By Leslie BattenJuly 6, 2017
I am fortunate to get to do what I love every day. I get to work with great people – coworkers, clients, contractors, and product reps. I get to organize space relying on the basics: soil, space, and plants to provide form, intrigue, and introspection. While working on a project, I’m often reminded of Rich Haag’s words of wisdom he shared with my landscape architecture class while touring Gas Works Park, “the biggest secret about landscape architecture is that all you have to do is move dirt from one place to another, it’s that simple.” Looking at Gas Works Park, simple does come to mind, because of course, what else would be there? However, simple is the last word to describe the thinking, planning, remediation, regulatory compliance, design iterations, and slew of public meetings that led to Gas Works Park becoming the Seattle icon we know today. That’s one of the reasons why I love my job: it looks simple when it’s done, but a lot goes into the work behind the scenes, and it’s different with every project. And the plants! I get to talk all day long about plants without anyone rolling their eyes. Even Brian Baker enjoys the site teams near constant Latin banter!
Perhaps I love my job so much because I took the longer road to find it. I followed my love of understanding how plants and animals live and interact with their environment and graduated with an ecology degree, from Western Washington University.
A few years later, I was working at Forterra (back when it was still called Cascade Land Conservancy), but now working on conservation of habitat for wildlife and for people. I loved this line of work, and eventually made the switch to urban stewardship to focus on making cities more livable, and reducing pressure on the natural landscapes that make our region so incredible. I worked with several Puget Sound cities to create community forestry restoration programs in Kirkland, Tacoma, and Redmond.
About this time, I discovered landscape architecture through one of the community groups, the Great Cities Initiative, who were also working to revitalize Seattle, but with more of a focus on design for people. Actively shaping city spaces – streets, parks, plazas, waterfronts, and oh so much more, so that people would want to (if not love to) live in cities sounded right up my alley. I jumped in headfirst to the University of Washington’s Landscape Architecture program where, from the first day of classes, I knew I had found the right career. I found an inspiring mentor in my professor, Nancy Rottle, and worked with her in the Green Futures Lab writing grants and generally spreading the gospel of sustainable design.
As a licensed Landscape Architect, I’ve worked on a range of project types such as private residences, multi-family housing, parks, civic spaces and campuses, and I have loved every one of them. I got to work for Rich Haag on several private residences in Seattle and the San Juan islands, learning about client care, plants, and the art of storytelling along the way. At Mithun and then GGLO, I worked on larger commercial, civic and campus projects and discovered my preference for working in an integrated design office – the process and final design are simply better, and I enjoy being part of the decision-making process. That’s one of the many reasons I joined Board & Vellum.
Don’t worry! I do get out of the office, and am always in search for an adventure such as a trip abroad, a bike tour, or learning to make our own wine. My husband and I lead an annual Wine Country tour where we take friends on a leisurely bike tour through different Pacific Northwest wine regions. We’re all looking forward to the 10th year when we go to Umbria.
Otherwise, time in the mountains is always a good time in my mind.Bottom line of all this text: landscape architecture is really fun, and I can’t wait to work on your project!