Alex Nagel is an Associate in OJB’s Solana Beach office.
What inspired you to become a Landscape Architect?
I always had a special love for nature, animals, plants and landscapes even though in school I liked every subject – the arts, humanities, sciences, technology and literature – which makes deciding on one career somewhat difficult. I was interested in pretty much everything, fascinated with the richness and multi-facetted nature of the existing world. Early on I also was exposed to architecture through my mother who was a draftswoman back in the day when plans were drawn on mylar with ink. I completed my undergraduate degree in Biology with the goal of becoming a scientist and continued in a PhD program in plant sciences. Over time it became clear that my interests in graphics, art, design and technology, and a desire to serve the public were not well served by this career path. After wrapping up with a master’s degree in plant sciences I switched to landscape architecture which perfectly combines many of my interests in one career.
Who as an artist or landscape architect influenced your design and plant materials?
Growing up in Germany and traveling throughout Europe exposed me to the beauty and richness of cultural landscapes. Many of the most beautiful places were actually never purposefully designed but evolved over time. A lot of inspiration can be found exploring and documenting these ‘accidental’ landscapes both in urban, rural and semi-wild contexts. Personal influences come from Lawrence Halprin who distilled the essence of elements of nature and expressed them in his design. The Ira Keller Fountain in Portland Oregon comes to mind, which emulates the majestic beauty of High Sierra creeks and waterfalls.
What is your focus when designing? What makes your work rewarding?
The greatest reward is seeing an idea take shape in the real world, which has a somewhat magical quality to it, and when in the end people are enjoying their new space.
Where do you go to feel inspired?
Primarily in nature, ideally untouched wilderness, but also on travels visiting parks and gardens. I love the High Sierras here in California where I have been on 7-10-day backcountry hiking trips. In Europe, I backpacked in Germany, Scotland and Sweden and did several multi-week bike tours through Switzerland and France, including crossing the Alps. The awareness of the strong positive response humans have to nature and how underserved this need is in much of our daily environment led me to become a landscape architect.
What has been your favorite OJB project to work on and why?
Metropolis in downtown Los Angeles where I helped on construction documents and detailing was a great learning experience on the technical details involved in a rooftop project of this size. Another project I have enjoyed working on is El Centro Courthouse in El Cajon, a small courthouse project. Without a lot of hardscape elements on this project the main focus is on planting design using mainly desert and similar drought tolerant plants.