People Matter: Bike to Work Spotlight
Alison participates in National Bike to Work Day each year with co-workers in what she describes as “a bike gang of landscape architects rolling deep through the streets of Alexandria.” Bike-friendly places matter. Bike To Work Day is part of a national movement to make America bike friendly. What does that mean? It means […]
Alison participates in National Bike to Work Day each year with co-workers in what she describes as “a bike gang of landscape architects rolling deep through the streets of Alexandria.”
Bike-friendly places matter.
Bike To Work Day is part of a national movement to make America bike friendly. What does that mean? It means a strong bike culture that welcomes and celebrates bicycling along with creating safe and convenient places to ride and park. In honor of the occasion, meet two members of LandDesign who are local trailblazers for the bike-friendly movement and help carry the torch for our firm’s bike culture.
- Alison Peckett is a landscape designer in the firm’s Washington, D.C. office. A positive attitude matters. Being socially and environmentally conscious matters.
- Matthew Weschler is a civil engineer designer in our Charlotte office. Travel and adventure matter. Complete neighborhoods matter. Freedom of expression matters.
What sparked your passion for bicycling?
For Alison, it certainly was not the repetitive bike rides around her suburban neighborhood cul-de-sac as a child! As an urban designer and environmentalist though, she’s studied the influence that innovative transportation planning can have on cities and the important role bikes play in community design. “I’m fortunate to live and work in Washington, D.C.; a city that promotes a bike-friendly lifestyle.”
Conversely, Matt grew up in a neighborhood on top of a really tall hill. “One of his favorite activities was riding to the top of my neighbor’s driveway and racing my friends to the bottom of our street. I still feel that thrill when I’m coasting down hills in Charlotte.”
What type of bike do you own?
Matt owns a Kona Dew Deluxe, a lightweight nine-gear hybrid bike with hydraulic brakes that he describes as “a nice commuter bike.”
Nothing so fancy for Alison who owns an old vintage red Schwinn road bike that is her main source of transportation. “A wise bike mechanic once told me the key to a good city bike is finding something that is dingy enough that no one wants to steal it, but also decent enough that you can use it to zip around town. Once you achieve this equilibrium, you’re golden.”
Alison also has a bike share membership (a short-term bicycle rental program). “Most mornings, I walk to a bike share, bike share to the metro station, then take the metro to work. It seems kind of nutty to most people, but it is this seamless synergy of all these modes of transportation that makes living in the city so fun.”
What is your most memorable/interesting bicycling trip?
For Alison, it was a bucket-list solo bike trip through Berlin, Amsterdam and the tulip fields of Holland. “I essentially planned the entire trip around this one single activity.” Alison was struck by the region’s biking culture where bike lanes were seamlessly integrated into every roadside and neighborhood, allowing her to navigate through several small towns to her dream destination: Keukenhof, the largest tulip park in the world where more than 7 million flower bulbs are planted each year.
Matt’s most memorable bike trip is still before him. “While it’s high on my to-do list, I have yet to undertake a bike-packing trip.” In the meantime, he enjoys interesting monthly group bike rides with fun themes as a “Sushi Roll” biking tour of Charlotte’s sushi restaurants and the “Tour-de-Dough” ride to some of the city’s many fine donut shops.
How are you active in support of making Charlotte/DC-Alexandria a great bicycling community?
Matt supports car(e)free streets including volunteering for the recent Open Streets event in his Elizabeth neighborhood. The event featured local nonprofit groups, government agencies and businesses all aimed at educating the public about efforts to make Charlotte a friendlier place for people to walk and bike. “The streets were closed to all vehicular traffic, and opened up for pedestrians and cyclists to roam free. It was inspiring to meet so many people working on this critical problem.”
Alison helps organize the Potomac ASLA’s Landscape Architecture Bike Tour that takes riders throughout D.C. to experience several notable design landmarks around the district. “This is always a fun event to see the city by bike and share the importance of what we do with the larger community.” She also participates in National Bike to Work Day each year with co-workers in what she describes as “a bike gang of landscape architects rolling deep through the streets of Alexandria.”
Bike friendly communities require a welcome and supportive infrastructure, including well-connected bicycling networks, quiet neighborhood streets and shared use trails. What bike-friendly aspects of your community do you enjoy most and why?
Allison believes bikes are an indicator of the vibrancy of an urban area, and Washington, D.C. does not disappoint. “Within minutes, I can be riding through the lush forested canopy of Rock Creek Park and then suddenly be among the monuments on the National Mall.”
She is also the rare person who loves her commute to work, often joined by co-worker Lisa Biddle. “We always look forward to beautiful days when we can hop on our bikes and ride to work along the Mt. Vernon Trail; a greenway that winds along the Potomac River. No matter how your day goes, you always know it will end with a beautiful ride home, especially the approach to city with the Washington monument and Jefferson Memorial illuminated in the background. I definitely don’t take for granted that I live in a city that allows me to do this.”
Matt also commutes to work on two wheels using a bike path behind his house, often stopping to enjoy the cooler air and quiet separation from heavy traffic. Sometimes, he takes a detour on the way home, hopping on the Little Sugar Creek Greenway, one of LandDesign’s iconic projects. “Even though it runs right through the heart of midtown Charlotte, it still feels like a break from the city’s constant movement.”
In her work at LandDesign, Alison is finding that more clients are realizing the value of “bikability,” including several municipalities that have strict requirements for bike infrastructure and parking. “There is a strong relationship between the urban projects we design and their accessibility by biking or other alternative forms of transportation.”
“Biking has the power to create mobility and accessibility for everyone as an efficient and affordable means of transportation. Our role as landscape architects is directly tied to this, where we play an instrumental role in helping transform cities into more socially inclusive and viable places to live.”
New Maury Playground Will Spur Student Success
What started as a 2014 project for us, Maury Playground is officially open for the Matthew Maury Elementary School and community! Landscape Architects, Gabriela Cañamar Clark and Susan England, had the pleasure of attending the balloon-filled ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, April 21. In between rain storms, students helped cut the ribbon along with […]
What started as a 2014 project for us, Maury Playground is officially open for the Matthew Maury Elementary School and community!
