Alumni Spotlight: Claire Hempel, a Planner from the Beginning

lsu landscape architecture alumniLSU Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture alumna Claire Hempel (BLA 2002) was recently promoted to principal in charge at Design Workshop’s Austin office. Claire has been with the firm since 2011, when she began as an intern while pursuing her Master of Science in Community and Regional Planning from the University of Texas at Austin. Claire’s career experience is a prime example of how the Reich School’s strong network of alumni helps cultivate the careers of their fellow graduates. Design Workshop, cofounded by LSU alumnus and donor Kurt Culbertson (BLA 1976),provides landscape architecture, planning, urban design, and strategic services throughout the US as well as overseas. The firm is known for nurturing young talent and employs a large amount of Reich School alumni, including Amy Harbert (BLA 2000), office director of Design Workshop’s new Houston office; Conners Ladner (BLA 2009), landscape designer at the Austin office; and Josh Brooks (BLA 2012), a project designer in the Austin office and a member of the Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture Professional Advisory Board. “The firm really focuses on its employees’ growth,” Claire said, “which is something I have really come to appreciate.” At Design Workshop’s Austin office, Claire oversees a wide range of projects including community master plans, urban design efforts, and streetscapes. She is a LEED Green Associate and is certified through the American Institute of Certified Planners. As principal in charge, she serves in a directorial role and is not as involved in the day-to-day activities as she once was. “I can course-correct the direction of a project and am able to see it with a fresh perspective, as opposed to the designers who are already entrenched in the project,” added Claire.

Reminiscing about her early days at LSU, the Texas native recalled being enticed by the beauty of LSU’s campus. “A friend of the family worked at the university, and when my family and I went to visit, I fell in love with the buildings and the overall atmosphere.” Claire began her time at LSU studying French and math, neither of which proved to be what she was looking for. “It was through the proper advising system that I found myself in my first landscape architecture class with Professor Max Conrad,” she explained. “From then on, landscape architecture was a perfect fit for me.” Claire remembers the school’s strong focus on student travel. “To this day, I continue to enforce the importance of travel at our office. It is great for designers to continue to explore new places and challenge their thinking.” When asked about her best memory at LSU, Claire’s answer epitomizes her profession as a landscape architect and urban designer perfectly. “I remember when I was living on campus and everything was nearby—you could walk anywhere. It was like introducing my young self to a newer, smaller city.” From the beginning Hempel was already planning.

As Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture alumni flock to Denver to attend the American Society of Landscape Architects Annual Meeting & EXPO this November 21–24, 2014, they will have the opportunity to mingle and catch up with their fellow classmates not only at the conference but at the off-site reception graciously hosted by Chairman and CEO Kurt Culbertson (BLA 1976) at Design Workshop’s Denver office on Friday evening, November 21, 6–9 p.m. LSU alumni, who comprise more than 10 percent of ASLA’s national membership, have much to celebrate at the conference this year: Chad Danos (BLA 1990) will serve as the president starting in 2015; Tary Arterburn (BLA 1979) and Steve Shurtz (BLA 1977) will be inducted into ASLA’s Council of Fellows; and a number of RRSLA alumni will receive professional ASLA Honor Awards. Visit for more information about the RRSLA alumni event.