Chelsea McCann is a landscape architect and managing principal of the Walker Macy Agency, responsible for the new design of The Bricks at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. McCann comes to the project with extensive experience on large-scale landscape design projects, with a specific focus on waterfronts, urban parks, and brownfield sites. Her work emphasizes the "integration of innovative sustainable design and the arts."
JG: Chelsea, how did you develop your creative strategy for this project?
CM: In designing public open space, it’s important to me that the concept reflect the community where it is located, incorporating their hopes and needs within each project. When the ribbon is cut, it needs to be a place that the community will enjoy and be proud to call their own. For The Bricks, we first reached out to the OSF company and Ashland citizens to hear their ideas about the space: What was sacred, and what could use improvement? We used the feedback to guide the design and looked to the history of Ashland to give it form, drawing inspiration from the area’s logging industry as well as historic photos of stage sets from OSF. The result is the long walls that extend toward Pioneer Street, inviting people in to sit on the lawn and enjoy the shade of the trees or the performances on the Green Show stage.
JG: What particular aspects of the project have been most satisfying for you?
CM: For me, the most satisfying aspect was the participation of the community and OSF that resulted in the new courtyard. Changing a beloved space like The Bricks can be a difficult task, because there is so much history and personal attachment to the space. I’ll admit that I was a little nervous walking into the first public meeting, but I was impressed by the understanding and commitment that everyone demonstrated, accepting that changes were needed and being willing and open to sharing ideas about how to improve the space. Along the way the goal of making the courtyard accessible and equitable for everyone was often the driving factor in design decisions. While I am thrilled and proud of the final design, it was the journey along the way that made this a remarkable project.
JG: What or who have been your historical inspirations as a landscape architect?
CM: I was fortunate to be raised in Oregon and have family throughout the state. Growing up, I was exposed to Oregon’s beauty, frequently visiting family in the high desert, Rogue Valley, and the coast, while being raised in the Portland area. Through this exposure to contrasting natural landscapes, I developed an appreciation for natural beauty in many forms, and I grew up with the belief that access to open spaces, whether protected natural areas or designed parks, is an important aspect in our lives. I was further inspired by the designed and developed park spaces in the community where I lived. In Portland, the parks I visited included the park blocks, which were an outgrowth of the Olmsted Brothers’ parks plan, and Forecourt Fountain, by Lawrence Halprin, where I was exposed to varied styles in landscape design, and to the positive influence of open space in the urban environment.
JG: Tell us a little about the next phases of this project?
Walker Macy will not have a role in the final stage of this project, which is focused on seating modifications in the Angus Bowmer Theatre. OSF is in the final stages of design work necessary to remodel a portion of the theater’s auditorium to add more seating areas for patrons in wheelchairs and their companions. When that work is done they will have seven wheelchair spaces and seven companion spaces, all accessible via the elevator installed in Phase I. This work is being designed by Hacker Architects and performed by Adroit Construction, and construction is expected to take place in November and December.
— Ashland resident Jeffrey Gillespie is a Daily Tidings columnist, arts reviewer and freelance writer. Email him at email@example.com.