Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - May/June 2014 - (Page 38)

Exploring Career Options landscape Architect gerdo Aquino, CEo SWA Group After earning his undergraduate degree in landscape architecture from the University of Florida and his graduate degree in landscape architecture from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Gerdo Aquino went to work for the SWA Group, a Los Angeles-based international landscape architecture, planning, and urban design firm. Now, some 15 years later, as CEO of SWA, Aquino works to establish-or, increasingly, reestablish-cities and other public spaces based on their connection with nature. How did you become interested in landscape architecture? it was serendipity, honestly. one of my favorite shortcuts through some amazing sand dunes in florida disappeared due to a new "development." it bothered me, so i set out to understand how i could get involved in preserving these everyday experiences in the landscape. What experience opened your eyes to the potential of landscape architecture? When i was in college, one of my professors suggested that i call local landscape architecture firms to see if i could visit and see them in action. everyone opened their doors to me. they walked me around and showed me projects. i thought the work they were doing was so important, and i wanted to be part of it. i wanted to help others appreciate what good design is and why it's important to people and the space in which they live, work, and play. Can you describe the work you do? i am a Ceo, an academic, and just a responsible landscape architect. as Ceo, i make sure that all 230 employees of sWa understand the issues that are important to us, and i provide them with the resources they need to, say, do a research project on coastal resiliency or travel to a part of the world that we're not familiar with to understand the issues and maybe get us involved. as an academic, i have the opportunity to focus on complex research topics such as the latest innovations in infrastructure, including things like freeways, power lines, and wastewater. 38 imagine interview by Amy Entwisle Being a responsible landscape architect really comes down to how i handle the projects on my desk right now, because someone-a public agency, or the mayor of a second- or a third-tier city-is always looking for big ideas. they see what's happening in other cities. they look at their city and say, "We can do better. We can do what those big cities are doing, but we need help." i try to help these cities move forward. What is an example of a project that you're working on now? el Paso, texas, is a great city that has grown significantly in the past 10 years. the city planners have looked to new York, L.a., san francisco, dallas, and minneapolis and seen all the great things happening in the public realm. they've come back to their city and are embarking on some of the most ambitious public space projects in the U.s. right now, and i'm involved in a lot of them. there are probably 10 different projects all linked together by a robust network of bicycle and transit systems. they're bringing the light rail back, they just put in a aaa baseball stadium, and all the old buildings are being retrofitted and brought back to life. it's incredible. We're involved in the planning, the urban design, and the landscape architecture. We're out there every week watching it get built. What do you find most rewarding about your work? design means creating not only objects and places, but also experiences. i love being able to sit down at a desk, address specific kinds of problems, and figure out solutions that are highly creative and spatial. Probably the most satisfying part of it is seeing my designs implemented and seeing these places built. What is a typical day like for you? Usually i get really involved in a discussion with an architect, developer, city official, or representative from a public agency-whether on the phone or in person-and time just evaporates. much of what we discuss focuses on topics such as quality of life, urban ecology, and design. it's basically 30-minute meetings spread over a very long day. it starts around 8:00 a.m. in L.a., but sWa also has an office in shanghai. in asia, may/Jun 2014

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - May/June 2014

Big Picture
In My Own Words
Imagine, Design, Build
A Schematic of the Possible
My Life as an Architect
Blueprint for the Future
DesertSol: A Model of Sustainability
Across Space and Time
The Art of Summer
Selected Opportunities & Resources
A Digital Canvas
Rising to the Technovation Challenge
Off the Shelf
Word Wise
Exploring Career Options
One Step Ahead
Planning Ahead for College
Students Review
Creative Minds Imagine
Mark Your Calendar
Knossos Games

Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - May/June 2014