Landscape Architects, Gabriela Cañamar Clark and Susan England, had the pleasure of attending the balloon-filled ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, April 21. In between rain storms, students helped cut the ribbon along with Superintendent Alvin L. Crawley, and all were very excited and grateful to be seeing the results of everyone’s hard work. Sean Haviland, landscape designer, was unable to attend the ribbon-cutting, but also played a key role in the design.
This project was a measure of true collaboration amongst the City, School Board and local community. Though a public school, all the design fees and a large portion of the construction budget came through donations and the tireless efforts of parents, teachers and school staff, volunteers, community members, and even the students who organized lemonade stands. Maury Elementary has a strong academic learning environment, with a commitment to making sure everything they do leads back to the students’ success. The playground contributes to this goal, allowing the relationship between academic success and student’s social and physical development to intertwine as they learn to create relationships.
LandDesign provided landscape architectural services, ensuring the original vision was taken through the City of Alexandria approval process. A detailed design was provided through implementation of a full program: multipurpose turf field and court, play space, bio-retention facilities, and the learning garden which includes an amphitheater, pathways lined by vegetable and flower beds.
The learning garden is the first REAL School Garden endeavor in Virginia. REAL School Gardens is now a collaborative partner of LandDesign with more opportunities to change children’s lives for the better. The program allowed for parents, students and Maury staff to review the garden designs, making sure it is tailored to the school’s unique needs. REAL School Gardens works closely with teachers, training them in ways to integrate outside learning into their classrooms, ensuring students are able to engage.
“The learning garden will help every student at Matthew Maury Elementary School succeed academically by creating a strong foundation for learning in Math, Science and Language Arts in ways they will remember, relate to and be able to apply long term. Kids learn best when they are learning in ways that are real, stimulating and hands-on,” said Jeanne McCarty, Chief Executive Officer of REAL School Gardens.
A Tale of Two Tree Saves
Saving trees was a major priority in establishing the vision of LPL Financial’s new campus on the outskirts of Kingsley Town Center in Fort Mill, South Carolina. The site was designed with the intent that employees be able to engage with nature and walk within the trees without realizing they are surrounded by development. The […]
Saving trees was a major priority in establishing the vision of LPL Financial’s new campus on the outskirts of Kingsley Town Center in Fort Mill, South Carolina. The site was designed with the intent that employees be able to engage with nature and walk within the trees without realizing they are surrounded by development. The end result is a greenway-adjacent campus with over 10 acres of tree save area, about 30 percent of the total site.
The Sealed Air headquarters located at the Lake Pointe Corporate Center in Charlotte, North Carolina also boasts about 30 percent tree save acreage, totaling over 12 acres. The vision for the Sealed Air campus was that of tree houses cut within the existing vegetation across the campus. Very early on in the project, the team flagged trees that were important to preserve throughout the campus during construction.
LandDesign landscape architect, Eric Pohlmann, summed up the tree save efforts for both projects, “The tree save concepts were ideas generated early on with the teams for both projects and really continued to be owned by the clients as decisions were made during the design and construction process.”
The LPL Financial headquarters has obtained LEED Gold certification through design elements such as the 99% regionally native and drought-tolerant plant palette, the use of permeable pavers for hardscaped areas, and a 20,000 gallon cistern that captures runoff from the parking deck.
The Sealed Air campus is more than 60% open space, and of that, only 8,000 square feet is ‘water thirsty’ sod. The project is pursuing LEED Gold certification, and will likely be certified thanks to these elements, and the additional design effort taken to preserve 12 acres of woodlands onsite, use of crushed gravel throughout the site to maximize permeability, and the 50% reduction in irrigation demand due to the drought-tolerant plant selection.
Dallas Multi-Family Project Recognized with Best Outdoor Living Space Award
LandDesign is proud to announce Discovery at the Realm, our luxury apartment project in Dallas-Fort Worth, has won two Dallas Builders Association Awards: Best Outdoor Living Space and Best Architectural Design-Multi-Family Community, Apartment or Condominium. In collaboration with 505Design and BB+M Architecture, we had the opportunity to work with project developer, Bright Realty, to bring their unique […]
LandDesign is proud to announce Discovery at the Realm, our luxury apartment project in Dallas-Fort Worth, has won two Dallas Builders Association Awards: Best Outdoor Living Space and Best Architectural Design-Multi-Family Community, Apartment or Condominium. In collaboration with 505Design and BB+M Architecture, we had the opportunity to work with project developer, Bright Realty, to bring their unique vision for phase one to fruition. “It’s always an honor to receive recognition for our work but we couldn’t have done it without our teaming partners,” said Rhett Crocker, CEO and President of LandDesign. “There’s something special that happens when you get a group of designers and visionaries together to create a living space that challenges the status quo.”
Something like Discovery at the Realm. An urban oasis in the next frontier of the Metroplex’s development. A gathering place with friends, where a cohesive design blurs the lines between interior and exterior living spaces. These multi-family apartments are more than meets the eye – they’re only phase one of the newest lifestyle option within the Castle Hills Community, a master-planned community of more than 2,600 acres. The project’s 400+ units are part of three distinct buildings which are unified through modern design elements, careful space planning, inspired landscape features and desirable amenities.
As the landscape architect and civil engineer consultants on this project, LandDesign was responsible for the entire exterior realm of the project. Varied topography across the site was used to create a variety of features and seating options all organized around a central stormwater lake featuring a 65-foot long boulder waterfall. A “clean + contemporary” aesthetic was carried throughout the project with a touch of Texas Hill Country for an experience that feels authentic, yet new. To further that appeal, mature trees were brought in to lend immediate permanence as well as resident comfort, while outdoor spaces were sited and designed to take advantage of natural protection from wind and sun provided by the buildings.
Activity in the community is encouraged with a variety of places such as the on-site Club serving craft beer and wine, unique courtyards with grilling stations, fire pits, lounge areas and more. Walkability was paramount throughout the design process, with a variety of pedestrian options to connect the amenities, from meandering trails to the urban-feeling lakeside promenade. Add to that a sparkling resort-style pool and pavilion as well as an easily-accessible dog park, and it’s hard not to choose this residential sanctuary as the Best Outdoor Living Space. The thoughtful planning and design of this project proves that a traditional suburban apartment setting can be more than just that. A place that matters.
