RMI’s donors are part of the fabric of the Institute and are doing powerful, impressive work. Two of our supporters, landscape architect Bonnie Fisher and architect Boris Dramov, husband-and-wife principals of ROMA Design Group in San Francisco, are working in the urban environment to implement the values of RMI. For many years, they have devoted their efforts to urban infill, transit-oriented development projects, and smart, sustainable growth for cities and regions throughout the U.S. and abroad.
In this interview, Fisher describes how ROMA Design Group addresses urban sustainability and highlights some noteworthy ROMA projects, including the recently opened Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. ROMA served as the designer of this remarkable tribute—an engaging combination of sculpture, landscape, trees, and water tied to other landscapes and monuments on the mall.
Fisher explains that ROMA emphasizes the recycling of urban land to create more sustainable cities that benefit from compact growth and reduce the need for commuting. Fisher and Dramov believe that urban sustainability requires the creation of livable, attractive places that foster conviviality and build community. Further, Fisher says, within cities, sustainability embraces all the interdependent issues of quality of life, economic well-being, and social equity.
SJ: Tell me about ROMA Design Group.
Fisher: ROMA is a firm that integrates the design of buildings and open spaces with the design of cities and townscapes. We are an architecture, landscape architecture, and planning firm that specializes in urban design. We undertake projects that we believe have the potential to contribute positively to society, environment, and urbanism. In our home city of San Francisco, we have been involved for many years in the revitalization of the downtown urban waterfront. We have also been involved throughout the West Coast in the revitalization of the urban waterfront, from Vancouver, British Columbia, to San Diego.
Winning the design competition for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial gave us a unique opportunity to work on the most important public space in the nation and to create a space dedicated to the life and legacy of Dr. King. The memorial, which was dedicated by President Obama in October, is uniquely situated on the Tidal Basin on an axis between the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials.
SJ: What does the MLK Memorial mean to you?
Fisher: Martin Luther King, Jr. was an extraordinary figure who profoundly changed America in our lifetime. He was an exemplary leader, with an incredible ability to inspire and promote positive change. He opened up the understanding in our country of what civil rights and social equity mean, not only for African Americans, but for all Americans. It was an honor for us to design the memorial and it is extremely rewarding to see it completed.
SJ: What are some other projects ROMA is doing that you are excited about?
Fisher: We are very proud of the work that we are doing right now, mainly in cities and districts with which we have long been associated. In San Francisco East Bay’s Union City, we are designing a major modernization and expansion of a BART Intermodal Station and associated site and streetscape improvements, as well as planning for the mixed-use community associated with it and a major new plaza, promenade, and playground that will be at the heart of the transit-oriented district. We continue to work on the expansion of the ferry terminals for the regional Water Emergency Transportation Authority, building its first terminal in South San Francisco and planning for the next one—an expansion of the ferry terminal we designed in early 2000 that will include a major new plaza and promenades right next to the Bay.
SJ: Why do you donate to RMI?
Fisher: We believe that the one of the most important issues that we face today is global warming and climate change. It is urgent that this issue get addressed with large-scale, creative thinking about potential solutions. We address these issues from an urbanism point of view, and we think that RMI is one of the leading organizations advancing solutions holistically and comprehensively about energy resources as well. We are impressed with RMI’s efforts and we believe that they make a significant difference.