What we do

WALLIS ANNENBeRG WILDLIFE CROSSING

Agoura Hills, California

The Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing project is the culmination of decades of research and planning by a number of incredible individuals and organizations. Rock Design Associates has the distinct honor of working with a team of exceptional researchers, collaborators, innovators, and experts in their respective fields on the design, documentation, and construction of this bold and visionary piece of ecological infrastructure in Southern California.
Currently in construction over the 101 freeway north of Los Angeles in Agoura Hills, California, the project combines engineering, ecology, design, science, and research into what some have referred to as the most hopeful construction project on the planet. This monumental effort involves the collaboration of five core project partners; Caltrans, the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, the National Park Service, the National Wildlife Federation and the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains along with a number of additional supporting agencies and organizations.
The plight of the California mountain lion, known worldwide as P22, has catalyzed this passionate support for what will be the world's largest wildlife crossing. Sadly, Griffith Park’s most notorious bachelor passed in December 2022, but his spirit continues to drive the work of the project team in the hopes that this critical piece of infrastructure will provide a connected habitat for his fellow mountain lions along with a number of other wildlife species that call the Santa Monica Mountains home.
Since 2019, during his time at Living Habitats and continuing in his capacity as the President & CEO of Rock Design Associates, Rock has been directing the design and collaborating with Caltrans District 7 on the preparation of the final engineering drawings and overseeing the construction of Stage 1. In addition, the RDA team is continuing the ongoing efforts with the project team to develop outreach and communication materials for the project as well as collaborating with scientists, researchers, and academics to infuse the design with the best available knowledge and advances in related fields of study.
Greek Theater Images via Getty Images

WALLIS ANNENBeRG WILDLIFE CROSSING
LEGO® BUILD

LEGO IDEAS® Competition Entry 2023

Imagined by Rock as a playful way to share the message of wildlife connectivity and the creative potential of the field of landscape architecture, this LEGO Ideas® competition entry was inspired by the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing being built north of Los Angeles, California. Through this use of a beloved building material that inspires children and adults alike, the Wildlife Crossing comes to life complete with minifigures for select wildlife species that will eventually benefit from the construction of this hopeful and critical piece of ecological infrastructure. If you haven’t already, please consider voting for this LEGO Ideas® competition entry HERE.

This project was completed by Rock in collaboration with the Martin Egemo, aka TMX Brick Notes, while at Living Habitats.

ROBBINS
STORMWATER PARK

Robbins, Illinois

Currently in construction, this first phase of the Vision for Robbins Master Plan, combines resilient infrastructure with a community-centric design approach, transforming gray infrastructure into framework for future community assets. Once completed, this ambitious project will not only accommodate the 100-year storm event, but it will also become a vibrant recreational and social amenity for the Village of Robbins.
The park features innovative engineering strategies and creative reuse of on-site materials including the repurposing of stone that was excavated during the creation of the drainage features. The stone, taken out to form the channel that connects to the Cal-Sag Channel at the northern end of the site, was reused to armor the channel edges and create a safe-water zone at the confluence for kayaks, canoes, and other personal water use devices. The first stage of park construction to the north of Claire Boulevard was completed in 2023 and the second stage of the park construction is scheduled to begin construction in 2024.
Future phases of the award-winning Vision for Robbins Master Plan include the potential for a adjacent transit-Oriented Development District as well as an Energy District that will continue to serve this historic community south of the Chicago metropolitan area. Rock led the design of this project and oversaw the construction of the first stage of this project while at Living Habitats.

Center for The Arts at University of Illinois Chicago

Chicago, Illinois

The OMA & Koo team was selected to design the Center for the Arts, a vision that will become an iconic gateway for the University located at the northeastern corner of the UIC campus. Envisioned as a space that comingles the campus and the commons and celebrates the arts, the site plays off of the program hosted in the building using musical scales to inform the site patterns and gestures.
During his tenure at Living Habitats, Rock led the design for the site and directed the LH team working on the competition entry.

