How did you decide to go into the field of landscape architecture?
I first decided to go into the field when I was still an undecided undergrad searching formy place in the world of knowledge. I always knew that I loved plants; in fact, my firstjob was working at a nursery/greenhouse with over 42 greenhouses. I had started outstudying botany and biology in Bismarck and discovered that I didn't like plants down tothe cellular level. A year later, I found myself visiting the civil engineering hall where mypartner at the time was studying, when I stumbled across a display of very intriguingplant art images. I read that the project was under the direction of Stevie Famulari. Iwalked into the office just behind me to ask more about the project and what program itwas connected to. After a very inspiring description, I was sold! I wanted to sign upimmediately. At the time I signed up for the program, all students had the choice toapply for both architecture and landscape architecture simultaneously or one or theother; I chose landscape architecture.
What geographic regions do you work in and how did you come to settle in Paris?
I currently work out of Paris, France. My address is actually outside of Paris about 30miles, next to a giant park called Fontainebleau Forest, but I do travel to and from Parisquite often. When I was studying abroad as an NDSU Landscape Architecture student,I studied and collaborated with students from Portugal, Germany, and of course,France. I fell in love with the french landscape almost immediately and also a frenchboy who is now my partner of 8 years. When I came back to the states I had two moreyears of studies until I graduated, so did Adrien, my partner. As we were both applyingto jobs internationally, we had decided that whoever got a job first the other wouldfollow. Adrien ended up finding a job first and so back to France I went.
I ended up continuing onto my masters in European Metropolitan Urbanism with one ofthe best universities for urbanism in France. The course was split up into two parts, thefirst semester in Paris and the second in Hamburg, Germany. Here, I was able to apply what I learned from NDSU to a much larger scale and from a different perspective fromthe European students. Having studied in three different countries and graduating withthree different degrees, I was well equipped to start a company. And that's exactly whatI did next.
When I moved back to Paris, I started getting in touch with all of my contacts from myfirst study abroad with NDSU. I connected with one of the students I collaborated within France, who also happens to be a Harvard grad, and we ended up starting a projectcalled Sciago. This was an online platform that helped researchers in urbanism to haveround table talks, find international collaborators, find funding, and jobs. In order to help researchers find jobs, we searched for large companies related to urbanism that wereinterested in doing prospective research. Sciago would then gather a team ofresearchers and organize the research for them, helping to make the lives ofresearchers and cities better. Long story short, this project was a huge successworking with $150k projects, but we were in over our heads as the project could nolonger be called a project.
By 2018, I had a good grip on the French language, a strong understanding of thestartup and business world in France, and so I decided to stay a little longer and give itanother shot. I started another company called Asana Rebels, joining forces with abusiness partner who specialized in interior design and had previously been aconsultant in environmental sustainability. Here we moved towards more of a lifestylecompany, focusing on clients who wanted designs that made people's lives happier,healthier, and that were good for the environment. Together we designed and builtseveral fascinating products and learned alongside one another as we followed ourpassions. Out of this job came the conception and creation of two pieces of furnituremade from wood. This is where I discovered my passion for woodworking and makingthings with my hands.
In one or two sentences, what is the focus of your typical work?
I think I got carried away and answered this somewhere above lol!
How did your education at NDSU prepare you to be a landscape architect andentrepreneur?
My design background gained as a student at NDSU is absolutely invaluable to where Iam now. Project planning as a student is key. If you missed this as an LA student, youmissed a pretty big lesson. Understanding how to organize meetings with differentstakeholders, groups, and officials involved in each project really helped me out as anentrepreneur. I was able to organize teams, departments within a company, and myown personal time all because of the invaluable knowledge gained as a studentmanaging my four month long landscape architecture projects at NDSU. I don't thinkevery major is accompanied with this same value.
What were some of the most valuable lessons you learned here?
As mentioned above, time management was a big one. One specific lesson that Ilearned is that I didn't take a chance and dream big for my thesis project. I tried to staywithin the boundaries so that it wasn't too much. As you can now see, I've taken thatlesson and learned from it. I dive in at every chance I get. Don't just get your feet wetpeople, dive in!Another value that landscape architecture left me with was the habit of learning newcomputer programs and technologies on a regular basis. In the LA program, students are exposed to many technologies at our fingertips. It's all about your own motivationand drive to learn to use what you pay for. The classmates I had were all super creativein using anything including solutions that came from outside of the studio. With thismindset, I found that compared to many people around me in the professional world, Iwas not scared to teach myself how to use a new program or to seek training to use anew technology. I just naturally was proactive and I attribute this to my experience withmy education with NDSU.
What advice do you have for current landscape architecture students?
Think outside the box! Get new perspectives everyday. Share your knowledge andlearn from those who aren't around you everyday. Take chances and fall in love with aFrenchy if you want, but have the courage to experience new things all the time. All ofour choices come from either fear or love, the next time you think you may be tooscared to connect with an intimidating contact, try a new activity, to make that speech,or to apply for that dream job, I challenge everyone to think about how that situationcould positively impact your life. You never know where opportunity is hiding. It's ourjob as students of this life to go out into the unknown and find it.Jim Carey once spoke about how his father was scared to become what he waspassionate about, being a comedian. But he was too scared that he might fail, and thatthe job would be too hard, and that too many comedians fail. He ended up choosing asafe job as an accountant and also ended up losing that very same job and thenstruggled to support his already poor family. He said, "You can fail at what you don'twant, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.