People Matter: Ashley Clark
A professional colleague once summed up Ashley Clark this way. “Cat herder. Smart as a whip. Cool as the other side of the pillow.” Unlike some, Ashley had no idea what she wanted to be when she grew up. “I had way too many interests! I loved art, but also math. I liked to […]
A professional colleague once summed up Ashley Clark this way. “Cat herder. Smart as a whip. Cool as the other side of the pillow.”
Unlike some, Ashley had no idea what she wanted to be when she grew up. “I had way too many interests! I loved art, but also math. I liked to make things and appreciated quality materials.”
During high school, she considered communications, design and business programs until her calculus teacher and mentor recommended architecture school. “At the time, I had no idea what a gift it was for someone to understand that an education in architecture could expose me to all of these things.”
I struggled to understand the studio culture. We were supposed to be learning how to design places for the community, but there was a lack of interest in engaging the community.
As a first-year architecture student at University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Ashley quickly became frustrated by the culture of students who stayed up all night in the studio, absorbed by their projects. “I struggled to understand the studio culture. We were supposed to be learning how to design places for the community, but there was a lack of interest in engaging the community.”
At the same time, the American Institute of Architecture-Students (AIAS) was beginning a movement to advocate for a healthier studio/life balance and working with schools to monitor the health of its culture as part of the accreditation process. It would be Ashley’s first foray into the role of cultural change agent, but not her last.
“By graduation from architecture school, it was clear I wanted to pursue a non-traditional career path that would allow me to communicate the value of design.”
Ashley’s first job after graduation had her working directly with the leadership of an architecture firm to support client development, presentations and communication efforts. It set the foundation for her career as a marketing professional within the AEC industry.
She also continued her leadership growth with the AIA – with a focus on advocacy for non-traditional career architecture graduates – advancing from the Associate Director for AIA North Carolina to the AIA South Atlantic Regional Board, and eventually, the AIA National Executive Committee as the Associate Director.
There, she was part of a strategic planning process to change the structure of the national organization to provide better representation for the profession and better services for its 80,000 architect members. Ashley’s role involved advocating for and elevating the collective voice of emerging professionals who represent one-third of the AIA’s membership.
Ashley’s advocacy and volunteer leadership did not go unrecognized. In 2012, she became the first architecture graduate to receive UNC Charlotte’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award. She is also a recipient of the AIA National Associates Award, the highest honor given to an Associate member.
The opportunity to leverage my collective experiences as an advocate for great design and even better people is extremely satisfying.
At LandDesign, Ashley has found a place where she can share her passion within a culture that allows her to contribute. “I am so fortunate to have a position that allows me to sit at the intersection of communications and strategy for the firm.”
Ashley manages the firm’s marketing communications, including LandDesign’s 2014 rebrand, and has guided and supports the firm’s strategic vision through both large and small initiatives. She also works on a number of projects that support the firm’s strong culture, a nod to her college roots that prompted her early involvement with the AIA.
“The opportunity to leverage my collective experiences as an advocate for great design and even better people is extremely satisfying. And, it just proves that you never know how the opportunities you have to engage the profession will come back and impact your career.”
On her bucket list? Completing a home renovation with her husband who is also a non-traditional career architect. “We are fixing up a beautiful old southern home, room by room. It has incredible bones, but we are modernizing it and doing most work ourselves from reconfiguring spaces to running new plumbing and electrical. Between that and our 4-year-old, there’s not much room for other hobbies; though I’ve been trying to make time to get outside and work on my golf game.”
People Matter: Jeffrey Mis
On the occasion of his one-year anniversary with LandDesign and the start of spring, we’d like to introduce you to our favorite horticulturist. Family matters. Jeff Mis and his brother were raised in a multi-generational family in the blue collar “Region” of northwest Indiana outside of Chicago. His mom is the dean of students […]
On the occasion of his one-year anniversary with LandDesign and the start of spring, we’d like to introduce you to our favorite horticulturist.
Jeff Mis and his brother were raised in a multi-generational family in the blue collar “Region” of northwest Indiana outside of Chicago. His mom is the dean of students at an inner-city Catholic school and his dad is a retired Marine, turned chemical operator. Much of his youth involved the family caring for his maternal grandparents who passed away at a young age.
I wanted to choose a career that would honor my parents and grandparents, and do something that was going to help people.
“My parents and grandparents always instilled in us the value of a college education. But, where I grew up, going to college was a luxury. No one in my family, except for a cousin, had ever attended college.” Through scholarships and working full-time throughout college, Jeff was able to attend Purdue University.
“When I started college, I wanted to choose a career that would honor my family and do something that was going to help people.” Civil engineering was the direction he decided to take.
After one semester in the Engineering program, Jeff quickly realized he didn’t connect with the other students and didn’t feel the drive and passion he had hoped for. Then, came a chance meeting with a friend from home who was in the Landscape Architecture program.
“I’ll never forget, we were sitting at a Greek restaurant on campus. I was studying for an engineering final, and she was working on a final project for landscape architecture. I looked at what she was doing; making beautiful art that was functional, and I trying to run a program that would calculate the number of crystal sizes on the back of a stop sign.” Dawn broke for Jeff in that moment.
The very next day, he visited Purdue’s Landscape Architecture program and met with the professors there. “Two hours later, I realized that I could combine my desire for creating the infrastructure like parks and greenways, and have the creative outlet that wasn’t there for me in civil engineering.” The rest is history.
Early mentors planted the seed and cultivated his passion for horticulture design.
Jeff’s first job was with Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects in Chicago. He considers Doug Hoerr and Peter Schaudt early mentors who planted the seed and cultivated his passion for horticulture design. His work ranged from the Michigan Avenue medians that changed the way people look at downtown Chicago to multi-million dollar lakefront estates.
From there, Jeff went to work for Craig Bergmann Landscape Design, a high-end residential landscape architecture firm that also played a significant role in his career development. “Craig and his firm exponentially grew my level of horticulture knowledge and plant understanding.”
“It was mind-blowing to me the fantastic projects I was exposed to at such a young age. They were dreams come true.” In 2016, Jeff joined Land Design. It was a decision that changed the trajectory of his career.
