Novedge: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. Image credits Michele Lee Willson Photography.
Alyssa Erickson: My name is Alyssa Erickson and I am a Landscape Designer at Arterra Landscape Architects in San Francisco, California. I was born and raised in Santa Barbara, California, and moved up to San Francisco to study Industrial Design. I’ve been living here now for twenty years, and still feel the charm of the cable car bells when I hear them ringing. At Arterra, I work on every stage of the design process to implement the partner’s vision. We start with thumbnail sketches and hand drawn renderings in conceptual design. Then we move into design development with more refined illustrative hand drawings, 3D modeling with SketchUp and technical drawings using Vectorworks for construction drawings. I also get to utilize my industrial design skills by designing tables, sculptural lights, fire pits, and seating elements.
Novedge: What was the attraction in becoming a Landscape Architect ?
Alyssa Erickson: The attraction to Landscape Architecture is the ability to make a positive impact on the earth while creating a beautiful design. It can be as simple as planting a shrub that will attract bees, or planting a tree that will help clean the air. It is a joy to create spaces with materials that provide texture, color, stimulation to the senses, and that actually contribute to the health of our planet. Plants not only provide beauty but nurture the soil and ecosystem. Novedge: What is a recent project that you worked on with Arterra?
Alyssa Erickson: What is great about our projects is that they vary from ranches with horses to designs with strong graphics. We frequently have the opportunity to design unique sculptural and working garden elements and push our creativity. Novedge: What's the secret of building a dream team? There seems to be a great synergy at Arterra and you even have a dog in the squad.
Alyssa Erickson: The secret is humor and creativity. We all work really hard at Arterra, and with our open floor plan and closely knit desks, we can shoot off questions, ideas or say what we find exciting or hilarious at that moment. There is not a day that goes by where there is not laughter in the air. We look for any reason to have a theme about something, and since we took a few projects on ranches, we came up with “Ranchy Thursdays” where we dress accordingly in ranchy attire. I am hoping to design (or own) a yacht or harbor someday, so therefore we celebrate “Nautical Fridays.” Also, if people are wearing the same looking outfit, we’ll snap a photo and call it “uniform day”. (There are many examples on our Facebook of the Arterra Uniforms.) Another fun thing we do at the office is Sketchy Tuesday, which is sketching outside at various unusual locations at lunchtime on Tuesdays.
Novedge: How do you approach each project and its context?
Alyssa Erickson: The partners at our firm develop a vision for the project that is inspired by the client and the site. They will spend time on the site noting all the sensations that arise, and seeking to find that magical place on site. Once that is found, a narrative is written that drives the visual design and a landscape master plan is created. I take the narrative and the master plan to make future design decision and apply them down to the details. Novedge: What's trending right now in Landscape Design on the West Coast?
Alyssa Erickson: Drought tolerant landscapes, ornamental grasses, succulents, meadows, low maintenance, grey-water irrigation, and fun social gathering places. We have been incorporating bocce courts into a lot of our projects. Novedge: What are some of your favorite materials to work with?
Alyssa Erickson: Perforated metal, pebbles and powder coated finishes. Novedge: Tell us 3 things we should do, right now, to improve our environment?
Alyssa Erickson: I’m going to answer this with 3 different levels of effort:
Level 1: Support organic gardening, skip taking a shower, carpool to work.
Level 2: Plant an organic garden, collect rain water, take public transportation to work.
Level 3: Plant nitrogen fixing plants (legumes, clover) and mycorrhizal plants (carrots, onions, ferns) to nurture soil, put a grey water system in your house, ride your bike or walk to work.
Get inspired by Alyssa's tips and check out Arterra's beautiful Landscape solutions on their website.
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All images in this blog post are by Michele Lee Willson Photography.