A while back, we shared the story of EPT Design’s innovative TREK (Travel, Renewal, Exploration, Knowledge) program, the brainchild of the firm’s partners Nord Eriksson, Matthew Hall and Stephen Carrol. Each year, two firm members are selected via a competition. The winners are given a small stipend and additional time off to travel and explore. They come back invigorated and inspired and ready and willing to share the knowledge they’ve gained with their colleagues. Over the years, participants have traveled all over, from just up the coast to the Pacific Northwest and all the way to Australia.
For Brad Frankel, the inspiration for his TREK to The Netherlands was inspired by a playground project he had been working on. Research for the project had led him to exciting design developments there that he was eager to check out. Over the course of a week, he checked out nine different projects around the country. “It really was a life milestone,” he says, “to be able to travel at this point in my career and dedicate it to nurturing my interests.” He returned energized and with practical knowledge to use on future projects—everything from new playground surfaces to ideas to make park spaces less appealing spots for graffiti.
Jennifer Chung’s TREK took her to Melbourne, Australia, motivated by an interest in exploring solutions to issues facing both the firm and community at large. In particular she was interested in checking out how Australian landscapes faced drought and attendant water issues, because “That’s the great design constraint that we face.” Among her discoveries while on her TREK, she found Australian gardens’ “ground planes were very simple, with intricate paving patterns and no middle ground,” she points out. “We do a lot of layering, but I didn’t see that in Australia as much.” Bold color also played a big role in the gardens she observed.
Frankel and Chung both point to the TREK program as emblematic of the EPT Design’s unique culture. “This is a place that supports gong out there. It’s not about being cooped up in building,” says Chung. “It’s about bringing inspiration back to your peers, sharing it and having a dialogue.”