AG kicked off 2019 with a Design Challenge. In the spirit of innovation, the Design Committee invited all team members to participate in a charrette in order to explore activating an outdoor space at one of its existing projects.

With food service continuing to be one of the hot topics in the senior living industry, the ground floor casual dining and coffee shop space provided an opportunity to extend the dining experience outside. The challenge was to present a concept that activates this outdoor space while addressing views of nearby parking and carports. The goal was to create a distinct destination where residents forget that they are several feet away from the parking lot.

This exercise was about idea generation, so no burdensome budget limitations. Participants were allowed to let their imaginations run wild. There were no guidelines for how to visually communicate the concept, but solutions needed to provide a brief concept statement or detailed notes with formal oral presentations to the Design Committee.



a sense of community

Best Concept – Chris Doerner

The Event Garden 

This concept is about further exploring how AG can create a sense of community. In addition to providing remarkable places for senior to live, how can we take it a step further and make our projects a destination for the community at-large. What can we do to provide venues that host concerts, fairs, car shows, or other entertainment opportunities that would gather the families and friends of residents? Chris felt this project provided the perfect opportunity to do just that.

In order to explore activating an outdoor space, he believed that a stage would be a good starting point. The available space already lends itself to serve as a small amphitheater, so he positioned it accordingly. To block the view of the parking lot, a standard fence could be used, or a lath fence could serve as a green wall. He thought a garden cradled by this element, the stage, and the building, would be most utilized if the residents could partake in growing and nurturing it. He felt raised planters or flower beds would be safer for residents than having them work at ground level, and the ratio of pavement and grass should be investigated similarly. As a final touch, he imagined a small water element, such as a reflecting pool, fountain, or koi pond, would complete the atmosphere.

His intent was to create a space that would see daily use as an activity destination for residents who like to garden, as well as a beautiful place to have lunch outside. During evenings and weekends, it could serve as a venue with regular programming, such as private concerts or arts performances. He also anticipated that the nearby parking lot provides an opportunity to host car shows, making the garden a great place for the accompanying barbecue lunch.

“The concept submitted by Chris truly represents the essence of AG. He led with a sense of community and found a way to make this senior living campus a destination for the greater community. His design addresses ways to enhance resident life on a daily basis while supporting a variety of gatherings.”  – Design Committee


explore activating an outdoor space

Best Oral Presentation – Stephanie Yahr

Stephanie gained inspiration from the local landscape, specifically the Garden of the Gods Park.  Inspired by the beautiful rock formations, she didn’t want to try to replicate this natural wonder.  She interpreted the rock formations as a series of walls clad in a local stone that matches the colors and texture of the formations in the park. She also took note of two distinct textures in the area foliage, a combination of rough, darker evergreens closer to the formations as well as softer, lighter grass as it transitions away for the rocks. She integrated plantings surrounding the walls to offer a similar texture and visual interest.

“Not only did Stephanie have one of the most poetic concepts, she did a nice job of succinctly and thoughtfully sharing her ideas in a professional and organized manner. This is an important skillset and her efforts are congratulated. We enjoyed her creative interpretation of the Garden of the Gods.” – Design Committee


All of the participants offered creative solutions with details that can be explored for future projects.


explore activating an outdoor space

Jarincy Flores & Mary Vandersteeg

Jarincy and Mary teamed up to explore activating an outdoor space. They wanted to give the residents their own backyard by creating an outdoor sunken courtyard four feet below the ground level. The railings atop the perimeter provide a clearly defined space without obstructing the desired views of the Colorado landscape. This strategy helps obstruct the view of the carports immediately next to it. In the courtyard, they offer a central fireplace with casual seating. On the north end, a monumental water feature with a stream that runs through was meant to reflect the natural beauty of Colorado and its climate. Immediately along the retaining wall is an activity space allowing resident to interact with the site through gardening. They also have the opportunity to use the planters in the courtyard, bringing the natural aspects of the site back to the communal space. Along the eastern wall is a bar with high top tables and chairs to provide another aspect to outdoor dining. The sunken courtyard provides residents with an outdoor communal space meant to be used for not only outdoor dining, but to be seen as a retreat at the end of the day and a space ready for any occasion.

“We applaud Jarincy and Mary for stepping outside of their comfort zone to stretch both their artistic thinking and technical skill set.” – Design Committee


explore activating an outdoor space

Dave Manke

Taking full advantage of the outdoor connection, Dave’s concept provides residents with the ultimate backyard experience. Inspired by the local landscape, he used boulders, pavers, native plantings and heavy timbers as a palette of materials. Large fireplaces anchor lounge and dining spaces, creating destinations for gathering and enjoying the outdoors.

“Dave brought a true home sweet home feel to the community with his concept and a solution with an authentic Colorado aesthetic.” -Design Committee


explore activating an outdoor space

Justin Koeppler

Justin’s concept was inspired by the planar and layering quality of the rock formations at The Garden of the Gods Park. He used a metal canopy structure to create a framework for developing spatial relationships between dining, relaxing and gathering. Tilt up garage doors were used instead of traditional doors or windows. This creates a clear opening between inside and out while also providing a canopy that tables can be positioned under. To reflect the rich red hues of the area’s soil and rock formations, corten steel was used to screen and divide the multiple exterior “rooms.” Laser cut sheets provide filtered light and the abstract patterns we inspired from the organic web of trails that currently exist on the site. The use of a xeriscape rather than a traditional garden provides a landscape experience with reduced maintenance. The parking lot was screened with the use of decorative panels and dense landscape. Instead of using all screen panels, dense plantings are contained within a bay of the metal structure. The retaining wall was articulated to create relief and shadows for visual interest. Colorful lights make an artistic statement to the colorful landscape of the xeriscape gardens.

Justin also offered a poetic concept that explored the Garden of the Gods but continued to give the solution regional context by referencing the xeriscape and existing trails of the surrounding area. The layering of the spaces and the wayfinding strategy combined with the modern edge and material exploration make this a carefully considered and well-presented concept.” – Design Committee


explore activating an outdoor space

Alec Uecke

And then there is Alec. Although he didn’t submit an official entry, we thank him for adding humor to the process. A water park is definitely a way to explore activating an outdoor space–and a way to infuse intergenerational energy into a community. His out-of-the-box thinking is encouraged for the next charrette.