Leesville landscape

Leesville landscape

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Leesville landscape architect Tom MacGregor has designed or is currently involved in many of the recent projects of the Lee County Council of Governments. It was the first place he got a job, back in 1971.

A year earlier, MacGregor graduated from Florida A &, M University with a degree in landscape architecture. He has worked in the public sector as a landscape architect at Harnett and Union Counties, and as a senior planner for the city of Winston-Salem. In 1995, he helped establish Lee County’s first professional planning department.

He’s worked as a regional planner for the city of Charlotte, and also for the city of Atlanta. He has done some work for Pulte Homes, including a master plan for its communities in the Greensboro area. And he has done some planning work for the city of Atlanta and the city of Charlotte.

But he always came back to the Lee County projects. He’s been a project manager or a coordinator on a number of them, including the new Lee-Harnett County Hospital, the Lee-Wake Intermodal Transportation Center, the development of the Wake-Lee College District.

“I’m an old landscape architect, so it’s really my niche,” he said. “My background has always been in public works, and with my interest in urban renewal, it’s been a combination of both.”

He credits MacGregor Associates LLC with helping to develop the design concept of the Wake-Lee College District, to the point where he’s become a project manager on future development projects. “The idea of a college district for a city is not a new one,” MacGregor said. “But the level of detail that we brought in for this particular project had never been done before.”

He talked about one of his favorite local projects: One of the earliest phases of the Lee-Harnett County Hospital, which broke ground in 2008, and the $35 million project finished in 2016.

“I think this is a fabulous hospital,” he said. “What’s really exciting is all of the design and the thinking behind it, because this is a hospital. It’s a place that people really need and use, but not all people are treated well, and we’re trying to change that.”

MacGregor said the Lee County plan could serve as a model for rural, “small town” communities that are trying to retain their charm while being more self-sufficient.

“In the case of the hospital, the campus is a little more than a tenth of the size of downtown Atlanta, but it looks like the center of a small town,” he said. “The buildings are set up in a way that is not overly complicated, but offers a sense of cohesiveness and a feeling of calm. There are different streets, but they are not really defined by car use. They are defined by walking and bicycling.”

Many of the ideas came from residents during a series of community meetings.

“The community was involved every step of the way, and we really built into the master plan the things that were important to the community,” MacGregor said. “The design process also showed how the community felt about many things, such as the look of the town. This gave us a sense of what the residents wanted.”

There are many examples of community input, MacGregor said, citing the community’s enthusiasm for the old-timey character of the architecture.

“There are some buildings in the project that reflect the area’s history, but that are not too heavy on architectural detail,” MacGregor said. “There is a lot of light and air in the interiors, with a very simple facade, a very basic design that is still inviting.”

The interiors follow a common grid layout, designed to maximize natural light and ventilation, he said. To create some degree of privacy, the architects used large, clear glass walls, although they do not completely block the sky and view of the surroundings.

“But these glass walls open up a view,” he said. “In all cases, what you see is a view of a green space, often of a neighborhood park. These are all very nice parks that were created as part of the design of the community.”

The architects avoided the use of materials that might have seemed exotic or trendy, such as exotic wood or cork flooring. Instead, they chose materials that could be easily found, and the result is a modern feel to the design, MacGregor said.

“There are some rooms that are completely white, so the choice was very clean and fresh,” he said. “But we also saw that in some of the other rooms, we needed more of a textural element, something that evoked a more rich, warm feeling, so we used more wood.”

A major feature of the design is the inclusion of a “green wall,” a vertical window that extends from floor to ceiling, so it extends the horizontal space of the room. The wall is filled with greenery that can be programmed to show different arrangements at different times, including seasonal displays, such as flowers, grasses, herbs or even fruit trees.

Green walls and vertical gardens have become a popular trend in residential projects. Architectural Digest has praised them for promoting a “serene, even spiritual, environment.”

Green walls have been used in projects such as the White House, the University of California, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the California Science Center.

MacGregor said that the garden walls are a major design element in the house.

“When you look at it, it can be a bit deceiving. It’s not a wall that’s four feet tall and four feet wide, it’s about 8 feet wide,” he said. “It’s a very generous wall because we needed a structure to hang plants on that extends all the way to the ceiling. We also put a lot of light in there to bring in the light.”

MacGregor said he was impressed with the size of the home, which is 8,000 square feet, compared to the typical 4,000 to 5,000 square foot standard for a house. The house includes three living rooms, four bathrooms, a dining room, kitchen and laundry.

“I was shocked. But I’m grateful for it because it makes it feel bigger. It has a homey feeling to it,” he said.

MacGregor said he was glad he was able to do this project for the community of San Jose, which is home to a lot of residents who live in less-than-desirable housing.

He’s been thinking about the possibility of other projects.

“For the moment, I’m enjoying it,” MacGregor said.

Green walls don’t always have to be large, and they don’t have to be glass, said MacGregor. “There’s a way to make it work with a different structure. It’s just about thinking creatively. It’s about using the structure for what it’s supposed to be used for.”

In some instances, the home can be built around

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