7 Question with...Inge Daniels

In my quest to learn more about the field I chose to photograph and the people behind it, I have decided to find out more about the architects and designers behind the projects I capture. Understanding their thought process behind each design and what made them choose this particular type of work not only lets me get to know my clients better, it also helps me see each project from their perspective. So here goes our first "7 Questions With..." Interview with Inge Daniels of Inge Daniels Design LLC. Please also visit her Houzz profile HERE. Inge creates amazing landscaping design. If you're looking for someone to make your garden and house look absolutely stunning, be sure to contact her!

What inspired you to become a landscape architect?

I was an artist focused on landscape painting coming out of college and my path since then has wound around, but I kept returning to landscape. I finally bit the bullet and applied to the GSD for a masters 

degree in landscape architecture and haven’t looked back since. I just love landscape - its shifting, seasonal, ephemeral quality; the way the right design can draw out the identity of a place; and the effect it has on our perception as we move through it, i.e. squeezing between contained space, i.e. squeezing between contained space that then opens into a clearing, the sounds of grasses or leaves whispering and the tenor of paving beneath your feet. I feel lucky to work with the palette of stone, wood and plants to improve our world - to build sustainable landscapes and help people connect with the natural world.

What is your favorite part about your job?

Being in the middle of schematic design for a project is probably my favorite part. That’s when ideas are nascent and the project can go in any number of different directions. It’s painful sometimes until a design really starts to coalesce but there’s a certain point where it finds its voice and takes on a life of its own. That moment is awesome. The balance of my work involves taking that vision, developing it and turning it into a reality. Seeing the landscape realized, especially a few years down the road when it really starts to mature, is incredibly rewarding.

What would you consider the biggest challenge/s?

Balancing work flow in a small office. It’s impossible to predict work flows and it’s hard to turn down exciting jobs so I often take on too much work. I haven't hired on help yet so it’s often late nights, burning the candle from both ends. These are the things I’m working on improving!

Do you have an upcoming project that you are excited about?

Yes, an entry landscape at a private Quaker school in upstate NY. I’ve done several projects at this school but this one will make the boldest statement so far about this great campus and its forward-thinking drive toward sustainability. ie. The campus currently has an iconic allée leading into the heart of the campus that is in decline. One of the things I’ve been researching for this project is what a sustainable allée could be like. An allée is typically composed of a single tree species, but with our climate changing we are seeing more pests and therefore less predictability in how tree species thrive. To have a single species is asking for trouble. If they fail either they all succumb or you have gaps in your continuous lines of trees. It’s a fascinating problem. We are building Phase 1 of the entry landscape this fall. Later phases will include the allée as well as a wetland renovation and outdoor classroom. 

Do you have a certain approach from start to finish for each project?

Different types of project require different scope. For some clients I just do hourly consultations to brainstorm ideas or provide suggestions. For some clients I just design and oversee the build on one discrete area of a landscape. However for most clients I start by developing a master plan that considers the entire site - its aspect, wind, soil and existing landscape features - and meets the programmatic requirements of the client. Once we’re all agreed on that conceptual plan I progress to developing the design with specific materials, plants and details and develop the appropriate drawings to get the project bid and built. I work closely with the landscape contractor, especially with layout of paths and plantings, to ensure the high quality of the finished result. 

Is there a specific project you are most proud of?

It’s hard to pick just one - it’s been an exciting few years since launching my own LA studio - but I can’t wait to see a residential project I recently designed and built in Newton fully complete next spring - we are a few perennials and carpentry projects shy of completion. It’s a corner lot and as part of the master plan I helped them locate a detached garage and completely reconfigure the back entry sequence and family terrace. The terrace itself is really neat with a built-in wood fireplace that looks out into the canopy of an adjacent property and seatwalls that wrap around. Some steps and one section of seatwall I designed in wood to have a warmer touch. I designed the seatwall to be lit from within so it emanates light through the wood slats. My client is hands-on and constructed it himself. I’m fascinated by landscapes at night.

What would you do if you had pursued a different career?

As with all jobs there are moments of tedium and frustration, but this is honestly my dream career. It draws upon so many different disciplines: ecology, botany, hydrology, soils, climate, perception, aesthetics, psychology, sociology, urbanism, architecture, art and design… to name a few. I consider myself a lifelong student so hopefully there's no end to my learning curve.