Ben Canales is an Associate in OJB’s San Diego office.
What inspired you to become a landscape architect? My interest in landscape architecture began with a fascination for water features. As I continued my studies, this evolved into a fascination with how people relate to their built environment and how this deep relationship allows landscape architecture to serve as a leveraging medium in advancing culture and equality, economics, and overall quality of life.
Who as an artist or landscape architect influenced your design and plant materials? Most recently, I have been inspired by the design thinking behind contemporary digital media like mobile applications and websites. In the world of digital media, applications are often thought of, in concept, as people with distinct personalities. The design process begins with the question, Who is this application? From how an application responds to a swipe of the finger, the sound expressed at the completion of a task, to witty copy that can crack a smile, people expect the applications they use to reflect a personality they can relate to. These emotional connections create a memorable experience that keeps the user coming back for more. Understanding this emotional engagement with the digital space, has deepened my understanding of our impact, as landscape architects, in the creation of places.
When considering form and materials, we are truly curating an emotionally engaging experience; an experience that allows a user to make powerful associations between themself and their local ecology, culture, and history.
What is your focus when designing? What makes your work rewarding? There are many tiers to this question. As a developing professional, I am always looking to outdo the success of my last efforts. From production skills to client relations, team efficiency and product knowledge, there is much to absorb. With such endless room for growth in the areas that make a good designer, reward in the many small success of each project certainly keeps me going. Likewise, when looking at a project as it relates to the field, designers have a huge responsibility and opportunity to explore new concepts. Demonstrating how new concepts can be applied in the built environment push the envelope of what landscape architecture is and serves as one of the most rewarding aspects of the profession.
Where do you go to feel inspired? I feel most inspired as I explore complimentary design thinking. Whether that is digital media, fashion, or art, I find myself most inspired when I take a step back and look at design for people through a new lens. The parallels to landscape architecture identified in other design fields have only served to deepen my understanding of the practice and refreshes my enthusiasm for the profession.
What has been your favorite OJB project to work on and why? UC San Diego Live & Learn Community supports and encourages learning and discovery beyond the classroom. The Live & Learn Model provides students with serene living quarters and common areas that foster continuous learning with peers in one place. Utilizing this innovative model, the project is comprised of 6 buildings, a section of Ridge Walk (the main campus promenade and class 1 bicycle thoroughfare), expansive outdoor amenities, as well as a new Complete Street for the University.
This has been a special project to be a part of as academic landscapes have a real impact on the brand image of Universities. Creating a unique and welcoming atmosphere for prospective students begins well before someone enters a building. As part of the design team, I contributed design and technical support for 15+ accessible terraces and green roof applications across this aspiring LEED Platinum project.