Jeff strongly believes his understanding of plants and spatial organization that he gained from designing residential landscapes is critical to the work he does today. “Doug Hoerr once told me that if you can’t design a 10×10 patio, how are you going to design a 10-block by 10-block master plan? Creating a beautiful residence is no different that creating a beautiful greenway.”
Among the LandDesign projects that are benefiting from his horticultural focus are the Stevens Creek Nature Preserve in Mecklenburg County and the Cross Charlotte Trail along the Little Sugar Creek Greenway. “Now I’m working on legacy projects for all people instead of legacy projects for a family.”
Jeff has enjoyed sharing some of his work with his 95-year-old paternal grandfather. However, he deeply regrets that his maternal grandparents aren’t around to see what he has accomplished. For indeed, he is living their legacy; a dream where their grandson is using his college education to make his mark on the world.
People Matter: Cassidy Michaux
I feel a sense of responsibility, knowing that the design decisions we make will have a very real impact on the Earth and people’s lives. Balance and the environment matter. Cassidy Michaux was born outside of Philadelphia. His father was a landscape architect and pragmatist; his mother a “hippie who preached living a life […]
I feel a sense of responsibility, knowing that the design decisions we make will have a very real impact on the Earth and people’s lives.
Balance and the environment matter. Cassidy Michaux was born outside of Philadelphia. His father was a landscape architect and pragmatist; his mother a “hippie who preached living a life of respectful conservation and conscious engagement in environmental stewardship.” Together, they instilled in Cassidy a practical and aspirational balance reflected in his work as a designer.
At the age of five, his parents decided to leave Pennsylvania and seek out a new home in the country. “They took us on a backpacking trip through Virginia and Kentucky, camping our way through national parks and eventually settling on a 100-acre farm in rural West Virginia.” Using his father’s carpentry skills, the family built their own house.
Pennsylvania and his family’s farm were worlds apart, exposing Cassidy to a wide range of how communities function. “I would spend summers visiting cousins in Philadelphia. We would call up friends and meet them down the street for a pick-up basketball game or whatever. Our community back home was 100 percent car-reliant where it was an event simply to visit your neighbors and friends.”
Inspiration matters. That exposure also informed Cassidy’s design work. “I have a deep respect and passion for creating compelling frameworks that facilitate interaction between people and places, and feel a sense of responsibility, knowing that the design decisions we make will have a very real impact on the Earth and people’s lives.”
After one semester as a pre-med student, Cassidy went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture from his father’s alma mater, West Virginia University, where he graduated Magna Cum Laude. His aha moment came during his second semester when he realized how broad the field of landscape architecture is, providing variety and encompassing all of his interests. “This profession is just great. It allows me to work on everything from a big master plan project or urban infill design to something as intimate as building a bench on top of a planter wall.”
We’re constantly working with a variety of scales and putting ourselves at ground level to understand what it feels like as a pedestrian, and then creating a framework that defines that space.
Cassidy joined LandDesign in 2014. One of the projects he’s been involved with from the beginning is The Lincoln, a 260-unit multifamily complex near a new Wiehle Metro station in Reston, Va.
The project is intended to serve as a gateway that transforms the area into a transit-oriented mixed-use neighborhood with enhanced public spaces and pedestrian connectivity that lead residents directly to the Metro station. Cassidy worked on developing the concept and narrative for three public pocket parks for the complex, themed in a sequence to transition pedestrians from the organic form of traditional Reston to the more urban form closer to the Metro stop.
“This is where I really get to express my passion for balance and designing places that make everyone feel welcome. We’re constantly working with a variety of scales and putting ourselves at ground level to understand what it feels like as a pedestrian, and then creating a framework that defines that space.”
Curiosity matters. “I’m constantly asking why and questioning the status quo when it comes to design concepts to achieve a client’s vision and goals.” Cassidy get that from his mom. “Plans are the means and methods to make the vision and concept come together.” The balance of his dad’s influence in action.
People Matter: Allison Merriman
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference. – Robert Frost Allison Merriman’s career path is not the typical journey of a registered landscape architect. But, it has made all the difference to the perspective she brings to her role at […]
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference. – Robert Frost
Allison Merriman’s career path is not the typical journey of a registered landscape architect. But, it has made all the difference to the perspective she brings to her role at LandDesign.
In high school, Allison loved science, biology and art, and first learned about landscape architecture while browsing through college catalogs. While it sounded intriguing at the time, she ultimately decided to enroll in the Plant Sciences program at Clemson University.
After graduation, Allison worked at a retail garden center in Winston-Salem that also offered landscape design services. The experience renewed her interest in landscape architecture and led her to take jobs in architecture and land planning before joining an emerging young landscape architecture firm where her experience grew along with the firm’s size for more than a decade.
A foray into residential development expanded Allison’s experience, where she helped to craft projects’ visions and work closely with all disciplines from design and construction through sales and leasing. In 2009, she decided to return to landscape architecture and launched her own practice until five years later when Mark Kime and Beth Poovey approached her about an opportunity with LandDesign that was too good to refuse.
Each experience of my career has provided a different perspective on our profession and influenced how I approach a project.
Allison’s work at LandDesign is a combination of public and private sector projects where she performs conceptual design, rezonings, construction documents and administration, and more. They range from multifamily projects, hotels and a public park to several projects for the University of North Carolina’s Charlotte campus including a health and wellness center, new science center building, and an admissions and visitor’s center.
“Each experience of my career has provided a different perspective on our profession and influenced how I approach a project.” Her first job at the emerging landscape architecture firm taught Allison the skills of the profession and what it takes to run a small business. Her time spent with the residential development company gave her the opportunity to view projects from the other side of the table. And working on her own during the recession taught her to rely on the basics: work hard, be responsive, solve problems and be fearless.
I started running in college for the same reason a lot of people did. My roommate and I were eating too much pizza!
The journeys Allison takes in her personal life are as winding as her career path. And, they come in 26.2 mile increments alongside her husband. She has run more than 14 marathons in 20 years in locations as far flung as London and Big Sur in California to the storied Marine Corp Marathon in Washington, D.C. Her first race was the iconic New York City Marathon. She has run in it six times and hopes to make it her swan song marathon in 2017 if the race’s lottery system prevails in her favor.
