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Landscape Leadership Team

Roger Bledsoe

Where do you get your inspiration? Do you have any go-to sources?

I generally get my inspiration from traveling and seeing new places.  I also get inspiration as I progress a design from listening to a wide range of music.

What advice would you give to emerging professionals?

I would say to find a good mentor in your workplace as you start your career. I am lucky to have found several here.

What is your favorite contemporary landscape?

I really like Lawrence Halprin’s Open Space Sequence in Portland, Oregon.

What are your favorite things to do out of work?

Away from work, I enjoy spending time outside. I am big into hiking and camping and those types of activities in general.

What is your favorite plant?

It’s a tie between yellow wood and witch hazel trees.

Has there been a project that you feel has impacted your career?

Yes, working on the King Memorial project has been a great experience for me as I have learned a lot about design and construction while working on the project.  Also, I have really enjoyed the project as the design provides a varied experience throughout the landscape with features such as a fire pit, butterfly garden, and outdoor bar area that can be experienced during the day and night.

What is you design philosophy?

I believe in creating spaces that bring people and nature together.  Also, I believe in designing environments that successfully support social interactions and tie into the surrounding community setting.  By accomplishing these goals, I believe the resulting environments enhance both our urban natural resources and well-being.

Kevin Thomas

When did you first realize you were interested in Landscape Architecture?

When I was 15 I went on a family trip to the Lake of the Ozarks. We were boating around the lake looking at the extravagant mansions and came upon a crew installing an outdoor amenity space. I was enthralled watching them work and my father suggested “you could create a career out of designing things like that.” From that moment on I was committed to the profession and have never looked back!

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

I love the moment that a napkin sketch starts to become a reality – when I visit a construction site and see the spray paint lines marking out bedlines or the first pour of concrete. The excitement of seeing the design starting to come to fruition reminds me of waking up on Christmas morning as a child; you haven’t gotten the whole present yet but you know something great is about to happen.

What are the best places in Atlanta to experience a landscape architect’s work?

A great place to experience landscape architecture in Atlanta is starting at Historic Fourth Ward Park, where one can observe creative stormwater management, and following the beltline to the established and historic Piedmont Park. Along this route a user gets to experience environmentally sustainable practices, modern and innovative design, and finally historic and timeless landscape architecture. An added bonus is you get to see the 725 Ponce Plaza, which Eberly was responsible for!

What is your favorite plant?

In my own yard I am a big fan of hostas. I love to declump them in the spring and spread them all over, forget where I put them, and then be surprised the next year at where they are. In the professional realm it is too hard to choose one, I am really into layering purples and yellows lately. A foundation of Purple Diamond Loropetalum with a continuous edge of Sunshine Ligustrum is jaw-dropping.

What is your design philosophy?

We are first and foremost stewards of the natural environment. As a landscape architect we are tasked with taking the surrounding context and blending it with the proposed design. I believe that a great design is established through the smallest details. Whether it is the overhang on a bench cap or the selection of a wall veneer, the smaller pieces must come together to create an overall experience for the user.

Curt Jackson, PLA, ASLA, LEED AP

When did you realize you wanted to become a Landscape Architect?

I knew at an early age that I wanted to be a design professional. After taking drafting throughout high school, my teacher started bringing me his son’s college projects to work on from UGA’s College of Environment and Design. These projects combined the built, and outdoor environment that went beyond their typical buildings.

Where do you get your inspiration? Do you have any go-to sources?

Thomas Church, time and time again. His designs were unique, site specific, and had his own personal style. The ability to combine old world formality with a modern twist is a great way to problem solve tough site situations with a quality design.

What is your favorite part of the design process?

When the design falls into place. After multiple schemes and alternates, it’s always a great feeling when a design fits the space and theme of a project.

What advice would you give to emerging professionals?

Try to work on as many project types as possible. This way you learn different types of scale and problem solving.

What do you value most about being a member of ASLA?

