Shipyard Design by Nicole Bemboom

We recently had the opportunity to come up with a conceptual master plan for the Kalmar Nyckel's new shipyard and education center in Delaware. 

Kate's parents are involved with the expansion, and we were happy to help get the shipyard's board excited about hiring a local landscape architect to takeover the project.

They are looking into adding a maritime education pavilion, playground and a living shore. We can't wait to see how it turns out, and from one port city to another, good luck!

Thoughts on Beauty by Vera Gates


I attended an interesting lecture the other night, on the philosophy of repetition. As repetition is one of the foundational principles of design, and the lecture was at CCA, I expected visual stimulation. It was not that type of lecture. What I got instead was a rich, dense lexicon.  

Now, I readily admit to being a little sleepy and the lecture a bit long. Yet lovely bits of language filtered through the periphery of my brain, as I sketched and quietly listened.  

Most notably I heard  “...the heart of a poetic idea, in a space which it determines.”  (by Deleuze/from Difference and Repetition)

Repetition and Reflection

I love this phrase “the heart of a poetic idea, in a space which it determines” because its such a great description of our Art/Work as Landscape Architects.  If beauty is a poetic ideal and landscape design is the creation of space determined by this ideal, then we are able to compose deeply meaningful spaces, based on this poetic premise.

Also heard...

•The word repetition derives from Latin, meaning to seek again, which I find very cool. The idea that we are continuously repeating our efforts to find meaning in our lives.

•Kirkeguard saw the experience of repetition as recollection and that all knowledge is a recollection, a way of knowing.   

•We repeat those things that delight us and make us happy, if even and only for a moment.  We repeat that which brings us pleasure - or those things that we hope will make us happy.  

•The belief that time passing produces meaning, through memory and therefore the passing of time has purpose.  

•There is ambiguity in the dissonance between our everyday life and our unconscious, dream life.  Ultimately we aspire to those things that represent our higher ideal - the life we believe we are destined to live.

*the world is repetitive in a cyclical fashion (think seasons, dust to dust, etc.)

• Repetition as reflection, a replaying 

All in all, my big take away is this thought of a poetic idea determining space. This will be great fun to explore in our designs going forward.

-Vera Gates

Extérieurs Design by Nicole Bemboom

What a fabulous feature in the French magazine Extérieurs Design -Le magazine du novel art de vivre outdoor. (Exterior Design -The magazine of the new art of outdoor living.)

Over four lovely pages, they follow the story of water collection, use and reuse and sustainability in our urban oasis, The Sunset Idea House.

If you're on the other side of the Atlantic, we definitely recommend picking up a copy. It's one of our favorite new magazines.

On the Ideal of Beauty by Vera Gates

Let All My Eyes Fall Upon be Beautiful

Nearly twenty years ago, we received a design commission from a wonderful man named John Sperling. When asked to describe his dream of a garden, John replied with a grand, sweeping gesture: Let all my eyes fall upon be beautiful. This one goal informed the entirety of his program. He wished to be moved by the beauty of it all, nothing less.

We were invited to explore anything we could imagine, as long as it could be rendered exquisitely. He was open to explorations of sculpture, mosaic arts, bronze metal works, stone carved fountains and lush plantings. He thoroughly enjoyed the design process as well as the final, built garden.

We came to realize that a transformative experience was what John wanted most.

This was an incredibly empowering concept to us as young designers; we were creating art, beauty and a meaningful experience. The idea that beauty is an essential quality and valuable for no other reason than that it exists has made our work deeply meaningful.

We continue to be inspired by John’s words with every project, all these many years later. We aspire to make everything we touch beautiful and we invite participation in this dance to the music of art and beauty.

We ultimately worked with John on three different gardens, always with an eye toward beauty. Each garden was unique and specific to its site, and each echoed the brilliance of its purpose. John died recently, after a long and abundant life, filled with love and beauty.  He will be greatly missed, even as his legacy lives on.

I am so grateful for the gift of his words.

Thank you, John.


New Conference Table by Nicole Bemboom

522 Industries and our designer Alyssa have our new conference table all set up and ready to go.

We love that glowing 3Form and the beautiful work on the steel structure.

We're hiring! by Nicole Bemboom

Exciting news: We're looking to hire a new landscape designer or landscape architect.