People Matter: Engineer Spotlight
Last week, the National Society of Professional Engineers celebrated National Engineers Week; an opportunity to demonstrate that engineering is more than just solving problems using math and science and to elevate the public dialogue about the need for more kids to consider a career in engineering. We asked several of LandDesign’s young professionals to […]
Last week, the National Society of Professional Engineers celebrated National Engineers Week; an opportunity to demonstrate that engineering is more than just solving problems using math and science and to elevate the public dialogue about the need for more kids to consider a career in engineering.
We asked several of LandDesign’s young professionals to share their thoughts on careers in civil engineering. Meet Tareq El-Sadi, David Gastel and Aly Moniaci.
- Tareq El-Sadi is a civil engineering designer in our Dallas office. Being a handyman around the house matters. Well-rounded upbringings matter. Resolving issues matters. Mentoring matters.
- David Gastel is a civil engineer in our Orlando office. An FSU graduate, he believes that hard work and transforming ideas matter.
- Aly Moniaci is a civil engineering designer in our Charlotte office. Faith, family and JOY are what matter most to Aly. Along with Texas Tech athletics!
What kind of things did you like to do growing up that led you to a career in civil engineering?
Aly was always fascinated by buildings. “Growing up, I loved using blocks and such to build and create. I was also an athlete, so I grew up being part of a team.” Math also interested Aly. She excelled in those classes more than others and didn’t mind the homework because she enjoyed it so much. “My dad encouraged me to be an engineer. I knew that civil engineering offered a wide span of options, plus none of the other engineering choices got me as excited about the work the way civil did.”
Like Aly, David enjoyed building things when he was a kid, especially 3D puzzles of the Taj Mahal and the Sears Tower in Chicago. He also relished figuring out solutions to problems, especially ones that others couldn’t solve. “I also constructed a model train city every Christmas with my father. This taught me everything from creativity and presentation to electrical (it lit up!) and structural; even painting.”
Tareq is a third generation civil engineer, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. “When I was young, my father would bring me to work with him.” The two would visit project sites including massive industrial facilities such as water desalination plants and power plants as well as smaller projects like hospitals and office buildings.
“As a kid, I was amazed to see a project go from an idea on paper to a completed project. I knew I wanted to be a civil engineer when I realized my father was leaving an imprint that would benefit his community and society, as well.”
Can you share a project that illustrates how civil engineering’s creativity and teamwork is making a difference in the world?
Tareq believes every project he’s been involved with has made a positive difference in the world. “Our work on single family subdivisions has created living spaces for families. Medical office buildings provide space for physicians to practice and provide healthcare to those who need it. While each project has its own set of difficulties, as engineers we are always looking for creative ways to effectively resolve those challenges.” He noted that often a complex project is successful because of teamwork and the collaborative efforts of all the disciplines involved including civil engineers; landscape architects; mechanical, electrical, plumbing and structural engineers; architects and geotechnical engineers.
Aly chose The Village at Commonwealth, a multi-family community in Charlotte. “Due to the site’s confines – including utility lines that were already installed within the roadways – it took creativity to figure out where to locate all of the utility infrastructure and still meet the city’s guidelines.” The project team included the client, landscape architects, the architect and civil engineers. “It took constant communication by everyone involved to stay on top of all the changes and make sure they didn’t conflict with that was previously designed. There is no way this job would have been successful without the whole team working as one to make it come to life.” The multi-use site includes apartments, single family townhomes, a co-working space and a coffee shop, all adjacent to a park. “We created a place for people to live, work and play all within walking distance.”
David considers the North Carolina Research Campus the most influential project he has worked on. It includes cancer research centers, parks, medical office buildings and college classrooms. “There were a lot of people involved in various parts of engineering to help make the project happen. It had an early impact on my engineering career.”
What would you tell today’s young people to encourage them to consider a career in engineering?
David sees STEM careers (science, technology, engineering and math) as the wave of the future. “I think a lot of schools and parents get that. I would encourage them to expose kids to the various aspects of engineering and let them discover what ignites their passion for making a better world.”
Perhaps reflecting on his father and grandfather, Tareq views the engineering field as timeless and believes the need for more kids to consider engineering is really a need for more people to consider making society better. “Engineering is essential for basic life needs such as providing potable water distribution systems, water treatment facilities, wastewater treatment, transportation, electricity and the list goes on and on.”
Aly also points to the limitless need for engineers, with infrastructure like roadways and utilities always requiring updates. Plus, her enthusiasm for the profession is contagious. “The best thing about engineering is that you get to use your creativity and knowledge to create spaces and buildings that others will use for a very long time. It is not just about sitting at a desk and drawing up the same plans all day, every day. I always love driving by a project that I have worked on and watch it being built and when it opens to the public.”
Finally, we asked Aly, David and Tareq to list the top 3 reasons they love engineering.
- I am always learning, and no two days are the same. Every space is different, so I have to think of new ways to make it work, and I am always learning from everyone around me.
- I really enjoy the teamwork aspect. I am constantly communicating with others on a project team and collaborating with architects and other consultants.
- There are so many opportunities to grow as a person. I am always being challenged to reach beyond my comfort zone. It keeps me on my toes.
- The experience of getting to work in new places and see new things.
- The satisfaction that comes when we complete a project. There’s nothing like it.
- The challenges that keep me engaged.
- Interacting with other engineers and architects and collaborating to produce the best results we can.
- The “magic” of transforming an idea on paper into a reality.
- Knowing that the work I do has a positive impact on society.
People Matter: Jason Granado
Jason comes by his aptitude for architecture naturally. His father and grandparents were involved in the carpentry and construction fields. They even built the South Florida house where Jason grew up. “I was always fixing things and building things.” His high school interest in automotives – “taking cars apart and putting them back together” […]
Jason comes by his aptitude for architecture naturally. His father and grandparents were involved in the carpentry and construction fields. They even built the South Florida house where Jason grew up. “I was always fixing things and building things.”
His high school interest in automotives – “taking cars apart and putting them back together” – led Jason to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering. But, while working part-time in an auto shop, he realized the work was not as much fun as the hobby. Then, a chance opportunity to shadow a friend’s father who was an architect proved to be serendipity.
In his senior year, Jason started over, taking prerequisite classes at a community college before transferring to Florida A&M University where he graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Architecture. Wanting a more urban setting for graduate school, he chose Virginia Tech’s satellite campus in Alexandria, Va. and opted for a Master of Landscape Architecture degree.
