Recently I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing landscape architect Joseph Marek. Joseph’s work is just beautiful and he is simply a master at displaying his spaces as works of art. His gardens have a soothing and calm effect that makes you want to admire them and stay a while. Sitting in his backyard, was such a treat because Joseph was able to explain to me what certain plants were and what was involved to create such a lovely and inviting space. I asked Joseph a few questions about his design practice thus far...
How did you come to be a landscape architect? I’ve always been interested in gardens and architecture, ever since I was a child. We moved around a lot when I was growing up but I always had some sort of garden wherever we lived. I studied architecture in college and took the one class in landscape architectural history and theory that was offered. That made me realize I could make a profession out of a passion. I went on to get a masters degree in landscape architecture and my license. I love what I do.
What are your favorite plants/trees/materials to work with and why? I don’t think I have a list of favorites per se, but I do tend to rely on some old standards. I use a lot of strong hedges. They always help to define a space. And plants with bold shapes help to give scale and dimension to a garden. Also, plants that fit our climate are a must. With the hardscape, I love working with natural stone whenever the project and budget allow. And water in some form, whether a pool or a fountain or a pond, is almost always appropriate in a garden in LA.
What new landscape designs do you see using in the future? My newest fascination is with epiphytic plants – plants that grow on trees and walls without soil. I’m starting to introduce them into some of my gardens now. What is your greatest source of inspiration? Seeing other great gardens and landscapes. Travel is essential. Also, anything simply well designed, whether it’s a textile, a building facade, a flower arrangement or a plate of food.
Which landscape architects, past or present, do you most admire? Russell Page and Jacques Wirtz. Page was the link between the 19th & 20th centuries in landscape architecture, and Wirtz is the link to the 21st. But the designs of both are truly timeless. Describe your architectural design theory in 4-6 words or sentences. Combining classical grace with modern sensibility.
What is your signature mark that you always try to implement in a space? A bit of whimsy. Usually via a swap-meet find. If you could redo any space, past or present, what would it be? There are so many fantastically simple courtyards and piazzas in Europe, particularly in the Italian hill towns. Some don’t even have a single plant in them, but the scale and proportion are perfect and they’re always teeming with activity. I’d love to see that simplicity reflected in more of our local public spaces. What are your best practices when it comes to client relations? Always keep clients informed. A lot of people have never worked with a landscape architect before and are therefore unsure of what to expect. I keep my clients in the loop throughout every phase of their project. What 5 things do a well landscaped space need? Scale, Comfort, Light, Shadow, and Water If you hadn't become a landscape architect, what do you think you would be doing now? I would’ve gone to cooking school. I’d be a chef. Where do you see yourself in 10 years? I’ll still be designing gardens. I can’t imagine stopping. But after a recent six week holiday in Umbria I’d like to think that there are a few gardens in Italy in my future.