Category: Work

A recent publication in Society for Ecological Restoration text


Jordan’s piece about stream restoration, written with Dean Apostol, was recently featured in the second edition of “Ecological Restoration: Principles, Values, and Structure of an Emerging Profession (Andre F. Clewell, James Aronson),” in which he examines the decline and later reformation of salmon population in the Siuslaw River.

The article is angled as a “virtual field trip” that takes the reader to the “experience” of the Siuslaw salmon restoration project. Secter and Apostol briefly examine the Siuslaw river ecosystem and reveal that the causes of salmon decline in one of the northwestern coast’s most naturally beautiful rivers include overfishing, dam construction, stream habitat degradation, and competition with farm-raised fish.

In 1992, the US Forest Service purchased the valley bottom of Karnwosky Creek, which joins the Siuslaw River estuary east of the Pacific Ocean. Secter details the restoration project that ensued, which featured much community support. Through collaborative efforts, Karnowsky Creek is internationally recognized as a successful restoration undertaking, with coho smolts now abundant in the recovered and salmon-friendly creek.

The field of ecological restoration has come a long way since it emerged as a subset of ecology in the 1980s. Though it remains a relatively young face in the larger field of environmental sciences and strategies, ecological restoration has gained with increasing force a unique stature, and Secter is proud to be a contributor!

Moments in Landscape

A conversation we started on Land8 was spotlighted as a featured discussion!

We posed the question to landscape designers: Where did your passion for landscape originate? What were the narratives you had growing up that defined and transformed the world into a canvas for you?

We generated some really interesting, compelling responses (some even recounted poetically), all of them which may be read here.

The responses we received are really exciting to us, as they help to accomplish two important things:

1) Affirm the vitality and social value of the profession (it can often be viewed pejoratively and is misunderstood as being “exclusive” or culturally/socially unusable or irrelevant).

2) Uncover a common thread that connects all of us–professionals and nonprofessionals alike. The land is our home to all the meaningful experiences we’ve had–and will continue to have. It’s the book of all our experiences, the story of which, of course, is forever ours to write.

We encourage you to read this discussion here and join us in the conversation by telling your story in the comments. Share with your friends. Let’s rethink our connections and relationships to the land.

Without it, where else would we be?

Spotlight – Jordan Secter, Principal

On starting Secter Environmental Design…

I started Secter Environmental Design in the spring of 2009 with a focus on participatory design that would bring people and places together. The goals are to work closely with the client and involve them at every step of the design process, plan spaces together, and translate their visions and ideas into real places. SED is strongly community and client driven and thrives on providing clients opportunities to immerse themselves in the context of their space. We work to give them access to a new way of thinking and experiencing their settings. And the best designs serve as a reflection of that process.

On design aesthetics…

An aesthetic that I’m drawn to is the northwestern craftsman style, which is rooted in this relationship with natural materials and textures, neutral tones, and simple lines. On the urban front, I’m attracted to mid-century modern designs with its emphases on minimalism and sleek simplicity.

On the job…

What has kept Secter strong is the energy that comes from working with people and achieving the kinds of results that capture your attention, engage the individual, and showcase ecological  function, form, sustainable materiality. There’s both a cultural and ecological foundation in the spaces we try to create in that it invites us to think about what we’re learning from and what we are a part of.

On the future of Secter…

The successes we’ve gained in the last few years have been profoundly surprising, given the nature and challenge of the business, but SED has really stuck to its guns and stayed focused on what we do well and taking on the types of projects that we are most interested in. Our work has remained deeply value based, emphasizing the role of people within the design process and linking their goals, interests, and ideas to create the best possible results. It is our job to make sure that their  visions are realized while ensuring that the spaces  function both socially and ecologically.

Now, we’re increasing our capabilities and communicating on a higher, more sophisticated plane. We’ve become more polished in our operations, and with more to offer.  Over the last 5 years we  have developed a strong, diversified portfolio of work. Currently, we’re writing scope for 6 new projects and looking forward to finishing a strong year of work and looking forward to a busy 2013.

At SED, our success has also contributed to our team’s commitment to a high quality of work. They represent the values we want to exhibit to our clients and to the community.  It’s an exciting time for everybody here at SED.

Spotlight – Charley Zheng, Marketing


Meet Charley Zheng, our marketing assistant at Secter. She’s been working with us for the past couple of months formulating content for the blog, our Facebook, and LinkedIn. A recent Lewis & Clark graduate, we took her on to help us fortify and maintain a strong presence in the industry, both online and offline. Here’s what she says about working together with the guys at Secter:

“I came into this experience with little to no knowledge about landscape design, and as a marketing assistant, I felt a little bit daunted by the fact that I needed to communicate what they do in the most compelling and convincing ways possible.

