By Delle Willett | Art on the Land
Martin Flores’ love of urbanity, outdoors and physical form has always influenced how he guided his career in landscape architecture.
“When our family voted where to go on vacation, I was the only one wanting to go to a city rather than a national park or rural setting,” he said. “On my birthday, I begged my mom to take me to the Downtown drugstore rather than a pizza house, where I always ordered a grilled cheese sandwich and sat at the counter watching people pass by the large window that faced the street.”
Always drawing, Martin was introduced to a drafting class in seventh grade — the beginning of realizing that his visual ideas, attention to detail and visual concepts can come together.
A high school career-counseling class identified a career best for him — landscape architecture. The counseling office had no additional information about the profession — just a very short paragraph which he read a few times and decided then and there that his future would be in landscape design.
After graduating high school, he found a landscape architecture class at a junior college and was captured. A seasoned professional taught the class, grunting and groaning at the new ramps and railings required for the Americans With Disabilities Act. The professor, recognizing Martin’s eagerness to learn, encouraged him to develop his talent for conceptualization.
After a long journey, Martin earned his bachelor of landscape architecture from CalPoly, San Luis Obispo.Today he is director of landscape architecture and urban design at Carrier Johnson + Culture, where he manages all landscape architectural and urban design projects and staff within offices in Downtown San Diego and Los Angeles. Previously, he was with Rick Engineering Company of San Diego, as the director of urban design and planning.
Martin thrives on the challenges of developing and reconnecting existing neighborhoods, the open space, and mobility corridors. “I am inspired by how the places and spaces that I design can influence the public’s personal connection with a public space,” he said.
The questions he internally asks himself on every completed project are: Is it engaging? Is the material selected sustainable? Is there a benefit for all age groups? Does it add value to the space and its surroundings? Did the design meet the client’s expectations?
“My multi-disciplinary background has allowed me to be engaged where urban density and the natural processes can come together to create a sustainable solution,” he explained.
Martin has worked on several special projects at Carrier Johnson. One is SDSU West, where the plan is to transform the man-made parking lot into a campus that coexists with the San Diego River. The natural-site restoration will form the open spaces which will weave in and out of the campus connecting students, residents, employees, and visitors to the river. Overall, the campus in the park will be authentic to the site’s terrain and embrace the river and manifest the outdoor lifestyle that San Diego is known for.
Another is Block F Makers Quarter, an innovative neighborhood in the East Village District of Downtown San Diego, which is undergoing redevelopment inspired by the maker movement and guided to establish, enhance, and promote San Diego’s core culture, create a new employment hub, an authentic sustainable urban space, and foster a walkable neighborhood that encourages a healthy lifestyle.
Martin believes that landscape architects have become important role-players in the future of sustainable place and city-making. “Our skillsets allow us to become the building block of contemporary urban form while incorporating aspects such as ecology and process,” he said.
Martin is doing his part to encourage students to join his profession. More than 10 years ago, he and a handful of his professional colleagues started a CalPoly alumni group — The Landscape Architectural Design Council (LADAC) — that mentors, critiques student work, and provides internships to first- to fifth-year landscape architect students.
LADAC has now grown to more than 20 landscape architecture professionals from all over California, who provide professional support to the students and professors and help to propel the landscape architectural program to one of the top three landscape architectural academic institutions in the United States.
Martin lives in Talmadge with his wife, high school sweetheart Christie Flores. He can’t leave home without a sketch pad and a camera.
—Delle Willett has been a marketing and public relations professional for over 30 years, with an emphasis onconservation of the environment. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.