For week three of Landscape Architecture Month we would like to highlight team member, Valerie Ahyong, and her unique path into landscape architecture.
As a child I grew up drawing a lot. I also took a lot of art and vocational courses throughout high school, including drafting classes. I really enjoyed hand drafting, and in my sophomore year I competed in my first AIA Alaska Frank Maier High School Design Competition and placed third in State, then first the following two years after. I attended architecture school for two years in southern California. I then took a break and transferred to Arizona State University (ASU) finishing my degree in Business and Marketing, while interning at CMX Sports Engineers as a marketing coordinator. Upon graduation I stayed with CMX providing both marketing and business development support, and assisting with reports for the planning department. The exposure to local design firms through proposals re-peaked my interest in design. I returned ASU for a dual masters, and within my first year, I began to fall in love more with landscape architecture. I have my then professors Ken McCowan and Joe Ewan to thank -- Ken exposed me to bioregional design, while Joe taught me to appreciate the Sonoran Desert and landscape design -- and at that instance I chose to just finish my masters in landscape architecture.
After graduation, I landed a job with JJR|Floor,(now Smithgroup). I had wonderful opportunities to work on projects across the country and overseas. My very first project through design was the Madison Improvement Club in Phoenix. Others included Sky Harbor T3 Renovations, CAC Phase 1, and Mountain View Health Center. I eventually returned to Floor, working on ASU Health Innovations, ASU Wexford, and Pima Dynamite Trailhead. After having my second child, I wanted to work closer to home and an opportunity to work for the City of Mesa became available. As a City Landscape Architect I managed a handful of bond park projects, and designed projects such as the view park renovation at Falcon Field Airport and the IDEA museum courtyard renovations project. Working in public sector definitely gave me a different perspective and opportunity to work with the general public, councilmembers, and various City departments. I eventually made a switch back to private development and landed here at Lloyd.
My path into the profession was definitely not a typical journey for most Landscape Architects. My involvement with ASLA National and the Arizona chapter over the past 15 years have given me life-long friendships and opportunities; being a working mom of two has given me challenges and major life decisions in my career; and I will always be forever grateful for all of the opportunities, projects, and life-long connections I've made along the way. - Valerie Ahyong, PLA
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