Alumni Profile: April Philips

April Philips Design Works, Inc.
Sausalito, CA

Provide an educational background including professional experience.

Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from LSU. (1979)
Was at EDAW San Francisco 10 years, SWA GROUP Houston and Sausalito three years, MND & Partners in Dallas and Houston two years, and first job was with a planning firm in Fla. Currently, I am president of April Philips Design Works, Inc., which I began in 1996. It is a design studio dedicated to creating places that integrate the art and science of landscape architecture with cutting edge technology. Visit our website at

Graduate of LEED™ 2.0 (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), a green rating system established by the U.S. Green Building Council that promotes green building practice. Licensed Landscape Architect in California and Texas.

Why did you choose LSU for your education?

I chose LSU because my high school career counselor showed me the flyer of the LSU Land- scape Architecture Department when I was deciding between going to Smith College in Massachusetts for an art degree or going somewhere closer to home (I grew up in New Orleans).

I liked the department’s description of the profession and thought it combined two things I love – art and nature. I was not interested in being a starving artist, and did not feel I could equal or surpass Picasso so, I decided to go to LSU.

How did your LSU degree help to prepare you for your profession?

Looking back, the landscape architecture program established an early understanding of the integration of art and nature as a goal of design for me. It also fostered the idea that design is a dynamic “process” and not a static object that looks at just functional problem solving – a sort of “the whole is more than the sum of its parts” mentality that has stuck with me through the years beginning with Doc’s first design studio in second year.

Looking at design as a framework of ingredients, but acknowledging the more intangible “ah-ha” moment is to me, the essence of good design theory. To have that understanding taught in your first studio course is just a brilliant example of Doc’s genius. I think every design has the potential for a meaningful dialogue between man and nature, as well as an artistic expression of beauty. This belief is at the core of my design values.

What current or past research and projects/exhibitions have you done?

Currently, I am the chairperson for the ASLA‘s national Sustainable Design & Development Group, a very proactive group seeking to educate and promote more sustainable site practices into the development industry. Our current task is organizing a think tank summit on site metrics. Site metrics are an essential aspect of an effective and viable evaluation process that can be applied to sustainable landscape development criteria. We also expect to incorporate an economic based value system for nature’s services to add to the “real world” viability of the tool. It is a very exciting, hot topic and really at the forefront of the next wave of landscape architecture technology.

It is an ideal time for the landscape architecture profession to take the leadership role in re-shaping how the world thinks about sustainable development. Recently, our firm participated in a symposium at UC Berkeley on the “Future Metropolitan Landscape.” We provided posters on some of our most current projects such as Oakland Me- morial Park, Fireside Affordable Housing, and Aspect Communications Headquarters. What was most stimulating from the discussions was the imperative need for a stronger regional planning ethic in the United States.

We also participated in a few competitions last year – paid and unpaid. One was for an eco river park in China 1.5 times larger than New York’s Central Park. We won! This was a paid invitation competition, and we pushed our sustainable theories in the submittal. The of- fice also submitted entries for Flight 93 and the Aids Memorial competitions. We had fun, worked hard but did not make the cut for these two. The boards are fabulous though and we celebrated the completion since they were both due within one week from each other.

Please list any awards or special recognition that you have received.

We are proud of the many awards we have received.

What are your plans for the future?

Plans for the future include continuing to do good work that pushes the envelope and challenges myself; continue to grow the firm; continue moving forward with the push for more sustainable development practices; train for a sprint triathlon in June; and maybe rest occasionally.