Swire Siegel Office Front Door Veggie Garden at the SSLA Office Swire Siegel Vegetable Garden

Design Philosophy

The firm grew out of the “Design with Nature” movement begun by the late Ian McHarg which has become the basis of ecological planning today. In light of such pressing environmental issues as global warming and increasing pollution of air and water in the developed world we believe that this design philosophy is critical to the survival of the human species. The firm’s overriding goal is to create designs that achieve the desired use potential, express the historic, artistic, cultural aspects of the place while adhering to a harmonious relationship with the natural environment. The result is a space that not only functions well and fits with the surrounding physical landscape but transforms into something that has many levels of appreciation and interest.

In the diverse range of park and school projects, Swire Siegel develops unique and creative solutions to make the most out of every bit of unused, poorly designed, or neglected space to transform the most unappealing sites into useable jewels. Swire Siegel’s work in restoring nature’s beauty makes us a firm which specializes in “Partnerships with Nature”.

History

Swire Siegel was started by Principal Ronnie Swire Siegel in New York City, New York in 1982.

In New York City in the 1980’s, Swire Siegel’s work focused on urban public spaces with an effort to bring nature back into overbuilt urban settings. Especially important to the firm were those public spaces that had been in neglect for so many years but were such a critical factor to the well being of their surrounding neighborhoods. In 1987 Swire Siegel relocated to southern California where the firm expanded its scope and expertise to include not only public parks but city streetscapes, public and private school campuses, and residential gardens. Currently the majority of the firm’s work is in Southern California and focuses on designing unique parks and outdoor environments for children of all ages on school campuses.

Experience

Ronnie Siegel, the principal of the firm, has over thirty years of experience as a landscape architect working both in the states of New York, Virginia, and California. She has studied at Dartmouth College, and the University of Manchester, England, received a Bachelors of Arts from Colgate University and a Master of Landscape Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania.

Ronnie Siegel has had significant experience in designing school grounds, public parks, playgrounds, and child care centers. In New York City, she designed 5 large public neighborhood parks, and worked for Phil Winslow to prepare the first Historic Landscape Master Plan in this country. This project encompassed a study of 33 acres of a portion of Central Park in New York City known as the Ramble and included a site analysis, an historic landscape study, and a master plan for the area’s restoration. Ronnie’s drawings for this project were exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and Harvard University.

In California more recently Ms. Siegel completed a design for Mayors’ Discovery Park which included unusual features intended to engage children in creative play in the outdoor environment. The historical use of the site as a Caltrans park and ride lot was expressed symbolically in the many play adventures and subtle aesthetic elements found in the park. One such example is a buried model of the adjacent freeway interchange in a large sand play area ready for discovery. Teaming up with Sautter Architecture, JOMA Design, and local ceramic artists the park was enriched with an undulating shade arbor and a hands on waterway fountain used to float hand made boats. One of several phases of Memorial Park Playground in La Cañada Flintridge, Ronnie worked with Artist Mark Lere to integrate artwork into the park design and play experience. Ronnie has spent much time volunteering with parents, teachers, and children to plant gardens that enhance the educational experience. One such example is a native plant garden for Paradise Canyon Elementary School, a public school in La Cañada Flintridge, designed to be used as an outdoor educational resource lab. Ms. Siegel has designed and built a California Native Plant demonstration garden for Sunset Magazine in the Los Angeles Arboretum. She has completed plans for numerous preschool, elementary school, and high school grounds and campuses in the Los Angeles area including her ongoing work in a phased design for the Child Educational Center, Jet Propulsion Lab’s affiliated child care facility in La Cañada Flintridge. Through this association Ms. Siegel was involved running a workshop and providing consulting to the Child Educational Center’s Outdoor Classroom Project. This 5 year long First 5 LA funded project provided 20 workshops and assistance to up to 1000 centers in the Los Angeles area to create enriching outdoor play spaces in their child care facilities.

Specialty

In Southern California, Swire Siegel specializes in the use of native plants and plantings with low water requirements and overall designs that are sensitive to both environmental constraints of climate, topography and resources.

Over the past 15 years the firm has focused its attention to the problems faced by children in and around urban areas. More often than ever children are not being given the time, the protected natural outdoor space, and freedom to explore, exercise, and use their minds creatively in non-prescribed play. Children at very young ages are spending most of their waking hours at preschool and school facilities. There is a shortage of open ended safe outdoor play havens in neighborhoods and schools. We believe that surroundings influence behavior and emotions and that the natural settings support an ideal environment for nurturing the human mind and body. As such our goals for the design of play environments are to create spaces that serve the primary function of our clients, in a way which encourages children’s natural creativity and curiosity, promotes physical fitness and health while at the same time strengthens their innate bonds with the natural world.

The firm currently is working closely with a diverse number of child care centers in southern California and was part of a large state grant used to bring this design philosophy and practical advice to facilities throughout the Los Angeles area.