ARC Wildlife Crossing Competition Winner

West Vail Pass, Colorado

This competition winning entry from the MVVA + HNTB team combines high-quality design, site-specific ecology, and precision engineering into a solution that is both cost effective and elegantly simple. At the core of the design is the premise that this landscape is not for humans. Rather than allowing the human-centric drivers like aesthetics to drive the landscape solution, the team focused on the demands of ecological engineering and habitat health. This echoed through to the modularity of the structural solution, opting for modularity and scalability as a means of allowing this design approach to be integrated into any number of locations where logistics might prove challenging.
This project, along with a number of other wildlife crossing projects in the years since, have become precedent studies for landscape architectural curricula, highlighting the importance of habitat connectivity in the profession and inspiring the next generation of professionals.
This competition winning entry was led by Rock while at Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates in Brooklyn, New York.

Discovery Partners Institute

Chicago, Illinois

The Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) will serve as the anchor for the mega-development along the Chicago River that is know as “The 78” as the first project to break ground in this new Chicago neighborhood. This new headquarters for DPI, a part of the University of Illinois System, is intended as a hub for innovation and as a deliberate connection between the South Loop and Chinatown. The project team lead by OMA and Jacobs, envisioned a project that embraces the public realm with an openness at the lowest level that invites the city in.  
Positioned along the new Wells-Wentworth connector just south of 15th street, the new DPI will have an prestigious new address along the Chicago River and will be woven in to the broader 78 neighborhood. The urban site plan, though compressed, offers echoes of historic uses in the integration of wooden site elements that lend a subtle nod to an area that was once the epicenter of the timber industry.
Rock served as the design principal and principal in charge of this project from the competition phase through the end of construction documentation while at Living Habitats.

Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment

Princeton University, Princeton, NJ

Nestled into the fabric of the Engineering Quad on the eastern side of the Princeton campus, this collaboration between Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects and Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates serves as a careful scaler shift between the residential fabric that extends beyond the campus to the east and south and the larger institutional context of the campus environment to the north and west. By comingling the architectural volumes and the landscape fabric the project provides a connection between inside and out that is unique and affords moments for quiet solitude and gatherings alike.
Rock completed this project while at Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates in Brooklyn, New York.

teardrop park south

New York, NY

As a continuation of the famed Teardrop Park in Battery Park City, this project features two prominent water features crafted from New York bluestone, an amphitheater to accommodate events held at the Poet’s House, and an array of heliostats that reflect natural sunlight down into this intimate courtyard nestled within 2 River Terrace. With an eye toward sustainability, the stormwater that reaches the park is captured for reuse and the water features, one with a bold flow and the other a gentle rippling, leverage a recirculating system. This ambitious construction project masks perhaps the most innovative trait in that it is perched atop a two story parking garage, requiring careful coordination with the architectural and engineering team to ensure that the two spaces exist in harmony.
Rock oversaw the construction of this project while at Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates in Brooklyn, New York.

Guthrie Memorial Revitalization

Riverside, Illinois

This thoughtful and deliberate analysis of alternatives for the revitalization of Riverside’s Veteran’s Memorial, located within the heart of the Village, was completed by Rock while at Living Habitats. Conceptual design studies followed a thoughtful site analysis exercise and examined the scale, visitor access, and possible locations to honor the lives of the fallen. The materials prepared in this initial visioning process were crafted to enable the Village with flexible alternatives as they looked to build additional support for the project and identify funding sources. This conceptual study was directed by Rock while at Living Habitats.

CANMORE WILDLIFE CROSSING STUDY

Canmore, Alberta, Canada

Working in collaboration with the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, Rock directed a conceptual study for wildlife connectivity within the province of Alberta that focused on critical linkages for at-risk and keystone species just outside of Banff National Park near Canmore. Through a course of several months of meetings with wildlife biologists and several key stakeholders, the team identified possible locations for wildlife connectivity investment including locations for wildlife crossing structures and habitat restoration. Like other highways across the globe that facilitate the need for human connections and mobility, the Trans-Canada Highway cuts through critical habitat, fragmenting once connected natural landscapes. By leveraging the expertise of specialists in field of wildlife biology and road ecology, solutions can be developed to mitigate for this sort of habitat fragmentation and begin to reconnect once contiguous landscapes.

