During our interview with Meredith Wenskoski of Livable Cities Studio, we discovered that she speaks our language. Her company, Livable Cities Studio, creates spaces founded on positive societal impact and transformative values. Read our interview below to discover more about her blossoming urban design firm.
Hi, Meredith! Thank you for taking the time to meet with me. I’m excited to spread the word about Livable Cities Studio. Can you provide some background on your company?
At our core, Livable Cities Studio is a planning, urban design and landscape architecture firm focused on addressing the needs of the contemporary city by uniting individuals through public spaces and connections to the natural environment. Our work is based on the idea of creating places for people and human experience and putting those ideas at the forefront of the planning and design process. We ultimately want to create livable cities and public spaces that promote community, connectivity and human interactions and are designed for inclusion, social purpose, and health.
Livable Cities Studio focuses on city building and addressing the complex needs of urbanization and change in our cities and see the future being built on collaborative partnerships that fit the specific needs of each city, neighborhood and community. Our process starts with design collaboration, creative partnerships and a desire to bring diverse people together in intense collaborations to provide the springboard for unforeseen futures and solutions, resulting in ongoing innovation, refinement and reapplication.
I started Livable Cities Studio last year and we’re excited to celebrate our one year anniversary this month! We are currently working on both large-scale infrastructure and public space projects as well as small scale site designs, re-zonings and everything in between. We are a growing firm working to develop and nurture relationships locally while also being civically engaged. Denver is a great place to live and work right now, and we are happy to be part of the transformation!
How did you discover this calling?
I grew up on the east coast in Charlottesville, Virginia – home to the University of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson and the Dave Matthews Band. I was always intrigued by the architecture, the landscapes that surrounded and the interface between the two. I took time off during college and spent a year travelling around the world. That time was incredibly influential in opening my eyes to different cultures and how a vibrant public realm is fundamental to a city’s vitality.
As a result of my travels, I realized that my passion was in the built environment of cities – how each building sits within a broader context, how each culture or community relates to its built form, and the spaces between the buildings. Landscape architecture and urban design, as broad as it is, has given me the opportunity to work at a variety of scales and create spaces that positively impact people and community – which is what I love doing. Throughout my career, I have worked at a variety of scales and on all different types of planning, urban design and landscape architecture projects, but the work I love the most is always the complex urban projects that typically have a strong social impact.
But that’s just how I got into urban design and landscape architecture. I started Livable Cities Studio after working for years at other large design firms in town and decided that I wanted to take a risk and shape my own future by building my own firm around my vision. I absolutely love it. I love growing a firm, and I’m passionate about the work we do.
How does Shift fit into it all? I imagine it took quite a bit of research to find the right “homebase” for your business.
We chose Shift because we wanted to be close to Downtown yet wanted a vibrant community and a really great space to work in. I had such a good feeling when I first walked in the building, and when we walked into our office for the first time, we knew we wanted to move in. The light, the windows and the indoor/outdoor experience of the space is phenomenal. We feel so lucky every day to work in such a great space and be part of this community!
What about your job inspires you?
I love that I get to work with people and neighborhoods and help to transform communities. My favorite projects are those that are messy, complex and sometimes controversial and I’ve felt most accomplished when I’m able to go back to communities and see the positive physical and social transformation and knowing that design has impacted people for the better.
Our clients and their project visions are generally pretty inspiring and the energy of the design and planning process motivates our team to continually come up with innovative and creative project solutions. The Sun Valley EcoDistrict for example – the development group we share our space with – has a mission to redevelop the Sun Valley neighborhood in West Denver, the lowest income community in the state, to a mixed-income, mixed-use community with new parks, streetscapes, food incubator spaces, a youth hub and district energy systems. We’re working with them to create a new model of community transformation with equity, environmental justice and public health as its driving forces. The work we’re doing with them is constantly inspiring and when built, will have a major impact on the city as well as become a model for similar communities internationally. I have been working with Sun Valley EcoDistrict and the neighborhood for 7+ years through community visioning and planning and we’re now embarking on implementation of the redevelopment, both the physical changes to the community and the community investments.
What’s on your summer agenda? Any big plans?
We are looking forward to a summer ahead of Colorado adventures from live music and concerts at the Botanic Gardens to camping and weekend getaways, oh, and a trip to the beach in North Carolina! I have two young kids so most of my time away from work and Shift involves kid entertainment and management. 😊
Find out more about Livable City Studios at www.livablecitiesstudio.com.