Inside the Design of Kona Gray



Continuing the celebration of landscape architecture and the life and work of Dan Kiley, Center For Architecture Sarasota last night hosted a multi-media presentation from Kona Gray, a principal architect at EDSA, the office founded by Ed D. Stone, Jr. Gray, a notable landscape architect, friend and colleague of Kiley, shared his thoughts on Kiley, the history of design, the nature of creativity and the future of landscape architecture.

“What we build matters, and we must think about what we build,” said Gray, positioning the role of designer or architect as not only an aesthetic occupation but, at it’s height, as a forward-thinking and multi-disciplinary engine for better living. Issues such as sustainability in design require the landscape architect to think beyond the present, with an eye to future growth and use. Understanding the people, the land and its shared history leads architects to infuse their work with a human aspect that connects to and nurtures the soul as it pleases the eye. “It’s about working out problems in an interdisciplinary way,” he said. “What you can do to try and create a wonderful place for a human being.”

And the principles and practices that guided Kiley in his day can still apply today, even as the aesthetic evolves.

Globetrotting from country to country for projects, EDSA’s work spans from Baltimore to Beijing, with recent heavy involvement in North Africa, particularly Egypt. And if Gray had one bit of advice last night for aspiring landscape architects and designers, it would be to travel. Principles can be learned, he said, but innovation comes from experience and moving beyond one’s comfort zone. “Design is everywhere,” he said, crediting each of the countless stamps on his multiple passports as inspiration and avenues to insight.

“It’s important to educate our community and raise the awareness of the importance of what we build and where we build it,” said Sandra Motto, vice chair on the Center for Architecture Sarasota board of directors, as to the impetus behind Gray’s visit and CFAS’ ongoing programming. “You can’t be inspired without being educated, and I hope the information we bring can be used to make our community even more beautiful and sustainable.”

Further opportunities to explore the built environment with CFAS will be Mar. 13, with a coastal landscape and home tour of Aquadisia at the Sanderling Club (registration required) and then an Atelier Talk on Mar. 16 with Mark Sultana of DSDG Architects. The exhibit, “The Landscape Architecture Legacy of Dan Kiley,” will remain on display at CFAS through Mar. 15.

Pictured: Kona Gray

Center For Architecture, Sarasota

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