ASLA Merit Award to Nathan Lahy

Posted on | General

three ships coffee vibe district virginia beach asla awards

August 2018 – Congratulations to MSA Landscape Architect Nathan Lahy! Nathan’s project, Three Ships Coffee Roasters, was selected as a Merit Award recipient in the Community Service category. The 2018 VA ASLA Professional and Student Awards Program was juried by ASLA members from across the eastern United States and representing a range of professional practices.

The project goal at Three Ships Coffee Roasters was to develop a patio space signifying an extension of the business’ role as a destination for community gatherings and as an
advocate for environmentally sound practices. This project came about when the owners of this business were forced to move locations. This new location previously existed as a shop and showroom for a custom flooring manufacturer. The site was covered by asphalt, concrete, turf, and gravel. The existing landscape consisted of a few overgrown, non-native evergreen shrubs and an out-of-scale cedar tree. The shrubs, stuffed full of beer cans, and the cedar tree, planted a few feet from the building foundation blocking a third of the façade, were removed.  The primary objective of the project was to create a patio space with very little money in the budget available for exterior improvements. The design philosophy and intent were to use found and recycled plant material and reclaimed lumber, which the owner and landscape architect subsequently designed and constructed on site.  The role of the landscape architect on this project included custom seating design and construction, existing plant material inventory and selection, and landscape design and installation.

The significance of this local business is what makes this project special. What started as a coffee roasting operation out of a garage selling beans at the local farmer’s market,
grew to a retail pop-up out of a trailer and finally to a brick and mortar shop now serving as a hub of community activity. Supporting the local arts community, hosting non-profit fund raiser events, and organizing grass roots efforts to preserve mature open spaces from development are a few of the significant activities that occur here. It was imperative for the design of the patio space to be an extension of these beliefs of sustainability and community stewardship.  The uniqueness of this project arises from the fact that there was nearly no budget for the landscape or custom seating, yet it was one of the owner’s most desired features.  The custom seating and planter boxes were primarily constructed from lumber the business owner stockpiled by digging through the trash piles of construction sites, with permission, in the surrounding neighborhoods where many older, traditional residential building were being replaced by new construction. The plant material was all sourced, with permission, from the adjacent business and the owner’s residence. This resulted in a space designed and created with repurposed and transplanted materials directly related to the project site. Upon taking an inventory of the plant material, the landscape architect prepared a design based on what was available for re-use.  Ornamental grasses and perennials were split, young suckering growth from agave and yucca plants transplanted, while the lone cactus was found perishing in a dumpster and given a new life.


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