New visual work

New visual work by Prairieform's John Kamp
Third of four.
New visual work by John Kamp of Prairieform
Second of four.
New visual work by John Kamp of Prairieform
Fourth of four.
Cover for new DJ set by Prairieform's DJ alter-ego, Johnnycakes.
First of four. Cover for new DJ set by Prairieform’s DJ alter-ego, Johnnycakes.

A few examples of the visual work I have been working on. I’ve made a conscious decision to push the work away from collage – a medium I’ve become too comfortable with, and, well, a medium that has just become too ubiquitous in this day and age. These new compositions are the result of a combination of chance and intention – perhaps reflecting the subconscious and the conscious experiences of the world. DJ set for the one just above in the works.

John Kamp

Transportation design and its failure to consider user experience

The caged-in walkway from Coliseum BART to the Amtrak station as experienced by John Kamp and Ian Griffiths
The caged-in walkway from Coliseum BART to the Amtrak station

See our recent video/blog collaboration with Ian Griffiths of Seamless Bay Area on the abysmal experience of making connections between transportation systems and lines within the Bay Area. In this case, we profiled the experience of transferring from Coliseum BART to the Coliseum Amtrak station. Mild spoiler alert: the transfer experience is beyond lousy – and, frankly, unsafe. Watch the video and read more HERE.

Voilà le grid!

The final grid for the #ButterflyRedux landscape - where the colors indicate plant species, the squares location, and the number plant quantity (one square = 1 plant unless otherwise noted)
The final grid for the #ButterflyRedux landscape – where the colors indicate plant species, the squares location, and the number plant quantity (one square = one plant unless otherwise noted)

Everything’s been tallied, noted, filled in: 28 plant species in total within the #ButterflyRedux landscape, and 138 plants in total. The most dominant species thus far is the Zizea aurea, while the least dominant so far are Asclepias speciosa, Betula poulifolia ‘White Spire’, Hylotelephium spectabile ‘Autumn Joy’, Liatris aspera, Liatris pychostachya, Liatris spicata ‘Kobold’, Pycnanthemum verticillatum var. pilosum, Schizachyrium scoparium, Silene regia, and Vernonia fasciculata (all are thus far single plants within the landscape).

Come May of next year, we will be repeating the process all over again – laying down the grid, noting the species, location, and quantity. More likely than not, a new grid of a different composition will emerge, as the landscape will undoubtedly have already evolved – some plants multiplying, some staying in place, and some perhaps saying, “So long.” Anyway, stay tuned for more updates on the project.

-John Kamp

We’ve signed a book contract!

Prairieform's John Kamp and James Rojas of Place It! have just signed a book contract with Island Press!
Prairieform’s John Kamp and James Rojas of Place It! have just signed a book contract with Island Press!

Yep, it’s official: we’re writing a book – along with James Rojas of Place it! The book’s topic will, in a nutshell, be about creative, hands-on, and sensory-based ways of doing community engagement for urban design, landscape, and planning projects. We’re at an all-hands-on-deck moment with so many issues in our country and world at this point and time, so engaging everyone in the process – regardless of background, language ability, culture – is critical. More details as they come.

-John Kamp

Weed or native plant?

In a landscape of native plants and young seedlings, it can be a true chore to tell the difference between the ones you want and the weeds you don't
In a landscape of native plants and young seedlings, it can be a true chore to tell the difference between the ones you want and the weeds you don’t. This is what the #ButterflyRedux landscape looked like pre-weeding.

There is many a native plant that when young (or even when not in bloom) looks like a weed – or could be confused for one. Even though I’ve been a landscape designer doing design/build for 10 years, there are times where even I’m not sure if the young plant I’m looking at is supposed to be there or is a volunteer of the weedy variety. This reality poses real challenges not simply for burgeoning gardeners who are looking to invite in a bit more of the wild but also for larger landscapes that require maintenance crews to keep the landscapes relatively weed-free. A certain level of skill and experience is required to discern the difference between emerging plants you want and the weeds you don’t, and a certain level of care is required as well, as these young plants are oftentimes relatively fragile and simply won’t take well to the traditional mow-and-blow treatment. Thus it is little wonder that default for so many landscapes great and small are cultivars, as their intentionality is readily apparent, and thus they are unlikely to be accidentally ripped out by a maintenance crew or an everyday gardener.

You wouldn't be scolded for confusing this hyssop seedling for stinging nettle or another such weed. They look extremely similar.
You wouldn’t be scolded for confusing this hyssop seedling for stinging nettle or another such weed. They look extremely similar.

In native-plant catalogues and in photos accompanying purchased, potted native plants, we most often are only presented with a pretty photo of the plant in bloom and close up. As such, we can be left in the dark when it comes to seedlings of the plants and what they look like when emerging. Additionally, we are left in the dark as to the overall form of the plant when it isn’t in bloom, thereby complicating the design of a landscape, as that form will be what people perceive most of the year, with the bloom merely lasting a couple of weeks.

A photo like this should accompany either a maintenance guide or the photo of the mature version of the plant. In this way, it can be clear that this is to be left and not pulled come spring or when the plant emerges.

Whether it be for the training of maintenance crews for a larger landscape, or for just your everyday gardener or designer of smaller landscapes, it is really high time that the photo of a plant – in particular those that could be confused for weeds – be accompanied by another photo of the plant when just emerging and young. As such, those maintaining or managing the landscape can know what to pull and what not to pull, and we’ll end up with fuller, more thriving landscapes in the process.

John Kamp