make Dr


e rake Transforming the space beneath First Street Bridge into a world-class public amenity linking downtown Austin to Butler Trail and Lady Bird Lake Drake Bridge Commons Location Austin, TX Size 160,000 sq. ft

Services Provided Landscape Architecture Experiential Graphic Design



Located at the footsteps of City Hall along the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail under Drake/First Street Bridge, the site is in an ideal location to be harnessed by the community as a place for all. The project sets out to create a memorable space with improved trail surfaces, a better connection to the water’s edge and an intentional design that continues to position the trail as on of Austin’s primary outdoor amenities. The design creates a destination that celebrates the connection between the water and the land to create a true sanctuary destination where you can get away from it all. Drake Bridge Commons pairs an extraordinary experience of nature with cultural programming to create a unique destination. The project pilots new trail materials, native habitat restoration,

and management practices. Program elements will include trail improvements, green stormwater infrastructure, lighting, water access, seating, donor recognition, interpretive features, concessions, performance spaces, and public art. Dry and wet docks will anchor a magnetic new destination on Lady Bird Lake. They will come together in a dynamic gathering space under the First Street (Drake) Bridge linked to Downtown Austin by a pair of hillside trails through native gardens. The dry dock will be a place to connect with the lake and get a new perspective on Downtown. It can host a wide range of events, from performances to fitness classes. Colorful bumpers, ladders, and handboat tie-offs will facilitate waterside use.




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Landscape Architecture and Open Space