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Shari Depasquale, MLA – Architect and Principal of Stone Hill Design Associates

By Admin | January 9, 2008

Shari Depasquale is a landscape architect in Baltimore, Maryland and a partner in Stone Hill Design Associates who provide landscape architecture expertise for industrial, residential, community, and park sites. She gives us her throughts.

Where are you from?

Originally, upstate New York, but I went to high school and college in North Carolina.

Where did you go to college and what was your academic major?

I have a masters degree (MLA) from North Carolina State University’s School of Design…a very diverse design school teaching textile, graphic design and architecture. Also, NC State offered a very good horticulture program where I took many classes.

What was your career path from college to prinicipal of Stone Hill Design?

My first job out of grad school was with a large Baltimore-based landscape architecture firm. After working with them for ten years, my business partner and I started Stone Hill Design Associates, which specializes in high end residential design.

In your description of the Veterans Administration nursing center you helped to design, you mention a dementia garden. What is that?

A dementia garden is a contained garden space, usually with a walking loop, designed specifically for patients with mental illness, usually Alzheimers.

These spaces include activities such as gardening, bird-watching, and gathering spaces for family visits. Sometimes these spaces have memorials within them.

Why do you require residential properties to be formally surveyed before you start your design?

Depending on the complexity of the design, an accurate base map (derived from a survey) is the first step in the design process.

If a project is very small, we can do our own measurements showing important elements, using the homeowner’s plat plan as a starting point.

But usually, the plat plan provided to homeowners at settlement is not accurate and is often insufficient to use as the base of our designs.

With the widespread use of AutoCad, surveyors often can send us their drawings via email and then it’s a very simple process to transform the drawing to our purposes.

Finally, if grading is required with walls, steps, etc., then topography is a very important part of the site and only a surveyor can provide that data accurately.

If you had to limit your practice to just one area of residential, industrial, community, or park, which would it be?

Residential, which is a very large portion of our work right now.

What one area or landscape is your dream “fixit” job?

The renovation and refurbishment of one of the old Tuscany villas, including (having) the money to make sure that (the) landscape was maintained as originally intended.

Can you describe your Dickeyville Project? Where is this neighborhood and what are you trying to do?

Dickeyville is a Historic Neighborhood on the west site of Baltimore, near I-70, just inside the city limits.

Very old, beautiful houses and mill buildings are the main attraction, but the residents are also able to take advantage of nearby parks that embrace the community.

Gywnn’s Falls stream flows along one edge of the neighborhood and the residents have claimed this area as their own.

Working with the city, they have cleaned-up, planted and adopted this part of the falls making a wonderful natural amenity to their neighborhood.

They hired me to do a landscape master plan of the entire neighborhood with the overall goal of setting forth landscape improvements for the care and improvement of their community spaces.

Through site analysis work, research, community interaction, and design strategy, Stone Hill has established three main improvement goals: installation of historic light fixtures; planting of large, low maintenance masses of native materials; and establishing community identity, through the use of formal signage, informal markers and the use of a signature tree.

Over time and as their budget allows the master plan will get implemented on a project by project basis.

What is your strategy of dealing with clients when they request something that is “just horrible?”

I try to be as tactful as I can and explain why their request is not ideal. Usually this works, because after all, they hired me for my opinion.

My favorite line is “I see what you are trying to do, but from a design standpoint that doesn’t work because…..” It helps when you know what you are talking about and look them in the eye.

Which city in American has the best existing landscape architecture?

Seattle, and its neighbor to the south, Portland. They have extensive art in public spaces programs, great parks, safe and clear walking and biking paths, good public transportation systems and a very well educated and sophisticated population regarding the environment.

How do you interact with building architects?

Usually, the architect is hired by the client first and the basic layout of the building and how the building sits on the site is addressed.

Ideally, landscape architects help with the siting of the buildings because we are better trained to understand the nuances of the land.

Unfortunately, we are often brought in until after the building has started and more often than not, we are forced to correct problems created by poor land planning.

But due to the design programs on HGTV etc., our clients are becoming more and more sophisticated regarding the design process and often demand our services earlier in the process.

Also, seasoned architects see our value and are calling on us to work with them to help site the building with regards to environmental conditions such as prevailing winds, arrival seqencing and topography.

What are the particular landscape architecture problems in Baltimore?

Because Baltimore is so diverse, the challenges are diverse and range from vandalism and theft, to our hot dry summers.

In the inner city, groundcover is discouraged due to the rodent population. And in the (surrounding Baltimore) county, deer have become such a huge problem that there are very few plants we can use that deer won’t eat.

But the beauty of being a landscape architect in Baltimore is the wonderful old architecture in the city. LA’s often draw their inspiration from the architecture of the site, so in that way Baltimore is very rich and it is one of the main reasons I moved here.

Can you describe your personal residence?

I own a 1920’s bungalow in an urban neighborhood just outside the city limits. I have designed and redesigned my small garden several times now and have discovered that although I have the good tastes of my clients, I do not have their budget! That’s part of the fun, however, working with what you got…..for me and for my clients.

Disclosure: Ms. Depasquale and a family member of the interviewer have a business relationship.

Copyright 2008 DailyInterview.com

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