It shows you are passionate about your profession. ASLA puts in countless hours and effort to make sure that we are able to practice as landscape architects. It’s our time to leave our mark on the profession, leaving it better than when we found it.

Favorite species of tree?

I’m always changing up my style of planting depending on the site or situation. I’ve been using a lot of the saucer magnolias, and star magnolia varieties lately.

What is your design philosophy?

Every design is site specific and project specific. I will not reuse the same detail or design from another project to save time. Each design will blend the style of architecture with the outdoors to create a cohesive space.

Jennifer Ilkin, PLA, ASLA, LEED AP

Why Landscape Architecture?

When I was 17, and making plans for college, I had never heard of landscape architecture.  Knowing my passions and interests, my dad pulled out the “L” volume from the shelf (yes, I’m “Encyclopedia Britannica years old”), and showed me the entry for Landscape Architecture.  It seemed to combine my love of nature, art, design, and construction.  I decided to give it a go, and the rest is history.

What is your favorite childhood landscape memory?

A big part of why I chose the profession is based upon the most vivid memories of my childhood – being rather free-range, and living many days sun up to sun down “in the woods”, along with neighbors and friends.  I experienced the wonder of discovery every day, and creating place and experience was just what we did – makeshift “homes”, scavenging, creating play spaces.  Everyday was an adventure.

What is your favorite contemporary landscape?

I’ve become much more of an urbanist, and love so many contemporary urban plazas and spaces, but historic landscapes are still very moving and close to my heart.  Some of my all-time favorite places are Bryant Park, Dumbarton Oaks, the landscapes and monuments of Washington DC, the Piazza della Rotonda, and the Irish countryside.  I love what’s happening at Hudson Yards and along the Highline in New York.  A frequent traveler to Istanbul, a lot of new construction – while a bit of an overwhelming amount – of residences and retail are very well done.  And, I am a sucker for most any landscape/art installation.

What are the best places in Atlanta to experience a landscape architect’s work?

A few places are more obvious I suppose, and I do love them, like the BeltLine, and it’s many formal and informal trail-side spots both public and private.  I’ll never say no to a stroll around the Atlanta Botanical Garden, especially with a camera in hand.  Piedmont Park, Old Fourth Ward Park, Ponce City Market.

What is the biggest misconception about the profession? 

We know plants, and only work residentially.  While that knowledge and experience is a part of the profession, and not to be discounted, landscape architects do a whole lot more. I am all about hardscapes – the more complex, the better – and landscapes, creating experiences, and contributing to impactful commercial public and private projects.

Do you have a dream project?

That’s actually a tough question…A visionary owner/developer, a symbiotic design team, a fantastic budget with landscape and hardscape insulated from value engineering, great communication, skilled and dedicated craftsmen/women, a project program that contributes to the health and happiness of a community.  I’ve been lucky to work on many projects that combine those dream elements.  But, if you want a slightly more specific answer, I absolutely love re-working neglected spaces and places.  That’s where my love of the profession began; re-ordering the natural environment…day-dreaming how I might gut the building and site of my middle school, to repurpose it as an amazing tween playground.  Of course the auditorium would have been improved if it were open air with a large pond at the orchestra, right?!

What is your favorite flower/plant?

Almost anything en masse gets my blood pumping.  The fields of tulips at the Atlanta Botanical Garden in the spring. Breathtaking.  A mass of Pink Muhly Grass?  Amazing.  For specimens, I love architectural plants like Maidenhair Fern, Weeping Forsythia, Paperbark Maples, London Plane Trees, and plants with bold colors like Sunshine Ligustrum and Black Taffeta Heuchera.

What is your design philosophy?

Every project is unique.  It’s all about the user experience – you must understand your audience, and the site equally.  Our work is a wonderful distilling of site, character, sustainability, materials, construction, and longevity.  Growing up thrifty, I always like to see how we can stretch construction dollars with minimal to no effect on the vision.  My personal philosophy is to find the opportunity in the challenge, be responsive, and authentic.

 

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