The Program Showcase is a monthly series that highlights instructors and students within the Landscape Architecture Program. It gives the reader insight into the personal and professional goals of their fellow students. It also showcases program instructors and their professional journeys.  This month’s Program Showcase features our first instructor David Squires. 

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David Squires, Instructor

Talk about your professional experiences and how those experiences have influenced you as an instructor.

My professional experiences have been multi-disciplinary by choice.  I have always selected job opportunities that show the greatest potential to learn new ideas, to meet and work with a variety of good people, and to never shy away from something new and challenging; no matter how foreign it may seem.  I have been very fortunate in the varied experiences that have come my way.  These experiences include master planning of naval facilities as a consultant to The Defense Department, theme park master planning and development, management of real estate portfolios which have included agricultural properties, a collection of shopping centers, corporate office complexes and fashion showrooms, Hawaiian ranch historical restoration, large scale event coordination, residential and commercial landscape design, architectural and interior design to name a few.

The other major career directing influence came when I received a full scholarship as a concert pianist my freshman year.  This experience definitely enforced strict discipline and attention to detail.  I also learned that technical aptitude is gained through repetition and experience.  Only after mastering a technical aptitude can you truly express your vision at its highest level.

I think these two threads, multi-disciplinary project collaboration, and classical training have definitely influenced my teaching style at UCLA.  One thing that attracted me to teach at UCLA is that I have my masters in architecture and urban design from UCLA.  I wanted to be part of the university and give back because of the great experience that I enjoyed.  But most importantly, I realized that I could give a little of my unique experience back to the students.  I have structured the courses I teach to focus on discipline, collaboration and, most importantly, seeing.  My primary goal is to have the students leave my course ‘seeing’, observing the world in more detail.

Kobe Space Park
Kobe Space Park, Kobe, Japan – Master Plan, Development and Marketing

Do you have any words of advice or perspective for our students?

I know that students are eager to gain experience within the profession and are always asking what type of internship or job opportunity I think is best.  My advice is to look for any opportunity that provides field or construction experience.  Observing the actual physical production process is so valuable in making good planning and design decisions. Additionally, the physical production process can provide valued communication skills, both verbal and graphic, with the vendors, tradesman, clients and other professionals.  Being on the jobsite also helps students begin to ‘See’, make valued observations and improve their critical thinking skills.

The best piece of advice that I received came during my undergraduate studies. My professor at that time, came into our student studio for an impromptu design critique…… I was working on a master plan for a condominium development….after a few comments and then a pause…… professor said, ‘When in Doubt, Be Bold’, and walked away.  This advice has stuck with me to this day.  Intuition and self confidence are so important.  He was not speaking of raw emotion, but rather to design intuitively… maintain purpose, standards and ideals.I think my professor was asking me to trust my vision.  I think sometimes students and professionals alike, lack vision.  I think one of the attributes of having a strong sense of vision is reflected in this quote I love by Steve Jobs: ‘If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed.  The vision pulls you’.

4- Front Entry Garden Pacific Palisades California
Front entry garden, Pacific Palisades, CA – Landscape Design

Are there any must – reads that you would like to share?

Yes, there are two books, since the day I completed reading them, they have influence me immensely.  And when I say influence, I mean professionally and personally.  I call upon the practices and concepts within these two texts on a daily basis.

The first is ‘Design With Nature’ by Ian L. McHarg.  Even though this text was published in 1969, it is still very much relevant.  Actually, I would say more relevant today.  I see today’s environmental policies and strategies as reactive; being implemented based on political agendas, special interests and corporate bottom lines.  Mr. McHarg describes a pro-active approach to planning and design; respecting nature and working with nature as an ally which nourishes a healthier way of life for our planet.  Of course, at the time I originally read ‘Design With Nature’ in 1980, I had no idea of how much this book would shape my thinking, seeing, and process of planning and design.   This text centers around what one reviewer said was ‘a turning point in man’s view and treatment of his environment’.   Unfortunately, as we can see today, the treatment of the environment has not changed much since the writing of the book.  This text centers around the concept that our built environment can be accommodated within the existing natural order.  This is as opposed to the planning and development practices that are accepted today which are forced upon the landscape.  Mr. McHarg’s book describes a planning process that gives value and priority to natural systems in the decision making process.

The second text was given to me by a dear friend many years ago  – ‘The Old Way of Seeing’, by Jonathan Hale.  I think one of the most difficult disciplines for us to learn is the ability to SEE.  While we may think we have made astute observations, this is usually not even remotely the case.  Mr. Hale explores how buildings (the built environment) turned from expressions of the human spirit into structures laden with symbols. The book gives us an enlightened tour of buildings and of our social history.  The author challenges us to regain our relationship with design that has life and magic through contrast, tension, balance, light and harmony.  There is so much to say about this book, but I will leave it to you to discover.  I promise, you will see the world differently after reading this book.

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Front entry hall, Beverly Hills, CA – Interior Architecture and Interior Design

What are five ‘things’ that you can’t live without?

  1. Walking the dog and eating pancakes on Sunday mornings
  2. Snow: downhill skiing and skiing on triple black diamond runs
  3. Playing my piano
  4. Experiencing all of the arts: theater, art showings and exhibits, classical music, art history, performance arts and books
  5. Eating dark chocolate