Haskell's Chris Flagg drawing on a sheet of paper.

August 7, 2020

5 Questions with Design Expert Chris Flagg

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Chris Flagg, AE Group Operations Principal, takes a moment to answer five questions about key issues for municipal and post-secondary professionals and how the right approach can relieve their challenges.

Enjoy this conversation with Chris.

1. What do you see as the biggest challenge for municipal clients in today’s environment?

The easy answer always points to funding, but from my standpoint, it’s more to do with clients truly understanding the value of a vision. When it comes to design, you must start with a clear, strategic plan of attack from those who make the primary decisions. From Mayors to City Managers to City Planning staffs, it takes an appreciation for creative planning to see what it can do to elevate the status of a community.

Municipally speaking, there is a great movement afoot to change the paradigm of the typical planning processes. Cities are more interested in the scale of the urban landscape, from building facades, to streetscapes and the spaces between buildings. The integration of these elements all lend to providing a more pleasing environment for the pedestrian.

Streets, for example, are being considered more like public spaces; not primarily for the automobile, but for bikers, pedestrians and alternative transit. More creative components are now being developed for drainage, streetscaping, pedestrian safety and traffic calming. They all work together to create more user-friendly environments.

Post-secondary education markets have been strapped by the economy the last few years, but there is now movement within that sector that seems more positive. We are currently working with upper level institutions, that are growing quickly, and coordinating our strengths with their needs.

A refined, strategic approach to our past relationships is key. As we continue to grow our strength of services internally, we can intentionally tailor our approach to each prospective client.

2. How is Haskell responding to help clients overcome these challenges?

By consistently securing and delivering successful projects like we have been, we can build momentum and carry that expertise beyond the borders of Florida. I want us to be known as a national prominence in both markets. There is no reason this can’t be achieved with the talent level we have.

With collaborative opportunities, clients will experience our full range of design-build services. By realizing our combined strengths as a front-end design entity, we can support our customers in the changing marketplace. Design matters!

3. You have a clear passion for landscape architecture. Tell us more about how this service helps your clients.

The beautiful thing about this profession is that it enables me to see the big picture. Just look around. Essentially everything from the ground up is an opportunity for improvement. By developing an early entry of a project through design – whether it is an urban design issue, community planning opportunity, transportation, anything related to the betterment for a city, neighborhood or community – I’ve been trained to consider all the elements of connectivity so that its aesthetic and function can be maximized through good design.

As an increasing number of clients realize this, they are becoming more open to investing in projects that can, and will, make a quality of life difference.

4. You’ve had a huge impact on the City of Jacksonville. What can you take from your urban planning experience to other cities looking to develop?

Knowing what I know about navigating through Jacksonville’s development regulations offers great knowledge in how to deal with other city processes!  It takes a great deal of local knowledge to deal with any city’s level of review. I’ve had the benefit of embedding myself over the last decade in multiple city endeavors, organizations, committees, etc., and have made many political contacts – all enhancing my experience in navigating these processes. It’s been extremely helpful to know the level of acceptance and appreciation for projects prior to moving forward with them.Every city has untapped potential. The value of vision, once defined, will always lead to a greater sense of community.

5. What interesting trends do you see on the horizon for urban planning/education/municipal?

The biggest trend is in the processes related to the development of more sustainable, multi-functional spaces and buildings. Everything now is beginning to relate to the diversity of use, whether it’s an urban space, a parking garage, a street or a campus facility. We consider how much use can be accommodated by this space or building. That, to me, can be a drastic improvement in our way of thinking as creators.

Technology is certainly an opportunity as well. Take virtual experiences, for instance. When it relates to the human experience, the way we use a space or facility directly affects our ability to plan on so many levels. This, I believe, defines the opportunity to become more creative in the early phases of design. With vision, there could be such an expansive approach to historically ordinary items. Landscapes become self-contained eco-systems. Material and natural resource re-use in all elements of design becomes commonplace. Streets, for instance, can become usable public spaces safely enjoyed by all. Parking garages can become multi-functional works of art that you just happen to be able to park within. Spaces between buildings in the urban environment can become activity hubs for gathering, entertainment or contemplative use. These all serve as examples of new trends.

We utilize urban design principles in both the municipal and education arena. It’s all about creating a pleasing, multifunctional environment. Everyone knows a great place when they experience it. We aim to continue creating those memorable experiences for our clients using high design. By focusing on our clients’ objectives, we can position ourselves to be the recognized resource to deliver those experiences.

6. Do you have anything else you want to add? Any fun facts you want to share?

Actually, yes. I have a true passion for watercolor painting. My profession has enabled me to exploit my drawing, rendering and illustration skills. This led to my love for watercolor, being the most expressive medium for me.

I’m more of a realist when painting, but because watercolor is so spontaneous, it lets me loosen up naturally. I enjoy plein air painting, outdoors and on-site, so I can make quick decisions and not fester about the details. My subject matter is vast, usually what interests me, but overall, I like to paint anything that has a sense of character.

Haskell delivers more than $1 billion annually in Architecture, Engineering, Construction (AEC) and Consulting solutions to assure certainty of outcome for complex capital projects worldwide. Haskell is a global, fully integrated, single-source design-build and EPC firm with over 1,800 highly specialized, in-house design, construction and administrative professionals across industrial and commercial markets. With 20+ office locations around the globe, Haskell is a trusted partner for global and emerging clients.

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