Schmidt Design Group keeps its focus

Posted: February 3rd, 2017 | Art on the Land, Columnists, Features, Top Story | No Comments

By Delle Willett | Art on the land

When Glen Schmidt founded his landscape architecture and planning firm, Schmidt Design Group, in 1983, he brought a new ethic to the profession that was not widely shared at that time.

“Early in my professional career, I felt that many firms were missing the mark by concentrating on purely decorative solutions without responding to place, and to our larger environment,” he said. “I believe that landscape architectural design should focus on artful solutions that should also be sustainable and relevant to their environment. I founded Schmidt Design Group to balance artistic expression in design with environmental sensitivity.”

And that is still the firm’s focus 34 years later.

The company’s philosophy and artistic talents have brought them impressive results. Schmidt Design Group has received more than 115 local, state and national awards for design and technical excellence, including 11 Orchid awards from the San Diego Architectural Foundation.

Their main office is in Downtown San Diego, with a satellite office in Northern California. With 21 local landscape architectural professionals working on highly impactful projects, the firm is one of the largest of its kind in San Diego.

Schmidt Design Group’s projects vary from parks and open spaces, to urban in-fill; mixed-use developments; campus planning and design; public schools; higher education; health care and healing gardens; experiential learning environments; commercial; master-planned communities; and multi-family residential.

They have designed over 200 public park and recreation facilities throughout California and were the Landscape Architect of Record for the extremely popular and award-winning Waterfront Park at the County Administration Center.

Some of the firm’s other well-known projects include: Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens in Escondido and Liberty Station; Solana Beach Coastal Rail Trail; Cottonwood Park in Encinitas; improvements at Liberty Station’s Art District; Paséa Hotel and Spa, a four-diamond resort in Huntington Beach; master planning for the renovation of North Torrey Pines Golf Course, and the renovation of Horton Plaza Park in Downtown San Diego as a member of Walker Macy’s team.

Waterfront Park’s kids play area (Photo by Brad Anderson)

“It has been a true privilege to work on such impactful projects over the last many years that improve the quality of life for so many,” Schmidt said.

Giving back has been a big part of the Schmidt Design Group’s legacy, including donating over 1 percent of the firm’s billable hours each year for pro-bono projects and public service.

For example, over the past several years the firm has provided comprehensive landscape architecture services to Noah Homes for the creation of a new assisted-living building on their existing campus.

The firm also donated time to assist the San Diego River Park Foundation in creating a master plan for a potential public park and open space trail network on the current Qualcomm Stadium site, if redevelopment options are pursued.

Schmidt Design Group’s staff participates in and provides support to organizations such as Community Housing Works, ACE Mentor Program, U.S. Green Building Council, and Independent Rates Oversight Committee for the city of San Diego.

Stone Brewery Liberty Station

Schmidt is currently vice president of the board of directors of Coastkeeper San Diego, which is protecting drinkable, fishable and swimmable waters in the region, while Senior Project Manager Nate Magnusson is the current president of the American Society of Landscape Architects, San Diego Chapter.

The future looks bright for the firm, whose leadership now includes three principals: President Glen Schmidt, Vice President Jeffery “JT” Barr and Principal Jeff Justus. Barr, who was recently made an equity partner, said “Every site has a story to tell and it’s our responsibility to discover it and express it in the spaces we create.”

That perspective will be seen on many exciting projects that are scheduled to be completed in the coming years.

Examples of ongoing work include: re-envisioning of Children’s Park in Downtown San Diego; Pacific Highlands Community Park and Recreation Center; Millenia Development’s Stylus Park; redevelopment of Riverwalk Golf Course in Mission Valley; Newland Sierra’s development on over 2,000 acres in North County; Sunroad Enterprises’ luxury Ariva Apartments; the parks at Civita in Mission Valley; various tasting rooms and gardens for Golden Road Brewery throughout California.

Civita Park illustration

And they are part of the planning team to re-envision De Anza’s 160-acre property in northeast Mission Bay.

The firm’s long-range goals, Schmidt said, are to continue to create positive change in the communities in which they work, contribute to long-range solutions to our housing needs, transportation, sea-level rise and climate change. In addition, they will continue to strive to have a positive impact on quality of life, human health and well-being, community services, as well as continuing to build a positive environmental legacy.

—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

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