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A CAN-Do Spirit
CAN Community Health Center, Sarasota, Fla.

by Robert Davie, Robert Davie & Associates

A CAN-Do Spirit

Located in Sarasota, Fla., the CAN Community Health organization received a new deck and garden area from Robert Davie & Associates.


Community Aids Network (CAN) Community Health is located in Sarasota, on the west coast of Central Florida. The organization's mission is to provide medical, social and educational services to those living with HIV and other diseases. The executive director of CAN called upon Robert Davie & Associates to transform the entire facility and a neighboring unused space into a beautiful and calming outdoor venue for patients, employees and visitors.

The primary objective was to give the organization an attractive space for meetings, as well as employees' lunches and breaks. CAN's executive director envisioned a beautifully landscaped garden that was inviting and provided a sense of calm. Revising all of the landscaping and utilizing the entire site, with stunning plantings and features, was also at the forefront of his goals. All of the design on the project was custom, and, according to Robert Davie, integrating new ideas into reality was the biggest challenge.

Robert Davie & Associates designed a large deck for outdoor activities with furniture as well as a new landscape for the entire property, including new fencing for security and lighting for both security and ambiance. Of specific note are the art panels designed into the landscape.



A CAN-Do Spirit

trategically placed lighting puts emphasis on the plantings rather than the light fixtures themselves.


A CAN-Do Spirit

Plantings for the organization included several species of palms as well as dwarf variegata (pictured).


Decked Out
The deck was the first element of the overall design for the project and predicated the layout of all other landscape elements. Davie wanted the deck to be a reflection of the center's architecture - modern with big angles - so the angles of the deck mimic the angle of the sides of the building.

Most of the site is consumed by the building and parking lot, so the only area that could fit a new deck was over one of the retention areas. There were multiple trees in the area, some of which were very desirable specimens, while others were "trash trees." The challenge was to design based on the allowable space, while keeping in mind which trees the firm planned to incorporate into the space. The team also had to navigate the local tree preservation ordinances.

Design for the deck also considered flow patterns and areas for activities, i.e., small and large social groups. The entire deck space needed to allow for groups of various sizes to mingle without being on top of each other.



A CAN-Do Spirit

A CAN-Do Spirit

In order to properly space out the size and shape of the deck, Robert Davie & Associates used 3D design software to look at every angle and make sure everything was up to the standard of space and aesthetics.


The deck is made from composite decking. The standard deck boards were perfect for the application. Davie wanted something soothing in color and easy to care for under the many oak trees, so he decided on a bronze/dark grey colored board. "Oak trees can drop leaves and acorns that will stain, and the color used will minimize visibility of that stain. And occasional washing makes it look brand new," he explains.

The deck is complimented by a railing made of powder coated aluminum and stainless steel cables. It was designed to be side mounted to the decking base for extra strength.

Palm Paradise
The new deck was placed in a garden like setting, with lush tropical vegetation surrounding the area. The species of palms that were included in the design of the landscape include fan palm species, fishtail, areca, European and native Coontie palms. Tree species, including flowering yellow cassia and Ligustrum tree specimens, were interspersed among the palms. Japanese blueberries were added to replace declining holly species. Shrubs included sanchezia, allocasia, ground orchids, philodendrons, duranta, carissa, dwarf ixora and dwarf jasmine were added as well.



A CAN-Do Spirit

The deck at CAN Community Health provides a needed place of respite for those suffering with failing health as well as those caring for them, whether by profession or through personal relationships. Robert Davie & Associates designed a small paradise for those who need it.


A CAN-Do Spirit

Before the deck was designed, the space served very little purpose. CAN wanted to give the area life while also giving people a place to relax and enjoy nature and fresh air.


Many of the plantings provide both beauty and privacy in the gardens. There is also the public view at the entry to the building and parking areas that was re-landscaped for a more modern feel. Many plant selections were based on their ability to withstand low water consumption and low maintenance requirements, while still providing aesthetics and durability. The overall plant selection was planned so that the integrity of the design was easy to maintain over time. Davie and his team consciously selected plants that worked in tandem with each other as they grew.

Site Seating
The site amenities that were chosen for the project were designed with the simplistic theme of "form and function" at the forefront. The challenge was to make them part of the overall plan and aesthetic. Utilizing powder-coated steel, the furniture was designed to stand up to the elements. Deck boards, used for the seating portion and tabletops, allowed for a tie in with the deck. Prototypes were made to ensure that the finishes, appearance and construction were all pleasing and able to withstand everyday use.

A local metal works company provided the steel for the prototypes and finished products, while a local artisan crafted the bench seating and tabletops from composite material.



A CAN-Do Spirit

A CAN-Do Spirit

The designs cut into the bright red panels reflect the tropical plantings that are represented throughout the project. The green of the fronds can be seen through the openings, displaying a stark contrast, not just in color, but also between the metal and plant material.


Art with Heart
Panels made of laser-cut steel provided an element of art in the garden. The team utilized botanical themes of palm fronds and fern leaves for inspiration. Challenges included digitizing the design and translating it into a version that could be cut into the steel. Multiple versions of the designs were produced to insure the final version would not affect the integrity of the steel panel.

Finally, a bright red was chosen for the panels and posts. The color is representative of the AIDS awareness ribbon, and there is a total of three art panels placed against the deck railing.

Lit Landscape
LED landscape lighting was creatively designed to highlight the landscape at night both for aesthetics and safety. Mostly spot fixtures were utilized, with a few pathway fixtures where necessary. Some spots are in trees, bathing the deck and landscape at night. Others highlight the tropical foliage, while some integrate the architectural features into the landscape.

Davie commissioned a lighting manufacturer to produce a special order of high degree Kelvin fixtures. The 5000K lamps in the fixtures are subtle and mimic the moon and stars at night. The overall effect is silvery and romantic. Most of the lighting is hidden behind plantings, showcasing the illuminated specimen, not the source of the light.

Fenced In
A composite fence was chosen for the project. Posts were installed and the composite slats stack inside the posts. There is a top rail to lock all the slats into place.



A CAN-Do Spirit

The deck at CAN Community Health is approximately 2300 square feet. Robert Davie & Associates designed three tables (coffee style), three benches with backs and eleven benches without backs. Adequate landscape lighting was of specific importance and had to be designed into the project for night use of the deck with 40 5000K LED spot and pathway light fixtures.


The composite materials are a silver color and mimic the look of wood; the posts and rails are black, complementing the panels. Composite fencing was the more expensive choice for the design but will far outlast conventional wood fencing and have none of the maintenance costs. As there is no organic material in the fence, there will be no mildew or mold, keeping the fence looking beautiful for years. The composite materials also will not rot like wood and will provide a measure of safety with its superior strength.

Many varying design strategies were used to create a welcoming and soothing environment for patients, visitors and employees. Combining hardscape aspects with complimentary plantings that fit the region and the theme of the organization, Robert Davie & Associates designed an outdoor area that invites all members of the CAN community to enjoy both alone time and togetherness.



As seen in LASN magazine, February 2019.



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June 17, 2019, 6:46 pm PDT

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