Nette Compton, RLA is the Associate Director of City Park Development at The Trust for Public Land, and the President of the American Society of Landscape Architects New York Chapter. Nette previously served at the NYC Parks Department as the Director of Green Infrastructure, and a Project Manager. During that time she co-authored the High Performance Landscape Guidelines, published by the New York City Parks Department and the Design Trust for Public Space. Nette received her BS in Landscape Architecture and Plant Science, as well as a Masters in Urban Ecology, from Cornell.
1) When did you realize you wanted to become a Landscape Architect?
I have always loved gardening – as a kid I had an herb garden that I loved. I also loved drawing, with a particular emphasis on botanical illustration. Watching This Old House as a middle schooler was the first time I heard of a landscape architect, as they are part of the show, and I was so excited to find out there was a career that allowed me to merge my love of plants, design and people. So by 14 I was set with a career plan, a detail those who know me are likely unsurprised by.
2) What Landscape Architects who are currently active do you admire and why?
Signe Nielsen is fantastic, for her dedication to public work and long career of community-based and environmentally thoughtful design. Susannah Drake does a fabulous job of combining art and science in her work, which is always so inspiring, and a direction more landscape architects need to emphasize. Annette Wilkus always floors me with her dedication to the craft and attention to detail, establishing herself so solidly in the male-dominated world of construction. So basically, a lot of kick-ass ladies who have pushed the field forward in so many ways.
3) What advice would you give to emerging professionals?
Be multi-disciplinary. The more you can stretch your expertise, the more you can bring to a project, and be the central point of its execution. That can be technical skills like soils and green infrastructure, or innovative community engagement practices, or policy implications. The more you can understand these areas, the better your work will be, and you will be a better advocate for it to a broader audience.
We are a diverse group, but an awesome one. Landscape architects tend to be fun, thoughtful and engaging. Maybe I’m biased, but I think the profession attracts a certain range of people, who care deeply about what they do and the impacts they can have. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know more people through the chapter, which has continued to confirm this theory.
5) What accomplishment during your time as president are you most proud of?
I think that what I am most proud of isn’t specific to my term, but rather being part of a steady growth of the chapter over the last 5 years or so, working with a lot of dedicated people. We are bigger, we have more events, we are better at connecting members as well as reaching out beyond the profession. It has been wonderful to see the increase in engagement and energy.
6) You are also the Associate Director of City Park Development for the Trust for Public Land. What is some of the work that you are most proud of in that role?
The Trust for Public Land does amazing work all over the country, and I am focused on connecting and sharing that work. So consistent in this work is the in-depth and creative engagement of the community in the parks we build, it is a hallmark of our work and a crucial component to why these places are so successful. Helping to share the lessons learned, and bring cutting edge practices to others.
7) You travel to different cities around the country for work; what differences have you noticed about the practice in other parts of the country? Is there anything that seems to be unique about been a Landscape Architect in New York City?
New York has had such amazing investment in parks and open space over the last decade, and these places are known and inspiring all over. What is exciting to see is other cities seeing the value and impact of this work, and investing in their own places. They have the same goals as many parks in New York, but they are at their best when the design and program are unique to their place. This investment is happening all over at a variety of scales, but lots of cities still need more!
8) Do you have any go-to sources for creative inspiration?
I love just walking around cities, and now I get to do this all of the time. I love seeing what people are doing, formally or informally, to shape the urban landscape, and observe how people interact with it. People may not know it, but everyone understands the value of good urban design, and they vote with their use of it!
I would love to be able to spend more time in the cities I visit – there is never enough time to check out all of the parks, museums, interesting neighborhoods and great food!