Understanding the natural environment

Posted: September 7th, 2018 | Art on the Land, Columnists, Featured, News | No Comments

By Delle Willett | Art on the Land

Landscape architect Rocio Gertler (nee Rocio Lastras Montano) grew up in San Luis Potosí, México, the capital city of the state with the same name. The geographic location of the state provides a rich variation of ecosystems. While the capital is in the lower desert, the state ecosystems vary from high deserts to deep jungle. Here Rocio enjoyed a great variety of outdoor experiences from hiking desert trails lined with cacti to swimming in turquoise waters adjacent to waterfalls.

Rocio, 39, achieved her bachelor’s in architecture at the Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosí in 2002, in San Luis Potosí a colonial city founded in 1592 and located at the center of the country. Growing up in this environment accentuated her interest in developing site-specific architecture.

The one-of-a-kind design of the Green Soffit “Floating Wave” creates an artificial and urban green respite containing the essential natural elements for the more than 1,600 hanging air plants to thrive. (Photo courtesy of LdG Landscape Architects)

“After finishing my studies, I decided to advance my knowledge of the built environment and its relationship to the site by completing a master’s in landscape architecture from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 2004. I developed a love for the natural-built environment and learned to leverage my architectural background to create powerful, innovative, integrated and sustainable spaces.” said Rocio.

In 2005 Rocio and her husband, Marin Gertler, who she met when they were students at RISD, moved to San Diego in search of a city that had great opportunities to make an impact and that offered great of coastal weather.

After a broad work experience with several nationally acclaimed landscape architecture firms in the Northeast and Southwest from 2004 to 2013 Rocio established Lastras de Gertler (LdG) Landscape Architects in 2013, as an atelier in their garage in Point Loma. Today, LdG is a seven-person boutique design firm with an office on Shelter Island. Each team member shares a passion for travel and a deep understanding of the natural environment.

Lastras de Gertler (LdG) Landscape Architects founder Rocio Gertler (Photo courtesy of LdG Landscape Architects)

Marin, who is a partner in the company, is also an architect and design director with Gensler. Working collaboratively after hours, Rocio says they are great critics of each other’s work.

“Our talented team’s aspiration is creating meaningful and memorable spaces for the soul, the mind, and the environment: from the scale of a neighborhood to a bench, we simply create healthy lifestyles,” said Rocio.

Rocio describes their vision “to approach every project with a journey — a journey to listen to and understand the site, the surroundings, the end user and our team members.”

The LdG design process develops through collaboration and extensive studies to understand how spaces will evolve and transcend. “We don’t seek to reinvent the wheel on every aspect of the project. We do, however, challenge ourselves to create a new concept: something that we have never explored and incites excitement among the team. We research it, model it, even test it. As a result, we believe our designs are provocative, functional, responsible and unforgettable.

“With the help of my talented team, we envision to continue creating meaningful spaces for the people and the context,” said Rocio.

Rocio would like her legacy to be thoughtful, memorable, and functional spaces. “We are not trying to create a ‘style’ but instead to be site-specific and be bold about it.”

LdG recently received three American Society of Landscape Architects San Diego Awards for IDEA1: Green Soffit, Campus Point 2, Cardiff-by-the-Sea San Elijo Corrido Master Plan, and a San Diego Architectural Foundation Orchid award for The Summit at Rancho Bernardo.

For IDEA1, a creative urban mix-use complex in East Village, a central outdoor collaborative workplace known as The Hub continues the network of public open spaces in the neighborhood. The three public pedestrian accesses are celebrated with art, retail, intricate mosaic paving and in one specific entry: The Green Soffit. The one-of-a-kind design of the Green Soffit “Floating Wave” creates an artificial and urban green respite containing the essential natural elements for the more than 1,600 hanging air plants to thrive.

Near UCSD, Campus Point, a flagship 24-acre laboratory for life-science innovation, is nestled above native canyons at the end of a cul-de-sac with panoramic views. The built environment that they created infuses the native landscape into the amenities and slowly transforms it into urban environments.

The vision of the Cardiff-by-the-Sea San Elijo Corrido Master Plan is to create a comprehensive study to improve pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle connections with enhanced public amenities, streetscape, traffic-calming strategies, parking facilities, signage, art opportunities, and quiet zones while keeping the same community atmosphere.

For The Summit at Rancho Bernardo, a once-barren campus of mainly large one-story buildings and extensive parking lots, LdG transformed the campus into a pedestrian-friendly, amenity- and garden-infused campus including bold materials and colors and extensive shade elements to incite tenants to use the outdoor spaces even in the extreme heat of the area.

Reflecting, Rocio says “San Diego was a great move for us. We enjoy traveling, the outdoors, the beach, long walks, sailing, going for a hike, camping or going for a quick ski weekend. We have two boys, Adrian (7) and Lucas (5) who also share our interests and keep us busier than ever.”

Rocio’s advice to someone who’s curious about the profession of landscape architecture: “If you have a passion for design, drawing, planting, three-dimensional thinking, sustainability and are not afraid of being detailed, meticulous, and good in math and computer programs, then you are on the right track for landscape architecture!”

—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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