There’s the way an architect thinks, and there’s the way a landscape architect thinks. They approach the same project with two different points of view.
“What drew me to architecture was not so much design work, but my tangible urge from childhood to build things. I knew how to stack bricks and put on a roof.” Landscape architecture gave Jason the chance to broaden his understanding. “You’re no longer thinking about one building, but entire city blocks and large open spaces.”
Serendipity once again intervened to bring Jason to LandDesign. While grocery shopping with his wife who is also an architect, they ran into Matt and Gabby Clark. The chance introduction led to a job offer a few weeks later.
His dual degrees give Jason a unique perspective on the work he does. “There’s the way an architect thinks, and there’s the way a landscape architect thinks. They approach the same project with two different points of view.”
We’re rebuilding a city and literally shaping the landscape, both physically and metaphorically.
Jason considers himself a utility player at LandDesign, applying his twofold abilities to projects like Tyson’s where he is involved in everything from the entitlement process to construction document detailing. “We’re rebuilding a city and literally shaping the landscape, both physically and metaphorically. People are now staying in Tyson’s. Living here and working here. It’s no longer a transient community. LandDesign has been a big part of changing that and it’s pretty amazing.”
I’m still learning every day from my peers. It is so powerful and meaningful.
Making and mentoring matters.
While in graduate school, Jason taught wood shop and metal shop. “I loved every moment of it.” Today, he continues to teach the crafts of wood and metal making as a volunteer with TechShop, a workshop and fabrication collaborative that provides access to the tools, equipment, education and other resources for everyone from artists and entrepreneurs to tinkerers and DIY enthusiasts.
His philosophy on mentoring is that the benefits include both teaching and learning.
“It is so important, especially in our field, to learn both old and new skills from each other, and to pass them down and allow people to become the greatest apprentice they can be. I’m still learning every day from my peers. It is so powerful and meaningful.”
Good whiskey matters.
Outside of work, Jason’s newest hobby is aerial photography. He’s also a whiskey aficionado who enjoys it best while sitting on the balcony with his wife and watching life go by. He believes you can tell a lot about a person by what they drink. “To me, a good whiskey is smooth and laid back with a lot of thinking involved in making it. And, I think that’s the type of person I am.”
People Matter: Kathy Riley, PLA
Kathy Riley first fell in love with urban environments as a young child living outside of San Francisco. “It wasn’t the FAO Schwarz toy store, Ghirardelli Square and its chocolate factory or Golden Gate Park that got me excited about trips into the city. It was a narrow courtyard between two buildings that had a […]
Kathy Riley first fell in love with urban environments as a young child living outside of San Francisco. “It wasn’t the FAO Schwarz toy store, Ghirardelli Square and its chocolate factory or Golden Gate Park that got me excited about trips into the city. It was a narrow courtyard between two buildings that had a pizza place and a street magician.”
I am a true believer that the places you live and environments you experience form who you will become.
Growing up, her father’s career moved the family to other iconic cities including Atlanta and Austin, Texas. “I am eternally grateful for the various places we lived, with each city offering amazing urban experiences and creating fond memories.”
“I am a true believer that the places you live and environments you experience form who you will become.” For Kathy, it was a landscape architect. “As a child, I’m sure I would have found it way cooler to work at the San Francisco pizza place.” Instead, her family’s time spent in different cities lead her to major in Landscape Architecture at Clemson University.
“My story is exactly what excites me about what we do at LandDesign. To have the opportunity to create places that inspire lasting memories, not only for a young child, but for people of all ages. I feel a great responsibility to do it with thought and care.”
It’s an exhilarating career where no two projects are the same and every day presents a new challenge.
Kathy joined LandDesign out of college in 2006, spending her first eight years in the Charlotte office before relocating to Dallas to help establish the firm’s new office there. Her work involves site planning, design development and regional planning for a variety of projects.
“In the decade I’ve been with LandDesign, I can’t think of one project type I haven’t worked on.” Those projects include planning for the Sugar Point port-of-call, a waterfront development in Barbados, to the University Research Park area plan in Charlotte. “It’s an exhilarating career where no two projects are the same and every day presents a new challenge.”
Her newest challenge includes being involved in outside activities that are increasing LandDesign’s presence in the Dallas market, working alongside Heth Kendrick, PLA, ULI, ASLA and Brian Dench, P.E., directors of the Dallas office. “Heth has amazing persistence and organizational skills, and I’ve learned so much from him as we continue to gain new opportunities from clients all over the Dallas-Fort Worth region. It’s hard to believe in the few short years we’ve been here just how many people we have met and the relationships we are building.” Her relationship-building also extends to ULI North Texas where she is involved in the ULI Partnership Forum that serves as an opportunity for young professionals to exchanges ideas and learn from local developers and city officials on an intimate level.
Kathy enjoys being back in one of her home states of Texas. “My husband and I love to ride bikes around White Rock Lake and run on the Katy Trail. I am my happiest when I’m outside on a pretty day.”
College football is also a favorite pastime. Her husband is on the coaching staff at Southern Methodist University. And, her beloved Clemson Tigers just won the national championship in a thrilling upset over Alabama that is certain to go down in the history books as one of the greatest games in college football.
People Matter: Mellissa Oliver
Mellissa Oliver knew by the time she was in middle school that she wanted to work in the AEC field, inspired by the grandness of built environments and a love for art. Growing up in Greensboro, North Carolina, she remembers taking car rides with her mom, and “looking out the window and seeing all […]
Mellissa Oliver knew by the time she was in middle school that she wanted to work in the AEC field, inspired by the grandness of built environments and a love for art.
Growing up in Greensboro, North Carolina, she remembers taking car rides with her mom, and “looking out the window and seeing all these great structures – tall buildings and bridges.” By high school, Mellissa had decided to study civil engineering. “I just knew that I wanted to be a part of something that creates places that we, as individuals, would use, but also would endure for a long time.”
Pride in what you do matters.
Mellissa joined LandDesign’s Charlotte office in 2013, working under Nate Doolittle, primarily on projects in the Uptown Charlotte area. She enjoys the challenges that come with designing projects with limited urban space. “How are we going to create something on this small piece of land that both benefits the community and provides a place they want to enjoy?”
