2018 National Grant Competition for Emerging
Professionals in Landscape Architecture

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Profile Aaron Luoma
HBB Landscape Architecture | Seattle, WA
University of Washington


What made you become interested in Landscape Architecture?
I've always enjoyed the outdoors, nature, and art, so Landscape Architecture became a natural fit. My parents studied forestry, horticulture, art and soil microbiology, and as a child I would spend my free time drawing maps and building fairy landscapes, so in hindsight it does not surprise me that I discovered Landscape Architecture.

What one thing inspires you and your designs?
The vernacular environment, this includes the well loved urban space, as well as the common forest. The highly designed plaza or spectacular waterfall is only stunning because of the common vernacular fabric that surrounds it, that if observed intently, is just as inspiring.

What do you think is the biggest challenge Landscape Architects face today?
To continue to take steps forward in leading on large complex projects, specifically for projects that have traditionally been led by Architects, Engineers or Planners. Our current roles are comfortable, but the value we could bring in leading design and managing large teams of designers has yet to be fully realized and accepted.

What is the most important lesson you have learned so far in your career?
Ultimately, it's about people. Most urban landscapes are not remembered and evolve over time, but the impact landscapes have on people and the cultures they are a part of last for centuries.

Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
Enjoying my work of design spaces for people, learning from others, and building relationships.


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Describe a space that influenced your career in landscape architecture, which can help others relate to the profession.

The Giant Chinquapin is my favorite tree. Landscape architecture provides opportunities for others to have favorite trees and open spaces.

Golden leaves dance in the wind, illuminated by dappled sun light through the dense forest of my surroundings. Like edible gold leaf waving in the slightest breeze, the leaves of this tree captured my imagination for many long summer afternoons. It stood out among the rest of the evergreens and deciduous trees. While many trees seemed to be the same green, this tree was different. It was my tree.

I didn't know the name of it, much less a Latin botanical name. What I did know, was that it seemed to be a gift from nature. This gift allowed a friendly giant to be my fort, companion, and resting spot. I would climb its rough branches until I got nervous that I was too high. Like a loving parent, it would coax me down just at the right time. Its alien thorny balls, filled with round nuts were like yellow sea urchins clinging to the tides of gentle breezes. I spent so much time at this specific tree I had worn down the ground at its massive trunk, trampling the undergrowth, and rubbing the exposed roots like a polished shoe. Anyone who came to investigate would see the signs, similar to the white chalk markings of rock climbers. I would come home after hours at this tree with scratches on my knees, pin pricks from its fruit, brown bark rubbed into my palms, and a unique pungent smell of this tree's distinct foliage. This giant occupied my days when I was at that critical age of 5 when memories are remembered forever, and what is right in the world is formed.

I didn't know it then, but this tree goes by the name of the Giant Chinquapin tree (Chrysolepis chrysophylla). Also called Golden Chinkapin tree for the brilliant golden appearance of the underside of its leaves. This soaring broadleaf evergreen tree can reach heights of up to 150 feet. Though I don't think my friendly giant was quite this high, especially to a scrappy five year old. It is a rare tree, that finds its home in the coastal mountains of southern Oregon and northern California. Out of the acres that were my daily playground, this was the only Giant Chinquapin tree.

Most people don't have a favorite tree, like the Giant Chinquapin is to me. Yet, many people do have memories of places that have impacted their lives. We romance about them, add or remove details that slip through the crevices in our mind, and retell them to friends and family. I was fortunate to have this experience and recognize that most people as children or adults don't have open green spaces to find their own favorite trees. As I walk back, tracing my life steps, I can see how this space and specifically this tree has shaped my career path in landscape architecture. A profession where I can design for trees, creating and preserving open spaces, and provide opportunities for others to make similar life changing memories.

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