Member Spotlight: Richard Alomar

Richard Alomar, RLA is an Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in Landscape Architecture at Rutgers University and principle of the Urban Field Studio in New York. He leads weekly on-location sketch crawls and workshops for New York City Urban Sketchers and uses sketching as a way to document site, time movement and thoughts on the relationship between people and place. His main interests are in public spaces and in landscapes designed by nonprofessionals. He holds a B.S. in agronomy from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez and an M.L.A from Louisiana State University. He is a registered landscape architect in New York, Virginia, and Maryland and a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

As a lead in to our June 7 ASLA-NY Urban Sketchers Waterfront Sketch Walk, we caught up with Richard to talk about drawing on location, landscape architecture and more. Join us on June 7 for a day of learning to draw on location, sketching and touring the beautiful sites along the East River. For more info go to: http://aslany.org/event/asla-ny-urban-sketchers-waterfront-sketch-tour/

1) When did you realize you wanted to become a Landscape Architect?

Like many second degree MLA’s, I stumbled into Landscape Architecture. I was working on a horse farm and helped the owner with his gardens. He suggested I study Landscape Architecture. I had no idea what Landscape Architecture was, so I contacted the LA department at LSU. I went down and spoke to the graduate director, Dr. Dan Earle, and 30 minutes later I was registered in the program. That first semester was incredible. I got to think, speculate, argue, draw, travel, present, and build. It was then I realized that I wanted to be a Landscape Architect.

2) What Landscape Architects who are currently active do you admire and why?

Like many Landscape Architects, I admire and respect all the firms that are doing work that explore the boundaries of what practice can be at different scales. So MVV, Field Operations, Scape, and Stoss immediately come to mind. In New York we’re lucky to have so many really talented people doing incredible work like dlandstudio , Starr Whitehouse and W Architecture. But I must say that working on a consultant team with Signe Nielsen was the most insightful, enlightening and educational experience I’ve ever had on any project, landscape or otherwise.

3) What advice would you give to emerging professionals?

Take the work seriously but yourself, not-so-much.

4) What has been the most rewarding part of being a landscape architect to you?

Just being a landscape architect is reward enough. I have had the opportunity to work with talented people in all fields on projects of all types and sizes. I do remember working on a community garden for the New York Restoration Project and agonizing for days over the location of a bench. Years later I took some students to visit the garden and a group of them walked directly to the bench and plopped themselves down. That was a very rewarding moment.

5) How did you first get involved in Urban Sketchers?

It was another “stumbling into” moment. A friend emailed me the Urban Sketchers website and I was in awe of the work. I hadn’t sketched in a long while, so I invited my friend to go out and sketch. He never showed up, but I went ahead and continued for months. The 3rd Urban Sketcher Symposium came up and I registered. I spent a week in Santo Domingo sketching with and learning from illustrators, artists, architects, landscape architects and designers. I’ve kept it up ever since. A group of us started a New York City Urban Sketcher group that meets every Saturday and participates in the quarterly Worldwide Sketch Crawl.

6) What was the most challenging part of sketching on location?

Sketching. The hardest thing for me to learn was that sketching is a process, a way of recording what you see. It’s not rendering, painting or even drawing for that matter (though it could be the first step to many of those modes of representation). Once I became comfortable with that, sketching became more of a joy and a tool than a worry or a burden.

7) What has been your favorite location to sketch so far?
I enjoy the ordinary and mundane. Abandoned sidewalks, people on benches, lonely trees,
commuters asleep in their seat. But I must say that last winter’s trip to Japan and last year’s
symposium in Barcelona were excellent places to sketch their “ordinary and mundane”.

8) Where would you most like to go next?
This year we’re doing a Sketch Crawl for the ASLA convention in Denver and I’m teaching at the
Symposium in Paraty, Brazil. I am thinking of a sketch project in the south Bronx for some time
next fall.

9) Do you have any go-to sources for creative inspiration?
As far as Landscape Architects, I think that Laurie Olin, Jim Richards, Chip Sullivan, Michael
Vergason, Walter Hood, Micheal Van Valkenburg and Warren Byrd all have a wonderful hand,
eye and body of sketch work. I also like Andrew Topolski, Will Freeborn, Virginia Hein, Nina
Johansson, Irma Serrano and many, many more.

10) What would you like to do more of, if you could?
I’m good with what I do.