There are many people involved in a project, and when we all come together to make it happen, it’s just wonderful.
It seems car rides are a reoccurring muse in Mellissa’s career. Discussing what excites her the most about her work, she tells about driving around Charlotte with her in-laws.
“They came for a visit and we were driving to dinner. On this one street, there were three projects I was involved in. Now, I realize there are many people involved in a project, and when we all come together to make it happen, it’s just wonderful. But, to be able to tell my husband’s parents I was part of creating that was an amazing feeling.” Just like she imagined it would be all those years ago, driving around Greensboro with her mom.
Getting involved in the community matters.
From a young age until now, mentors and role models have been important influences in Mellissa’s life and she is passionate about paying it forward.
It’s something that my heart tells me to do.
Three years ago, she began volunteering with the ACE Mentor Program of Charlotte, working with students from Ardrey Kell High School. ACE is an after-school program for young people interested in exploring career opportunities in architecture, construction and engineering. Each year, teams compete to present their final projects.
“I remember the first year, sitting in the audience and watching all the teams present their projects. At the end, they announced the winner. It was Ardrey Kell. Driving home that night, I just kept thinking, ‘They won!’ I was so excited.”
CREW Charlotte is another organization that is benefitting from Mellissa’s commitment to volunteerism. In December, she received the organization’s annual Rising Star award that honors an up-and-coming member who has made an impact in the organization.
René Whitesell was Mellissa’s first mentor – an assigned lunch buddy in elementary school – and the two have remained close. Driving home from the ACE competition. Mellissa called René in tears, overwhelmed to be part of her students’ success, just like René was there for her. “It’s something that my heart tells me to do, and René was a big part of that.”
People Matter: Jake Petrosky, AICP
At age 13, Jake Petrosky got lost on the west side of the Great Smoky Mountains while backpacking with friends. “We were lost for about 36 hours.” I think that is when my affinity for maps began. “There were news crews and heat seeking helicopters. Two of us followed a game trail down […]
At age 13, Jake Petrosky got lost on the west side of the Great Smoky Mountains while backpacking with friends. “We were lost for about 36 hours.”
I think that is when my affinity for maps began.
“There were news crews and heat seeking helicopters. Two of us followed a game trail down the mountain the next morning, got picked up on a backroad by a ranger, and sent a rescue team for our friend who was injured and couldn’t walk. I think that is when my affinity for maps began.”
The harrowing experience helped guide Jake from an early interest in journalism at Appalachian State University to his career as an urban planner and GIS expert. That, and an elective course in city planning. “The notion that cities don’t design themselves intrigued me. I had never considered that there were men and women with ideas and ideals who sought to shape the built environment for the benefit of the human experience and the natural world.”
Context matters. Public input matters. Interdisciplinary thinking matters.
Jake’s passion for the scientific power of GIS technology to better inform and elevate the creative design process is contagious. “We live in a new age of design. The technology we have at our fingertips enables data-driven planning and visualization like never before.” What Jakes describes is an emerging holistic planning approach called Geodesign.
“LandDesign is at the forefront of Geodesign. As a multi-disciplinary firm, we have a lot of the right people needed to assemble interdisciplinary teams. We are constantly experimenting with new ways to improve our iterative process that brings together engineers, landscape architects, planners, clients, members of the public and other stakeholder groups. We are also building collaborative partnerships with other specialty firms to enable us to tackle even more complex design challenges.”
LandDesign can play a key role in this design renaissance.
“I am really excited about the work we are doing in the public and private sectors; rethinking the public realm, designing active transportation and open space networks, and creating strong towns and unique communities. I believe there is a lot of room for innovation and LandDesign can play a key role in this design renaissance.”
Not surprising, Jake’s bucket list includes wide open spaces and connecting with nature. “All the national parks, Patagonia, Alaska, New Zealand. Lots of rivers. And mountains. And islands. And islands with mountains. Lithuania (Petrosky is Lithuanian), the mother cities of Europe, and a short list of mountain villages from Italy to Austria.” In the meantime, he enjoys fly fishing, kayaking and playing with his son Webb.
Durham: A Growth Center for Revitalization
North Carolina has been ranked the number one growth state according to the U-Haul Migration Trends Report with the Raleigh/Durham area consistently showing high-growth numbers. They have found themselves as number nine on Forbe’s America’s Fastest Growing Cities 2016 with a 2015 growth rate of 1.27% and a projected 0.93% for 2016. Raleigh has led […]
North Carolina has been ranked the number one growth state according to the U-Haul Migration Trends Report with the Raleigh/Durham area consistently showing high-growth numbers. They have found themselves as number nine on Forbe’s America’s Fastest Growing Cities 2016 with a 2015 growth rate of 1.27% and a projected 0.93% for 2016. Raleigh has led the Southeast as an ascendant tech hot-spot which comes as no surprise with the Research Triangle Park making up the center of the Raleigh-Durham region. As Learn NC states, this innovative, research Park has spurred economic growth with over 37,000 jobs and an average salary of $56,000 annually which is 45% larger than the national average. Not only are the job opportunities and educational institutions a driving factor for growth, but North Carolina’s climate and overall quality of life lure future residents to the area. However, with growth comes the need for plans to strategically prepare for the future of the City.
Durham is one of the cities that understands the importance in providing a path for growth that mitigates sprawl, supports infrastructure and sustains the quality of life. The City has been proactive in making plans and positioning themselves for alternative transportation such as transit. They are already seeing successful revitalization projects that are bringing the livelihood back to the community.
A specific area that is seeing exceptional revitalization is Durham’s Government District. An area where a development now known as Gateway Center is oriented to the existing vitality, and which adjoins the future Dillard Street transit stop on land once owned by Hendricks Automotive. Although there are a handful of public service centers such as the corrections department, county court, city solid waste services, and housing authority; there are a number of contributing energy curators that are located in the District. The American Tobacco campus is one of the main job generators in Durham, while the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC) and the Durham Bulls baseball stadium provide night life and help employ a sense of culture. Surrounding these city assets are huge underutilized, post-industrial landscapes that yield a great opportunity for redevelopment and the infusion of vitality to the Government District.
