Meeting with Kimberly Garza from AtlasLab expanded my library of insight into landscape architecture’s many career paths. Similar to Shawn Balon’s own trajectory, Garza had a yearning for additional education into landscape architecture after working in the field post-undergrad. Her pursuit of a master’s degree speaks volumes to her passion for the discipline. Although we have had many exceptional speakers talk to us in Professional Practices, Garza stood out to me because of her grassroots approach to design. Specifically, her career path from large-scale thinking at large-scale firms to the small-scale sites in the maturation of her career demonstrates her love for community engagement that I am particularly attracted. For example, even though she was not contracted to map the hills of San Francisco, her passion for design and community pushed her to find a way to catalyze that data into a small-scale geoform intervention in San Francisco for pedestrians to engage. Garza presents herself as an unofficial explorer of her community–by finding and amplifying the hidden histories of the locale.
A piece of her advice about design that resonated with me was when she told us to “think big, start small.” I found this to be particularly comforting as an emerging designer wanting to make a big impact, but not knowing where to start. So hearing her story and how many of her completed projects resulted from an initial solo venture gives me hope that impact through design can come in all shapes and sizes.