If you're interested and fit the following criteria, we'd love to hear from you at

Landscape Architect/ Landscape Designer

Arterra is a landscape architecture design collaborative, specializing in the creation of legacy residential gardens. Our studio, in the Design District of San Francisco, is focused on the art of finely crafted sustainable landscapes. As professionals, we place a high importance on mentoring and building the next generation of leaders. We expose team members to all aspects of the practice of landscape architecture and provide hands on experience from design through construction.

We are currently seeking a qualified Landscape Architect or Landscape Designer, on track for licensure. 


Landscape Architect/Designer:

  • Creative, Open minded and imaginative
  • Excellent hand drawing skills and ability to conceptually sketch 
  • Organized and efficient self starter
  • Ability to work in a team environment and provide support as needed
  • Eager to learn all aspects of the business
  • Interest in new/sustainable materials and technologies
  • Working knowledge of Macintosh, Vectorworks, Adobe Suite and Sketch-up
  • Knowledge of plants
  • Experience putting together construction documents


  • Graduate of an accredited landscape architecture program
  • 3+ years experience
  • Licensed or on track for Licensure


  • To be determined

The Designer and The Chef by Nicole Bemboom

Yesterday evening we had a chance to see The Designer and The Chef, a great panel for the Architecture and the City Festival, hosted by the AIA San Francisco.

The designers and chefs in question were David Darling, of Aidlin Darling Design with Corey Lee the chef and owner of Benu, Olle Lundberg of Lundberg Design with Charles Phan (who you may know from The Slanted Door et al.), and Douglas Burnham from envelopeA+D with Craig Stoll (Delfina, Pizzeria Delfina, Locanda.)

Benu . Chef/Owner: Corey Lee.  Design:  Aidlin Darling Design

Benu. Chef/Owner: Corey Lee.

Design: Aidlin Darling Design

David Darling did a great job as the moderator. Aidlin Darling Design first got into restaurants because the focus of their studio was designing for all senses in the 1990s, when design had swung heavily to the sense of sight. Restaurants provided a perfect platform for architecture more focused on taste, smell, touch and sound. 

Each architect/restauranteur pair explored the opportunities and restraints inherent in restaurant design  and also their own experiences with the close and inspiring relationships they have built through their collaborations.

Charles and I really are best friends.
— Olle Lundberg

None of the architects on the panel market themselves as restaurant designers, but they’ve stayed in the field because they find it so gratifying to work with these chef/owners. They find their passion and vision about their food inspiring and want that to drive the design.

Every architect agreed that when it comes to restaurants, it’s extremely important that the design is about the food rather than the architecture itself. The design is so important to the chefs that they include their architects on food tours.

Pizzeria Delfina . Owner/Chef: Craig Stoll.  Design:    envelopeA+D

Pizzeria Delfina. Owner/Chef: Craig Stoll.

Design: envelopeA+D

Douglas Burnham and Craig Stoll took us through their food tour of Naples, not a gourmand feat for the faint of heart. (According to the team, you eat your way through the market in the morning, stop for lunch and if you can do it, you have two lunches, followed by an eight course dinner.) With all of that research, the best pizza they found was from a restaurant that was “like eating in an accessible bathroom” (Douglas Burnham), with white tile everywhere and a general boxiness. 

The duo started unpacking what made eating in that dining room feel so great (beyond the food), and they realized that it was the mater-of-a-factness. They reimagined and reworked the straight-forward, all-focus-on-the-food feeling for Pizzeria Delfina.

Bags of flour are beautiful. They’re out, where you normally don’t get to see them.
— Craig Stoll
Hard Water . Owner/Chef: Charles Phan  Design:  Lundberg Design   

Hard Water. Owner/Chef: Charles Phan

Design: Lundberg Design 

Each pair focused on simplicity and clarity in their designs. During long and extensive architect search and looking at too many overuses of mahagony, Charles Phan heard Olle Lundberg say that great design was when “you take a simple thing and make it very beautiful” and he was sold on the spot. Together they've created many phenomenal projects since that time (field trip to Hard Water, anyone?) because they are able to build on each other's visions and ideas. 

The designers and the chefs see their own passion and laser-light focus mirrored in their counterpart, and they come together to create perfect experiences.

Thanks to the panel for taking time out of their busy schedules to share, and to Architecture and the City and the AIA for hosting this event!