ASLA Associate, Sawyer/Berson Architecture & Landscape Architecture, LLP
New York, NY
Provide an educational background including professional experience.
I have a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from LSU, and maintain licensure in New York and Louisiana. As a practicing landscape architect in New York, I continue to engage with the professional and academic communities through conferences, lectures, exhibits and extensive travel.
As a student at LSU, I started a residential design/build practice, and during my first two post-graduate years, I completed projects in south Louisiana and Austin, TX. During my studies at LSU, I first visited New York City with Dr. Robert Reich and Professor Max Conrad on an East Coast tour. I was captivated by the grandeur and diversity of the city and its urbanscape. In the summer of 1985, I sold my business and joined the NYC Parks Department as a project manager in the capital projects division.
After having a productive tenure managing and designing parks and playground reconstructions, restorations and new projects, I moved on for more diverse projects with the NYC Department of General Services, now the Department of Design and Construction.
I left city government practice for an opportunity to participate in urbanscape regeneration projects funded by a Rockefeller Brothers grant.
I worked as director of project management on innovative streetscape and urban space improvement projects, and the development of an extensive line of streetscape furnishings. Upon expiration of the grant, I joined the newly minted firm of Sawyer/Berson Architecture and Landscape Architecture, LLP as an associate.
Why did you choose LSU for your education?
My father is an alumnus of LSU so the University came highly recommended, and I was considering both landscape architecture and architecture at the time, so the breadth and stature of the College of Art and Design was very appealing. An LSU alumnus from the School of Landscape Architecture and resident of my hometown was also influential in my decision, as he provided me insight into the profession. During my first semester, I took the introductory course to landscape architecture taught by Dr. Reich. Hearing his lecture on the art elements and principals alone solidified my decision to pursue landscape architecture.
How did your LSU degree help to prepare you for your profession?
I am constantly rediscovering the valuable benefits of my education at LSU. The landscape architecture program had and continues to have exceptionally talented and hard working professors. They provided me with a strong foundation in the principles of design and exposure to a broad scope of theoretical works, which allowed me to take on very complex and varied projects. They equipped me with the necessary design, implementation and professional practice tools to make me a valuable asset in the profession, and the ability to advance my career through licensure. And, after 26 years, the community of friends and colleagues that has stemmed from LSU continues to grow and be one of my most important networks.
What current or past research and projects/exhibitions have you done?
Besides all the interesting and varied private and government projects completed in the early days of my career, my most recent and current work was and is the most challenging and satisfying to date. These projects included several Manhattan roof terrace projects in various stages of design and construction, various large beach-front estate planning and design projects on the East End of Long Island; townhouse garden projects in Manhattan; and a community garden near Yankee Stadium. I have also had the opportunity to practice again in Louisiana, where I managed two residential projects, and the design and construction of the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden at the New Orleans Museum of Art.
Please list any awards or special recognition that you have received.
While with the two city government agencies, I received two NYC Art Commission awards, one for the restoration of Stuyvesant Square Park in Manhattan, and the other for two community gardens and playgrounds, one in Manhattan and the other in Brooklyn. After joining Sawyer/Berson in 2000, I shared two ASLA honor awards with one of the principals, one for the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, and the other for the Manhattan Roof Terrace. The latest honor award received was from the ASLA New York Chapter for the Townhouse Garden in the West Village.
What are your plans for the future?
Currently, my project load is full with little time to contemplate the future. However, since the question is out there, the natural progression to include in the mix is luxury resort projects where I can capitalize on my experience gained from residential, park and urban design work, and knowledge gained from international travel. Also, as time allows, providing pro bono design services for worthy community garden projects, and experimental conservation and art projects are still in the forefront. Furthermore, since my profession is landscape architecture, practicing well beyond the normal retirement age is not uncommon. Therefore, I have plenty of time to continue pursuing the majority of my interests and unrealized goals for many more years to come.