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Meet Stephen Billings of Stephen Billings Landscape Architecture in Santa Monica

Today we’d like to introduce you to Stephen Billings.

Stephen, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
From age seven I dreamt of becoming an architect, and after I finished architecture school I travelled across the country from my native South Carolina to Los Angeles… just before the Northridge earthquake. After working for notable modernist architects such as Dean Nota and Richard Meier I decided that it was the outside environment that was more appealing. So I went to Harvard Graduate School of Design for a graduate degree in Landscape Architecture and worked for a prominent landscape architect for nearly ten years. We worked on projects here in the USA as well as in Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Hawaii and Australia. I’ve become a huge aficionado of plant materials from around the world, and we design landscapes that celebrate the beauty and vitality of plants. Los Angeles is such a melting pot of cultures, and I find that the diversity of the plant community is equally diverse. We are not a dynamic design practice with all types of projects – academic to residential, from Malibu to Pasadena and beyond.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has been an interesting journey to this point, from working at Arcosanti in the Arizona desert building a futuristic sustainable city to the realization that my dream of being an architect was not quite the route that I ended up taking. But I think the journey has been so rich in terms of experiences and relationships that I feel truly fortunate. Building a landscape architecture practice has been difficult and humbling, especially when I was used to working on large scale projects in foreign places and then working on back yards! But the people I’ve met along the way have been amazing, and the team of people that I collaborate with make it all worth it. I love going to work every day (and it is almost every day) and working on new ideas with the team.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Stephen Billings Landscape Architecture – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
We are a landscape architecture firm that is interested in plants and a crafted, curated environment. We strive to enhance the experiential qualities of each site through investigations of program, context and materiality. Each site is seen as a dynamic palimpsest of cultural and geological histories. We examine each site and client with fresh eyes and an open mind. Each project is a relationship of personalities and aesthetics. Through lots of drawing and talking we patiently search for the essence of each project and how to amplify the qualities of each site into thoughtful built form.

We specialize in residential and academic work, and are best known for the rich planting palettes and unexpected landscapes. We try really hard to make each project comfortable, unique and sensual. I am most proud of the team we have developed here, it’s a small collection of people and everyone brings something different to the design table.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
We would love for our work to reach more people and have a greater potential to affect how people move in the landscape. That means bigger projects, and we are getting there quickly. We would love to work on museums, health care projects and more urban design projects. We recently started the design of the landscape surrounding a new entrepreneurial design school at USC, and are excited about the cross-pollination that the curriculum will inspire in the students. We would like introduce new plants to the marketplace and encourage other landscape architects to think more creatively about the plant materials they use for their projects.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 1815 Stanford Street,
    Santa Monica CA 904040
  • Website: www.sblastudio.com
  • Phone: 310 310 8438
  • Email: sbillings@sblastudio.com

Image Credit:
Stephen Billings

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