What has always been clear from the very start is Jordan’s command over his work. The guys at Secter know what they’re doing, and they are devoted to the processes of their work, and they generate thoughtful results to design problems. In my initial meeting with Jordan, in which I laid out, at the time, a tentative marketing strategy for the company, I told him what impressed me most about his business, and what distinguished Secter, was that it had almost a pedagogic approach. Secter seeks to create solutions that will last and that will bring attention to the ways in which space operates as important, functional, and meaningful extensions of our lives. Space is more that just that; it is a story both written and unwritten. Thinking about the land is a continuous act, and Jordan does it in a way that is different from, but not uncooperative with, the focus on urbanism and rapid development that is taking place in urban environments today. Secter explores and articulates the relationship we have with the places from which we came, the places we go to, and the places we see ourselves inhabiting in the future.

It’s great to see Jordan and Nate’s work out there. One of their most recently completed projects is in Fossil, the site of a new trail named after Bill Bowerman. These kinds of projects really support the fact that Jordan and Nate are working to give others opportunities to connect their lives with the landscape.

Since working with Secter, I’ve acquired a mountain of information, resources, and guidance. The work that Jordan and Nate do is infectious–I even found myself one day at a volunteer event at Forest Park, performing trail repair work on National Public Lands Day. This is important, because I’ll freely admit that I have not been especially inclined towards this kind of thing in the past–but that means the Secter philosophy is effective, and true. There is not a better time to examine, define, and redefine your relationship with the natural objects, space, and textures around you. Secter communicates and executes this very, very well.”

West Shore shoreline visualization

Nate just wrapped up this awesome photomerge simulation for our West Shore day use project. This is what the shoreline trail looks like currently:


This is what the trail will look like after we give it the Secter treatment:


Notice the big difference? The guard rail has been eliminated, replaced by materials (wood and corten steel) that work in concert with the surroundings. This separates the asphalt road from the compacted gravel, providing a safe border for pedestrians. Boulders line the edge on the right with added vegetation, enhancing the scenic value of the area. The result: looks and feels better.

We’re lucky to have Nate on the team for projects like these to help us evaluate and assess the visual impacts of a proposed development. It’s a huge boost to the area, don’t you think?

Timothy Lake signage


Trailhead signage kiosk at Timothy Lake designed by Jordan and Nate.

Here’s what Jordan says about the design:

“We wanted to keep it simple. The aesthetic is rustic but there’s a modern Northwestern flavor to it. We placed a high value on the setting in which the kiosk was going to be placed, so with context in mind, we wanted to design the kiosk with a metal mesh that would allow the boards to float on top and around the signage. Even when there is information displayed, there remains a visual connection to the landscape, which was the real priority behind the design.”

We love that this modern design holds that essence of penetrability which allows us to make associations between the kiosk and the land around it. Its wonder lies in the simplicity of the design, its friendship with the landscape, and its reference to contemporary Northwestern motifs.

Happy hiking/picknicking/camping (while the sunshine is still here)!

Spotlight – Nate Otani and Design Visualization


Meet Nate Otani, one of our talented associates. He’s also a design visualization artist who transforms 2-D concepts into 3-D experiences. He’s an integral part of our business, as he’s one of the many good reasons why we’ve been growing!

Nate is the brains, eyes, and hands behind visualization facilitation, which allows our clients to see their product or prototype before manufacturing. This is an extremely useful tool for designers as it can give them a deeper understanding of their project (or projects) during the conceptual stage of the design process. Clients can then decide if their project should be developed or if it should be assessed further.

Briefly, a few examples of his work:


Here, we worked with a client to determine and rate the visual and ecological impact associated with the development of a powerhouse on the Bowman Dam. Nate placed the development in its exact proposed location, and utilizing form, line, color, and texture, generated a product that was seen to be ecologically responsible and had a low visual impact.


The goal of the project pictured above was to take a conceptual design given to us by SUM Design Studio + architecture, design and develop landscape plans, and fully visualize the concepts. We were able to present SUM the personality of the design, how it will appear to the world, and the uniqueness of their ideas. Today, the private Loosemore residence is on its way to appearing in the real streets of our own SE Portland.

Nate’s services also include photomerge simulations, landscape amenity design, interior, exterior development, and product renderings.

We believe that design visualization is key to providing expert guidance to your project and development. With our background in landscape design and Nate’s powerhouse rendering skills, we’re your window on the future.

To learn more about Nate, go here.

To see, learn, and experience more of our 3D work, we encourage you to e-mail us at or visit our website. We’ll be getting a design vis page up at the website so look out for more of Nate’s renderings.