RAFT works to find an ethical approach to building within today’s culture and climate. 

Every site is a specific location in which to refine our perspective on the big question: how should we build the world?  The answer is rarely obvious.  We have to be curious about the forces which have led each place to be the way we find it.  We must use all our senses, our compassion, and rhetorical skill to find an answer which matches clients goals to what we know in our hearts is the right and true purpose for this land. 

We look for places where are our skills are useful. 

Our drive to examine and solve physical puzzles could be sated by any number of design challenges.  But, we are intentional about where and with whom we collaborate.  We seek clients and colleagues who are prepared to look past their immediate goals to see how the investment of time and effort will touch larger issues of biodiversity, climate adaptation, physical culture, and humanity.  We organize our design process around critical questions raised by each project.

We take a nonbinary view of nature and culture.

At RAFT, we create built environments which help people ground themselves in their immediate environment and understand its relationship to the incomprehensible scale and scope of nature.  With sensitivity and focus, we can create immersive landscapes which amplify the specific qualities that make each place special.  Our work employs living materials to instill confidence and calm.  Our interventions are intended to generate feelings of surprise and delight. 

Our medium requires humility. 

To “make” landscape is to operate on living systems which resist control.  Great landscapes are made through a willingness to be uncertain, inexpert, and open to multiple outcomes.  Fixed shapes and bold patterns can be captivating.  But, they too often become the focus of design.  An editorial approach is more useful.  We succeed by organizing, highlighting, sequencing, and juxtaposing elements to reveal the magic inherent to each site.  We embrace the invisibility of our authorship. 

Our work challenges human disconnection from our animal-in-nature condition. 

Most land becomes duller and less alive when developed for human use.  The sights, sounds, and scents which shape the experience of being alive in a specific place are disrupted.  The wildness of nature is traded out for something tame and predictable.  These environments leave us cold.

We develop strategies for treating the land with care. 

Project constraints too often lead us to replace indigenous materials and ecologies with the products of industrial production: pre-grown plants, mass-produced materials, and standardized solutions.  The resulting landscapes are fragile and toxic; chemicals and mechanical systems are required to keep them alive.  We advocate for less carbon intensive construction and horticultural methods which are better adapted to change.

We strive to restore humanity to our collaborations.

Each project offers us the opportunity to develop relationships with a new set of people in a new place.  The most innovative work happens in environments where people feel safe to express themselves.  We work to name power dynamics and build empathy for the competitive pressures which lead people to mistreat one another.  Our efforts help us stay connected to the joy and sense of purpose we derive from creating new environments in which people can thrive.