Some Alum / featured

Video Chat with Steven Gierke

Bill Sullivan | Steven Gierke

Video Transcript

Bill: Maybe you can begin by just giving us a bit of background about what you’re doing these days.

Steve: Sure. I graduated in 2005 and started working for what was then Douglas Hoerr Landscape Architecture in Chicago. In 2008, Doug Hoerr and Peter Lindsay Schaudt merged their firms to create Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects where I’ve been ever since. And then in 2014, I relocated to Los Angeles and opened our West Coast office. So that’s what I’ve been up to.

Bill: Wow, that’s exciting. It must be exciting to open an office. Can you tell me a little bit about what that was like?

Steve: Yeah. The first year was working out of my dining room and we already had a few clients on the West Coast. With word of mouth and just being out here, more clients came along, and it’s worked out well. We got an actual office space and brought in some employees and look to continue growing it. The firm as a whole is a range of residential, corporate, civic and cultural. To date, the landscapes that we’ve designed in California have been extremely high-end residential.

Bill: How do you enjoy doing that?

Steve: I love it. The detail at the residential level. I’m really passionate about. I thrive on the interaction with a client and that personal experience that you get working at the residential scale. This is actually a residence that we’re working on right now. I think when you’re working at the residential scale you’re thinking smaller…like you’re getting down to specifying the actual hinge and latch on the gate of the pool and every specific plant. Then there’s also just a depth of relationship that I think is different working on residential work than commercial or larger scale projects.

Bill: What’s the life of a landscape architect like who is a Midwesterner but now lives in Los Angeles and does design work in Los Angeles?

Steve: I think the life of a landscape architect is never boring, that’s for sure. I think that every day is pretty different. What I love about the experience that I’ve had is the amount of built work that I’ve gotten to be a part of. Some of the people I graduated with spend time on design projects that are never realized. That’s really rare for our firm. Almost everything is built, and I think that’s really special to see it come from your concept on paper to something that yourself and your clients or the public are experiencing is thrilling.

Bill: Do you get to hire people in your office in Los Angeles?

Steve: I do.

Bill: What do you look for when you’re looking to hire young folks?

Steve: Energy. High energy and willingness to learn. When I’m hiring somebody out of school, my expectations are low. Everybody’s portfolios look more or less the same. They include the same construction details and grading exercises and site and analysis. So, it’s really what that individual is communicating to you and what they are passionate about. And again, it’s high energy.

Bill: Did you have a professor at Illinois that had a significantly powerful impact on you.

Steve: Yeah. David Hayes was significant. I think with each of the students you could see that he had kind of a special relationship with each of them. I had the opportunity to catch up with David a couple months ago and I was just blown away at his ability to recall the specific dynamics of my studio and my classmates. Now it’s 14 years later and he’s speaking about it as if it was yesterday. And I just think that that’s so incredible to have support and nurturing people like that when you’re trying to figure all of this out for yourself.

Bill: Well sure sounds like you’ve had a successful time since you left here at Illinois and we’ve been interested to follow your career and the successes that you’ve got. We’re going to send you some wonderful graduate students to interview with you.

Steve: Excellent. We need them. Thanks so much, Bill.