This project was completed by Rock while at Living Habitats.

The Meadoway and Ontario 401

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The Meadoway is an ambitious transformation of a hydro corridor into a linear park and long-term community resource. As an early phase study at the intersection of the park and Highway 401, this conceptual assessment included alternatives for pedestrian and bicycle access, wildlife crossing infrastructure, habitat linkages, combined use structures, and access to open space and public areas all the way to the lake.

This study was completed by Rock while at Living Habitats.

Private Residence

Chicago, Illinois

Looking to refresh the grounds of their Chicago bungalow, the clients wanted to improve the site’s permeability, reduce their amount of lawn, increase planting diversity, and introduce raised planters to ease access. Concrete pathways in front of the home, along the side of the property, and the access walk to the garage were reimagined with local salvaged brick and decomposed granite infill. Trees, shrubs, and perennials were selected to balance aesthetic preferences and the need for a pet-friendly space.  Raised planters, created with sustainably harvested cypress timbers, introduced unique geometries to the backyard and raised the native pollinator / cutting garden to a height that eased maintenance access while also separating these frequently tended spaces from pet traffic at the yard level.

This project was completed by Rock while at Living Habitats.

Swan Pond Restoration

Riverside, Illinois

Once a feature element of Frederick Law Olmsted’s design in the Village of Riverside, Swan Pond had largely disappeared from its prominent location along the Des Plaines River. Initial studies by Rock while at Living Habitats included extensive research into the original design, historic uses, and the impacts on the site since its inception. While the full reconstruction of the original design was no longer feasible, the recommendations included the restoration of planting areas, revitalization of WPA era site elements, and a careful refresh of views and vistas initially present in Olmsted’s design.

The original design concepts, research, and site strategies were completed by Rock while at Living Habitats.

Visions for Robbins Master Plan

Robbins, Illinois

Located south of Chicago along Midlothian Creek, this historic community is subjected to the persistent threat of stormwater impacts due to its natural topography, increase in impervious surfaces, and threat from climate change. Flooding has continued to impact the community and this master planning effort was initiated to help address the need for critical infrastructure as well as identify possibilities for the future of the Village. Through a series of public meetings, collaboration with residents, and ongoing dialogue with elected officials, the team – which included SOM, Donohue Associates, and 2iM Engineering – developed a vision that leverages green infrastructure to address the flooding impacts without displacing any of the existing residents. In eliminating the long-standing flooding concerns, adjacent parcels are unlocked as possible locations for a Transit-Oriented Development District around the local METRA station and an Energy District located along the Cal Sag Channel. Lauded for its innovative and bold strategies the master plan was awarded the 2017 IL-ASLA Burnham Award for Planning and Analysis as well as the 2017 APA-IL Strategic Planning Award, garnering recognition for the project’s potential to serve as a roadmap for other communities within the region.

This project was completed by Rock while at Living Habitats.

Village Hall Landscape Revitalization

Bannockburn, Illinois

Like many communities in the Midwest and elsewhere, the damage from the Emerald Ash Borer is significant, quickly transforming sprawling woodlands into veritable graveyards for these once-staples of the canopy. Much of this transformation in the areas around the Village Hall in Bannockburn has resulted in other invasive species like Buckthorn making their way into previously wooded areas and choking out the native woodland species that might fill the void. In an effort to provide a road map for the restoration and rebuild of this critical canopy in the public space, a series of priorities where identified through discussion with Village staff and elected officials which then informed potential strategies for achieving them. By identifying possible locations for strategic interventions this planning study allowed the Village a framework to utilize existing resources and target future investments.

This project was completed by Rock while at Living Habitats.

Bird Friendly Plants of the Chicago Region

Chicago, Illinois

This useful reference graphic highlights several bird species that frequent the Chicago region and the plants that serve as habitat for them, highlighting six different plant features that are key in the relationship between plant and animal. Initially used to support dialogue with a local community group several years ago, this graphic has been used in a number of additional meetings and presentations to highlight how important it is to create accessible communication tools.

The creation of this communication graphic was directed by Rock while at Living Habitats.