By Delle Willett
Founded in 1995 and originally named Nowell and Associates, GroundLevel Landscape Architecture rebranded itself in 2014 to reflect its partners’ wishes to have the firm “live” on its own, without an individual’s name on the door.
Today, with offices just north of Little Italy on State Street, GroundLevel is led by senior principals Brad Lenahan and Ian Morris. Its dynamic 24-member team hails from all parts of the United States and beyond and includes talented landscape architects, designers, artists, and administrative staff who are dedicated to improving the quality of life for those who experience their work.
“We pride ourselves in maintaining a diverse group of individuals who approach the work from each of their unique perspectives and life experiences,” said Morris. “GroundLevel’s team of designers takes you deep into the creative process to deliver environments that reflect the vision of the client and spark primal emotions within the people who use the space.”
From large-scale, mixed-use centers to the smallest rooftop garden, each project goes through its own creative process.
“This makes every place as unique as the client’s needs, and the environments envisioned by our collaboration will indeed be unique,” said Morris. “Since our firm’s founding, experience has taught us a shared passion between the client and designer will ultimately lead each project to success.”
Three examples of what GroundLevel considers their best work include Viasat, AVA Hollywood and Fairbanks Ranch.
In Carlsbad’s Bressi Ranch is the new main campus for Viasat, a thriving satellite technology company. GroundLevel did the master plan for its new 23-acre campus, a bustling home to 3,000 employees that will provide unique outdoor environments of varying scales for dining, events, all-hands meetings, small team meetings, new technology displays, outdoor games, and individual relaxation.
AVA Hollywood is a new residential mixed-use development in the heart of Hollywood. The project’s fresh and playful design is textured to nestle within this dynamic neighborhood of art and movie studios, eclectic retail shopping, and new-bohemian residential living.
In 2016 Fairbanks Ranch Country Club, a private membership club, brought GroundLevel in to assist in creating a new vision for the club, including improved dining facilities, the addition of a championship swim facility and improved tennis operations.
Another project of note is One Paseo in Carmel Valley, San Diego, GroundLevel has been involved in the process of One Paseo since its beginnings nearly 10 years ago. They helped lead the master-planning process and entitlements with the city of San Diego and led presentations to the community and planning groups to help articulate the “story” of One Paseo. Their current role (for the past two years) has been to lead the design of the retail, office, and open space for the project, including schematic design through administration of the construction.
Brad Lenahan has a wealth of experience in leading complex projects from concept design through construction. His core strength is his ability to develop creative, yet grounded design solutions centered on his client’s goals. His creativity, technical knowledge and real-world experience allow him to develop solutions for projects of any size, scale, and level of complexity … and his illustrations are maddeningly beautiful.
Ian Morris began as a draftsman and great coffee maker in a residential estate design-build firm in Chicago, where he learned that the process of design always starts with one key element — a story. A story provides coherence to an idea and guidance to creating great places. And Ian does love to tell a great story. Through his 18 years in design, he has been fortunate to craft great places, from estate gardens, to resorts, to multi-family housing and mixed-use developments.
Advice from these experts: We would suggest that the profession of landscape architecture is at the point where science and art collide. It requires thoughtful design consideration for what makes places enjoyable for their users. The science of what we do is both in how to build objects and landscapes while being stewards of the environment.
—Delle Willett has been a marketing and public relations professional for over 30 years, with an emphasis on conservation of the environment. She can be reached at email@example.com.