As visionaries and master planners, we recognized the long-term value and prominence of this property and began looking at the broader context with Citisculpt in 2013. A primary objective is bridging the divide created by Hwy 147 to the communities to the south. Fayetteville Street and the distinction of this site from the freeway provide for a true ‘gateway’ moment to the City and the emerging district. We have guided the master planning effort for the +/- 15 acres into a unique urban center that brings the community together. The initial 300+-unit multifamily residences are set to be occupied in 2017. The full build-out of the Gateway Center will have 200,000 SF of class A office, 145 key hotel with 20 condos, a companion hotel, ground floor retail and restaurants, and another 76-unit multifamily residences. To deliver this vertically integrated solution, the development team has formed many partnerships from both the private and public side of the table. One of the parking structures for Gateway Center is intended to be in partnership with the City. The development team has also aligned with GoTriangle to provide future Right-of-Way for the transit system within Pettigrew Street, as well as future provisions for transit parking for the Dillard Street Station. Discussions are underway with NCDOT and the City with regard to a potential land swap and implementation of a bold new district park at the intersection of Fayetteville Street and Pettigrew Street, and the on-going negotiations with NCDOT regarding the much needed street connectivity to Jackie Robinson Boulevard, which is a controlled access street.
The complexity of the development deal, and the public infrastructure creates a unique permitting process. LandDesign has orchestrated several Special Use Permits and Variances to accomplish the design objectives of the development in real-time with the project site permitting. With a tight delivery to market and a dynamic new vision for one of Durham’s primary gateways, LandDesign’s expertise has built an implementable strategy for Gateway Center, as well as created value for the adjoining underutilized parcels that, once developed, will create one of the most exciting urban environments in Durham.
To learn more about the growth of development in Durham, visit Business View’s article.
What Goats and Native Plants Have in Common
By: Kaitlin Craig, Landscape Architect Design Intern My original theory to replace lawn mowers in America and solve the issues of lawn management, consisted of everyone buying goats. However, it turns out goats don’t really like to eat just grass and prefer brush and weeds, too. Following this little fact came more issues with my […]
By: Kaitlin Craig, Landscape Architect Design Intern
My original theory to replace lawn mowers in America and solve the issues of lawn management, consisted of everyone buying goats. However, it turns out goats don’t really like to eat just grass and prefer brush and weeds, too. Following this little fact came more issues with my livestock vegetation management theory. Then it occurred to me, “Why don’t we just use less lawn?”
Let’s face it, lawns are high maintenance – you have to mow them and use lots of water (if you don’t water it regularly and evenly you get these beautiful brown patches). According to studies by the research group, Milesi in the United States, there is more surface area “devoted to lawns than to individual irrigated crops such as corn or wheat.”
I will admit, there is a purpose and place for everything. Lawns are great for recreational fields, golf and for people to walk, lay and/or play in. However, road median lawns and lawns in front of commercial businesses, residential front yards and parking lots, don’t have much logical reasoning. I see lawns as a place for people (or pets) to use, but they are are not actively using the lawn, then why have it?
A lawn does create a nice plinth for our lovely architecture and planting beds; however, that doesn’t mean it’s the only solution for creating an eye resting surface. Try selecting plants that are native or well-adapted to your local environment. This will lead to less water use and maintenance. I emphasize the less maintenance because I don’t know about you, but sometimes plant management is hard to fit into a busy schedule. Some of my favorite plants in the Texas region that I recommend are the Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella tenuissima), the line flower commonly used in floral arrangements called Liatris (Liatris spicata) and the Pink Buttercups (Oenothera speciose). You can learn more about the benefits of a native garden from this visual case study by the Santa Monica Office of Sustainability and the Environment here.
By all means, if you want still want to buy a goat, they are FAUN-tastic animals but, make sure to do your research beforehand. They are notorious escape artists and need a good size backyard. Nevertheless, it can be said for both goats and lawns that there is a purpose and place for everything.
Creating Places the Entire Family Can Enjoy
Dreaming of a place to relive the nostalgia of your childhood camp experience while creating new memories with your children and family? The essence of a true multigenerational, summer getaway awaits at Camp Lake James where you can shut off your phone, unplug and enjoy your natural surroundings and company. Just a short drive […]
Dreaming of a place to relive the nostalgia of your childhood camp experience while creating new memories with your children and family? The essence of a true multigenerational, summer getaway awaits at Camp Lake James where you can shut off your phone, unplug and enjoy your natural surroundings and company.
Just a short drive east of Asheville, NC, near the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Camp Lake James offers activities for all ages – swimming, boating, kayaking and fishing to name a few. The grounds include a social hall, amphitheater, expedition center, pool and spa area, fitness facility, natural beach, docks, butterfly garden, tennis courts, and access to community trails. In the evening, take in the crisp summer night air and the view of the peaceful lake while sharing a few scary stories and roasting marshmallows around the fire pit at the outdoor amphitheater.
LandDesign had the exciting privilege of providing the landscape and hardscape architectural design of this lakeside retreat. One important feature of the Camp’s design is the preservation of the natural habitat. Plant species and products were carefully selected to conserve 50%-60% more water than an otherwise non-regulated irrigation system. Nearly 6,000 individual trees, shrubs, perennials, ferns, ornamental grasses and sedums, representing over 100 different native species, were installed along the grounds. Look for the rare native “Ben Franklin” history tree at the intersection of three trails.
Another perk of Camp Lake James? The educational component. If you’re looking to appreciate and explore the natural historical character of the camp, head on down to the Expedition Center. This hub of nature programming allows you to create fish habitat, build bluebird boxes and preserve green space. The kiddie pools allow for adults to kick back under the shade sail that acts as a UV absorbent and protector, while the children enjoy tracing the tracks of native animals in the pool deck – creating a uniquely playful and educational area. Whether you prefer exploring the shoreline in kayaks, hiking the many trails, or relaxing in Adirondack chairs – there’s something for all.
With the last stretch of summer among us, we encourage you to go with friends, family or your significant other, and experience a getaway customized to the individuals in your group. Trust us, the nature will speak for itself.
Camp Lake James was awarded three awards: NC Chapter Award of Merit, American Society of Landscape Architects (2009), Excellence in Irrigation Award, American Society of Irrigation Consultants (2009), and NC Chapter Award of Merit, American Institute of Architects (2008).