i believe in gravity

Portrait of Ugolino Martelli by Bronzino, 1536 or 1537. On the work table a copy of Homer’s Illiad. In the background a statue of David. David was traditionally a symbol of Florentine freedom.  A favorite portrait for David Rubin.

“Yes, design can save the world”.  Does anybody believe this?  David Rubin of Land Collective does. If I had not attended a talk sponsored by American Society of Landscape Architects, I might have thought that David Rubin was a buddhist monk or a professor of philosophy.  David Rubin believes in empathy.  “Life is what happens between buildings. Since a successful space is one that’s well attended, the success of our design depends on how people engage in it, no matter the scale.”  – from the mission statement of Land Collective.  Unlike many speakers, no matter the discipline, Rubin spoke about his early schooling. “I didn’t know how to learn until I got to my senior year in high school.  I started to understand the world through art.  I understood other people through art.  I started to learn what made an individual through painting and ceramics.”

Rubin told us he has three books next to his bedside.  Why these three books?   The Emperor’s Handbook (Hicks contemporary version) because “it makes you realize that even 2500 yrs. ago, this man doesn’t think any differently than we do.”  The Eyes of the Skin because its about why human beings should be the center of design.  And A Brief History of Time, because Hawking shows us how we all see time differently.

photograph courtesy of David Rubin Land Collective. Commonground and Eskenazi Health Campus

One of the most interesting projects Rubin talked about was the The Commonground, a space that surrounds the Eskenazi Health Campus.  The hospital is only one place that the act of healing takes place.  The commonground is a place for all citizens.  The site would be a place for people to engage.  This includes the Skyfarm, a rooftop farm that produces 2,000 lbs. of produce for hospital, for the cafe and gets distributed to the community.

photo courtesy of Land Collective

photo courtesy of Land Collective

How does an empathy-drive landscape architecture and urban design studio actually engage with the public?  It’s the old breakup story.  Rubin spends alot time doing community outreach.  Asking people What is your journey like to work? bad? good?  Do you love your city? or do want to break-up with your city?

Rubin opens his office to the public. On view in the entry way Rubin’s collection of garden tools Even though he made a point of saying “I don’t deal with yellow rhododendrons.

The quote on the screen as we enter the lecture:

“There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”
Fred Rogers







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