by Mark Thomas, RLA, Associate Vice President
April is World Landscape Architecture Month (WLAM). People and communities around the world have deep, long-standing personal connections to the spaces landscape architects create. Sometimes people just need a quiet reminder of the importance of a special space and the talent, ingenuity and even luck that made them places to admire.
In the 24 years I’ve been with Pennoni as a landscape architect, I have always felt that the wide range of project possibilities makes the profession that much more exciting. You never know what can come next.
Something I’ve learned in my time here is, community involvement can be both rewarding and a source of professional development. For me, a design professional working primarily within the community in which I reside, also allows opportunities for volunteering my professional knowledge. This can come from boards, commissions, committees, etc. in local jurisdictions.
One way I’ve given back to my community in Loudoun County, VA is as a founding member of the Loudoun County Design Cabinet. Formed in 2003, the cabinet is a group of local designers who live and work in the county and offer technical skills to promote high-quality ecological, urban, architectural and landscape design within the area.
To highlight and inspire higher quality design within the community, we created the Signatures of Loudoun Design Excellence Awards. The Signatures program, now in its 17th year, recognizes owners, designers, businesses and community organizations that choose superior design standards in building, renovating or expanding a project.
Beyond the excellence awards, we hold design charrettes to aid with the improvement of design in projects in Loudoun County. These charrettes have not only served as professional development for me but resulted in the potential of work for Pennoni as well. One design charette focused on the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Heritage Area, a 180-mile-long, 75-mile-wide region stretching from Gettysburg, PA to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, VA. The charette focused on the landscape and wayfinding concepts for the newly created National Scenic Byway that runs through the area and serves as a primary touring route. My involvement and awareness of the project resulted in a request for proposal for Pennoni!
Being a part of the cabinet and my upfront knowledge of certain prospects has helped position Pennoni for project wins like the Lovettsville Streetscape, as well as open-end opportunities with the Towns of Lovettsville and Purcellville.
One great thing about being involved in the cabinet is that we produce solutions for the community as a group of like-minded designers. This, in itself, is rewarding. We grow, improve and learn as designers, while making where we live that much better.
Landscape architects play a key role in the built environment. We specialize in adding the human connection between indoor and outdoor spaces and blend the two in creative ways that can take a good project to something that much greater!