Brian Dickson is a Project Designer in OJB’s San Diego office.
What inspired you to become a landscape architect? I had a somewhat unique introduction to the field at an early age. I have always enjoyed place-making and as a kid would sketch drawings of homes, skylines and mountain landscapes in design journals. Around the same time, my family had a house in Beech Mountain, NC where I ended up becoming really inspired by the outdoors. I built a garden and patio area for the property and would go to the mountains on weekends throughout the year. This involved skiing, boarding, hiking, a little bit of everything outside. As I got older, I eventually discovered landscape architecture and it became an ideal path that merged my passions for sketching, design and the outdoors.
Who as an artist or landscape architect influenced your design and plant materials? I have always appreciated the work of Dan Kiley and Lawrence Halprin, but to get a sense of my influence from outside the field, Wassily Kandinsky had a strong impact. I came across his work during my early years in design studio and found it rather unique. The compositional nature of his work and the overall connection it maintains between music and painting is fascinating. Being a musician in my free time, I really appreciate the approach he took to developing his work and overall, it inspired me a lot early on as a designer.
What is your focus when designing? What makes your work rewarding? My focus is being passionate about whatever project I am working on, no matter the scale or context. This comes through enjoying the large-scale projects that can have a great impact on the urban fabric to the more intimate ones on campuses and in wine country. A key factor for me is maintaining a steady concentration on the details, but not forgetting about the bigger picture throughout the design process.
What makes the work rewarding is knowing that at the end of the day, we are shaping the environment people interact with on a daily basis. It is very fulfilling to know that we are directly influencing the urban condition and improving the quality of life in cities, campuses and a variety of places.
Where do you go to feel inspired? I enjoy a good impromptu road trip. The areas I have lived in have always inspired me, whether it was east coast beaches, Blue Ridge, Rocky Mountains or now being the coastal region of southern California. In recent years, my hikes in Colorado were some of the most impactful trips I have taken. The sense of scale you get when climbing 10,000+ feet in the middle of the Rockies is hard to put into words and is without a doubt an inspiring experience.
What has been your favorite OJB project to work on and why? My favorite project so far has been Lions Park in Costa Mesa, CA. The project is a 3.5-acre park supporting a new library and community center for the city. I have been involved with the job since early schematic design and it is now currently under construction. Being relatively early in my career, it has been a great experience to be involved in all phases of design throughout the project’s life and see it evolve over time.
My favorite moment was developing the construction set and being able to really dive into the details of design. Lions Park is interesting in this regard, being multi-phased and having a handful of custom elements such as bridges and concrete forms. I have always been active in 3D and conceptual renderings, but this gave me a great opportunity to really finesse my technical skills.
Otherwise, it has been great to work in 3D on jobs such as East Village Green, which is also near the top of my list. I have found both projects to be a fantastic learning experience and it has allowed me to focus on becoming efficient, detail oriented and develop further as a technically oriented designer.