Contrary to what you may think, a landscape architect is not a landscaper. Ken O’Dea, who is the primary environmental designer and landscape architect for the newly minted
, specializes in creating parks (yes, some landscaping is included), planned communities, wayfinding systems, academic and business campuses, recreational areas and gathering spaces. In other words, he designs different kinds of connections between built structures.
After 14 years of environmental design work for Vivian Llambi & Associates, Inc., O’Dea launched the Place Workshop to fulfill his dream of designing urban spaces that encourage visitors to stop, look and enjoy.
“Sometimes with projects, there’s an emphasis on LEED certification or green infrastructure, or there’s a very specific budget you need to hit," O’Dea says. "I also think landscape is, at times, more at the forefront than the design of an exterior space. I want to make sure all those things come together, so that the final product is a space designed to be a comfortable place for people to linger.”
He weighs environmental, financial and aesthetic concerns, determined that no single aspect will tip the project’s scales. While his peers insist upon native species for greenery, O’Dea rejects such stipuations. “We can over-think these elements, and that can be a weak part of a design," O'Dea says. "If a plant is a beautiful addition to a space, then use it. This is really for the end user -- that’s where we came up with our name.”
With his penchant for urban parks and plazas like Fountain Square, O’Dea calls downtown’s Lytle Park “a hidden gem," and has his eye on the new Smale Riverfront Park.
The design pro also appreciates another local favorite. “This is kind of a cliché, but I think Findlay Market is fantastic," he says. "It’s a perfect example of a place a landscape architect or urban designer would design. It just really functions well.”
By Robin Donovan