MONDAY | NOV 13 | 4PM | AB100


Nate Cormier, ASLA, PLA, LEED AP, is the managing studio director and a landscape architect at RIOS international design firm.

Cormier’s interest in landscape design as a form of storytelling drew him to Los Angeles after two decades of practice in Seattle and a Masters in Landscape Architecture from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. Nate’s projects, including downtown central parks in Denver, Houston, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Palm Springs, unearth stories of place as catalysts for authentic urban life. Nate teaches and lectures on landscape design at universities and conferences around the country. He has been active on the boards of the national Landscape Architecture Foundation and numerous urban environmental and civic groups.

His current research interest centers around dimensions of wellness in the built environment. Examples include techniques for thermal comfort to address extreme heat and cold, incentives to encourage fitness and active living, and community configurations that inspire greater social interaction and community pride.

More about the lecture

“As designers, we should inspire pride and care for the places where we are fortunate to work,” Mr. Cormier says. “A critical precursor to caring is curiosity. Psychologists and educators have long sought to understand how curiosity works and how we might recruit it to grow more engaged citizens and more enthusiastic learners. How can curiosity also influence the way we design and enjoy landscapes?  

“Over 25 years of practice, I’ve learned that design leadership requires achieving consensus around a shared vision of what is worthy of place making and place keeping. Thoughtful design amplified through the prism of stakeholder engagement daylights “hyperlocal histories” that reveal the unique stories and contexts that make a place deeply meaningful”

This presentation outlines a co-creative process of research, experimentation, and craft (REC).

  • Research is about immersion in a place. Rich Haag famously told clients he would only design for a site on which he had spent the night. It was a playful way of emphasizing the importance of specific and multisensory knowledge of a place and its inhabitants. Sharing the insights discovered in this stage with a community inevitably invites lots of additional insights from these local experts.   
  • Experimentation leverages the rich source material gathered in the research stage to generate an abundance of imaginative creative outputs, from poetry and artwork to sketches and models. Sharing the artifacts developed in this stage provokes emotional reactions from community collaborators that allow a designer to attune their instincts toward design ideas with the greatest potential resonance.
  • Craft involves editing away most of the ideas explored in the experiment stage to reveal and refine the most impactful design direction in an iterative conversation with stakeholders. The REC cycle can be repeated at increasingly finer levels of precision from an overall design concept and program through design development to construction detailing and installation.  

Mr. Cormier will share a series of case studies of the REC cycle in action. Grand Park offered a democratic space for all citizens of the Los Angeles region and catalyzed a renaissance of urban living in DTLA. 1 Hotel WeHo is a nature forward hotel on the Sunset Strip that brings the spirit of hiking the Hollywood Hills to the hospitality visitor. Palm Springs Downtown Park is an inviting oasis inspired by indigenous ways of keeping cool in the harsh desert climate. And Wyatt Square is a showcase for performing arts in Downtown Houston’s Theater District. Each designed place is a distinct reflection of the unique qualities of its surroundings and the serendipity of a sincere collaborative process.

Four learning objectives 

  • Understand how early site and context research is essential for design innovation. 
  • Recognize opportunities for stakeholder input to meaningfully influence design outcomes.  
  • Appreciate the power of collaboration and co-creation…among designers and with stakeholders.  
  • Observe the role of detailing and craft in reinforcing the conceptual story of a place. 

ECAP lectures are free and open to the public. For more information about the lecture email

Continuing education credits have been applied for from our partners at AIA and LACES.

  AIA Continuing Education