Mark Rios, FAIA, FASLA explains “Perfect Timing” as related to the field of Landscape Architecture

“I’m proud to say I’m a Landscape Architect! Keep thinking about that!”

Mark Rios’ strong opening statement immediately captured the attention of the audience at the School of Landscape Architecture’s Fall 2013 Lecture Series grand finale on November 6th, 2013.

Mark Rios  received his undergraduate degree in architecture from the University of Southern California and went on to receive masters degrees in both architecture and landscape architecture. By 1985, within three years of completing graduate school,  Mark Rios was licensed in both disciplines and had opened up his first design studio. Now known as Rios Clementi Hale Studios, this design firm has garnered numerous awards, accolades, and international recognition for their unique and unswerving dedication to a collaborative and interdisciplinary design approach.

Defining oneself as both an artist and designer is an issue that many grapple with. Mr. Rios explained that in order for artists and designers to define themselves, they have to be willing to answer the hard question; “What are you afraid of?” In Mark Rios’ case,  it is his fear of the homogeneity of globalized design, and the dissipating identity of cities and landscapes across the globe that has become the motivation for his design philosophies and, that has driven  the success of Rios Clementi Hale Studios.  Over time, he has been able to craft an intricately woven and multi-disciplinary philosophy of design that is founded upon a deep understanding of the importance of culture, people, location, ecology, and tradition that has the power to revive and celebrate the underlying richness and unique nature of each site while turning the homogeneity of design on its head one project at a time!

Whether designing a major public park such as Grand Park in the heart of Los Angeles, a concert  hall such as Austin City Limits in Texas, a private residence, the Crystal Cathedral master plan in Southern California, or beautifully  designed and crafted products such as tables, dinnerware, coffee cups, and boats (yes, boats!), Rios vigorously pursues the process of investigation and research that reveals the culture and spirit of the place, project, and client.

The images of stunning projects, as well as the visuals, graphs, and charts that described the atypical organization of Rios Clementi Hale Studios clearly illustrated the multi-disciplinary vision that is at the core of their firm’s unique culture. Mr. Rios summed it up beautifully by saying “Everything I am showing tonight is not something ‘I’ did; it is something that ‘WE’ did. The power of ‘WE’ should not be underestimated.”

The lecture was brought round full circle when Mr. Rios highlighted 5 key points to design success: Collaborate, learn a new craft every five years, be curious, welcome change, and DESIGN YOURSELF! 

As he stepped away from the mic, Mark Rios looked the audience in the eye one last time and said: “I’m proud to say I’m a Landscape Architect! Keep thinking about that.”

Mark Rios, FAIA,FASLA compliments MFA Student on her colorful choice of hat!
Mark Rios, FAIA, FASLA

Written By: Yasmine Farazian, Faculty, School of Landscape Architecture

Images Courtesy of:  Eric Arneson, BFA, Landscape Architecture