Background and Philosophy
Robie Wilson Litchfield, RLA, ASLA, SITES AP
I am a mountain girl through and through. I was born and raised in the Truckee-North Lake Tahoe Region where my parents engaged me in the area’s rich natural environment and colorful ski resort history from birth. This is where my heart lies, in this community, this environment, this is home and has been my home for most of my life.
When I attended college at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo working on my degree in Landscape Architecture, I declared seven main requirements for my life and to begin my practice in the early 1990’s:
*I had to be able to drink tasty water from a tap and not from a bottle
*I had to be able to see bright stars against an inky backdrop sky, unfazed by surrounding light
*I had to be able to breath fresh clear air and not have to see what I was breathing
*I had to be able to witness wildlife in real life and not from some form of media
*There had to be four distinct seasons – Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
*Hiking and Skiing had to be accessible within minutes not hours
*My community had to be one that is rooted in the mountain way of life, one that embraces the simple things and not the trappings of the big city.
*Stop lights had to be few and far between
I love my profession; Landscape Architecture in its purest sense is, to me, one of the most noble of endeavors because I get to help people fit into their world in a way that brings about comfort and meaning while protecting, enhancing and restoring the land that supports them. A common mantra for Landscape Architects, “Stewardship for the Environment” resonates with me.
In the years since I began in this profession in 1990 I have worked doing everything from mountain resort planning to residential landscape design, park and recreation planning to watershed restoration design, stormwater management design to agency review as a commissioner. Along the way I worked alone and in large teams to bring about project development and in that process I have come to realize a few things:
Water enthralls me – in all its forms, processes and places – from tiny ice crystals to massive glaciers, whether in quiet stillness or a raging torrent, as mountain streams, rivers, waterfalls or lakes. All its beauty and power fills my soul.
Stormwater Management and Watershed Restoration features do not have to be ugly! To facilitate the use, protection and management of water in more artful and creative ways is really cool – to move away from the “standard practices” of Gray Infrastructure to more “sustainable practices” of Green Infrastructure – to leave behind a legacy of management through ART and Design rather than management through gravel would make my work fun and interesting!
I first became engaged in the possibilities for this when I was asked to join a Technical Advisory Committee for the development of a Low Impact Development Guidebook for Eastern Placer County. The committee included designers, engineers, a university scientist, agency personnel, representatives from local environmental and contractor organizations, a developer and was funded by Placer County, Sierra Nevada Conservancy and The Sierra Business Council. The upshot of the for me was that by restoring or mimicking natural systems, we could effectively reduce the need for gravel and pipes and thus reduce the burden that traditional stormwater management places on infrastructures of all types while creating a visually pleasing and highly functional form of stormwater management. The idea that infusing art and creativity into LID features, makes this practice even more inviting.
In the end of this process I also was able to provide some professional help by creating the LID plant list in Appendix A of the final document. The guidebook and information about the TAC can be found at here.
The collaborative process is the most effective way to bring about really good design whether the project is residential, public or commercial. My favorite projects all came out of the gathering of designers, engineers, clients, agencies, employees and end-users in one room to share and air dreams, ideas, opportunities and constraints. I have decided that design in a vacuum is not for me any longer.
Nature in all its forms and patterns intrigues me – it is the very essence and inspiration of art. Additionally, the convergence of art and science – now to be known as Art-Sci Converge has intriguing possibilities and challenges my mind.
Art is essential for our mental health and well-being and I have decided to be an advocate for
art in my community and in my life’s work. From Sports Team logos to Burning Man Sculptures to Picasso Paintings – there is some form of art that resonates with everyone and the expression of one’s home or community deserves to bear some form of excellent creativity.
So much of what Landscape Architecture is about is the melding of art, science and technology into a setting or place that is dynamic and ever-changing while embracing and embodying that change.
If all this resonates with you, then please contact me to discuss how we can collaboratively work together to create unique your place on the land.
If you are only looking for planting and irrigation plans, I encourage you to please look to another design firm.
I have had the pleasure of working closely with Robie for over a decade. Her innovative thinking, calm approach, and ability to work with diverse entities makes her a highly effective partner. Her dedication to the Truckee River watershed is impressive.
Director of Restoration Programs
Truckee River Watershed Council
Robie not only provided an outstanding and thoughtful landscape design for the Gene Upshaw Memorial Tahoe Forest Cancer Center, but her collaboration in the overall design process, particularly the snow shedding process and impacts, resulted in a building that is harmonious with our region.
Tahoe Forest Health System
I have known Robie Litchfield for many years first as a Planning Commissioner for the Town of Truckee and then as someone who provided professional services for the Truckee Donner Recreation & Park District. Most recently Robie has served as a commissioner and is the current chair of the Truckee Public Art Commission for TDRPD. I have always found Robie to be professional and very organized in everything she does. She is always prepared in advance of meetings and has great vision and insight into everything she works on. She works very well with people on a singular basis or in a group setting. Her ability to assess a project and bring forth the necessary elements is a great skill and one of her greatest assets.
Truckee Donner Recreation and Park District