We excel at developing a vision and telling the story of what a place can be. We help people learn more about their site - its ecology, history, context and user needs - and use this as the lens through which we uncover the story of that specific place. The key to all of our projects is a sensitivity to how people find connection with their environment. 

We are strategists. We help communities build consensus, prioritize next steps and fundraise to help that idea come to life. We plan for programming and use of space, with a special concern for creative community engagement, environmental awareness and the integrity of urban ecological systems.

Our work takes various forms and is not exclusive of small projects or big ideas. We work at a range of scales and project types, from community food forests to small residential gardens; from post-industrial redevelopment on multiple blocks to site-specific ecological enhancements; and from neighborhood plans to small playscapes in schools and backyards. Our projects form a conceptual (and often physical) network of productive and multi-use environments that have the capacity to transform sites, neighborhoods and cities.

Kathryn Blatt Ancaya, PLA, LEED AP Partner  

Kathryn Blatt Ancaya, PLA, LEED AP


Kristen Ford Haaf, AICP, LEED AP Partner  

Kristen Ford Haaf, AICP, LEED AP


Laura Evans Designer                                                            

Laura Evans


Experience of Nature and Environmental Learning

At Roots First Design, we are preoccupied with how people experience their environments. We ask: How can we design environments in a way that helps people tap into a deeper connection with their land and with nature more broadly?

We believe that creating ecologically significant environments is not merely about function or simply planting from an approved list. More integral to effecting lasting environmental change is to inspire a transformation in the way that the users of a landscape relate to it. With this in mind, we strive to design environments that resonate with people in deep and lasting ways. One way we do this is through the spatial patterns and forms that we create in a landscape project, which determine how people experience a space and the extent to which they interact meaningfully with their environment. We believe that it’s the quality of these interactions that teach us about ecosystems, our place within them, and in turn, ourselves.


Regenerative Site Design

Regenerative design is about designing for living systems, with an emphasis on synergies and patterns in nature. We consider the ecological limits of our decisions and work to improve the environments we work in by repairing environmental damage and improving ecological functioning. This includes creating opportunities for urban agriculture such as integration of food crops into landscaping; creating habitat for pollinators and other wildlife; enhancing soil carbon; mitigating heat island effect; and recharging groundwater and improving water quality.



Infrastructure is the system of structures needed for society to operate, including systems of transportation, water and energy. Infrastructure is inherently networked, connected for distribution. But our current forms of infrastructure are generally relics from 20th century industrial production, made from the "hard" materials of concrete, steel, asphalt. Efficiency is high, but the unintended negative consequences of this efficiency are significant.

Our work asks: How and where might we integrate the ecological materials of landscape to satisfy infrastructural demands? Can the "soft" materials of landscape serve to augment the structure and functioning of infrastructural systems in a way that ameliorates the negative consequences while improving the function and enhancing experience for the user?


Planning for Ecological Systems

A major aim of our design work is to contribute to the overall network of ecologically significant city green spaces. It is not enough for us to see regenerative design work take place on one site. We’re always envisioning how this integral site work can fit into spatial networks and systemic processes that reach across jurisdictions. This is a planning-scale endeavor that might transcend parcel boundaries and involve a complicated matrix of partners and political processes.