Catherine and David McCullough bring a sense of peaceful purpose to their work with clients in the commercial, hospitality, institutional and community-focused practice areas. Learn how McCullough Landscape Architecture strikes a balance between grit, soul and style in their work in our interview with David below.
How did you develop your passion for your field?
Passion for what you do takes time to develop. Landscape architecture is a demanding profession. We hold much of the same liability as architects and to be good at this, it takes time and experience. I feel like I spent the first 10 years out of school and then licensed just trying to figure it all out. I worked myself to a point that likely wasn’t healthy. But after 25 years in, I feel like (while I still have a lot to learn) I am starting to become good at this. With this bit of confidence, and watching the things we have designed get built and evolve over time, passion is the great bi-product.
Can you share some of the technological or other innovations you’re employing?
Computer-aided 3D design and visualization, while becoming common place in the design world, is an incredible tool for us and our clients. I have found that if someone can see your ideas virtually, they personalize the experience. They see the space early on as theirs, and become very engaged and interested in seeing the project through. Additionally, more recently we’ve been involved in projects at a regional scale. There are amazing tools available for gathering important information quickly that would have in the past taken months or even years. Geographic information systems and open source mapping tools are just a few to mention.
What project are you proudest of?
We’ve been working with a Citizens Coordinate for Century 3 and the ReWild Mission Bay Coalition on a environmental core based plan for the northern most part of Mission Bay. This includes the De Anza Cove, Kendall Frost Marsh, the site of Campland by the Bay, Mission Bay Golf Course, and a section of Rose Creek. The plan envisions large wetlands restoration; eco-tourism; a community park: Rose Creek rehabilitation and nature park creation; new sports facilities; a research and visitors center for UCSD; an educational connection to Mission Bay High School; and importantly, a proactive approach to dealing with the impending sea level rise that will impact Mission Bay into the future. Without getting into details, the pride I feel is for this coalition that was created of scientists, community activists, and researchers, and the incredible body of work that’s been invested by all on this plan of which I have only been a small part of by comparison.
What are your long-term goals?
I’m simple in this respect, I am really not interested in legacy or notoriety. What drives me today is a goal to be able to look back at my lifetime in the next five, 10, 15 years, and feel like I have done something to make the things around me better. That’s it really, I don’t like the idea of just taking up space and resources while I’m alive. All that said, I need to be able to choose the work that we do, the people that we work with, and absolutely everything that we do must be purposeful.
What do you wish you could tell yourself ten years ago?
Relax, love, and live a little. I know it’s a bit of a cliche, but you live and then you die and I have no illusions that likely within days after I’m gone, I’ll largely be forgotten. So why not live with that understanding? At 51, I’m starting to understand that it goes quick and fixation on the future, and the past really is purposeless.
If experience is the best teacher, which project taught you the most?
It’s hard to pick one. They all offer something unique. But perhaps, if I had to pick it would be the work that I have done on Seaport San Diego with Gafcon. A project of that size, with so many working components and an internationally recognized team of experts, was truly an incredible experience. Yehudi Gaffen (known to most as “Gaf”), the CEO of Gafcon is honestly a brilliant man yet he’s humble in nature, he employs an incredible team, and hires world-renowned consultants. I’ve had the honor to work with their team now on a couple of projects, each of which have been great learning experiences.
What is one tool, source of information or other resource that you can’t do without in your daily work life?
Caffeine. Yes, it’s also my vice. I don’t drink (alcohol), I don’t smoke or do any drugs. Yes, I’m extraordinarily boring in that way – but for the life of me, I can’t kick he caffeine habit…honestly though, I’m not sure I would want to.
What is your ‘secret sauce’ for delivering high quality work? What earns you repeat business?
This is an easy question – it is the people that I work with. Currently, I have surrounded myself with brilliant people. Including my wife and partner, Catherine who has always stood next to and supported me in all my efforts. Catherine and everyone I work with challenge me on a daily basis. And I encourage this. I believe it all has very little to do with me and much more to do with them and their love and passion for the parts they play in what we do.
Click here to learn more about the work McCullough Landscape Architecture is doing to meld beauty and function in our environment.