Member Spotlight: Beth Franz, ASLA
Quennell Rothschild & Partners, LLP
University of Georgia, School of Environmental Design, M.L.A.; SUNY Farmingdale, A.A.S. in Ornamental Horticulture; Ohio University, B.S. in Fashion Retailing and Promotion
Beth Franz is a partner at Quennell Rothschild & Partners with over 24 years' experience as a landscape architect. Dedicated to the betterment of the public realm, Beth looks for opportunities to highlight natural features and systems in the urban fabric, revealing and celebrating the natural world, and adding balance to the urban experience. Her work is primarily focused on reclaiming waterfronts for public use, reinventing the campus space and reinterpreting historic landscapes sharing the story of place that is unique to every site.
Beth’s ideal project is a collaborative process with community, client and creative communication that transforms a vision into a place for people.
Battery plantings; Photo Credit: QRP
Beth leading a tour of Battery Park; Photo Credit: QRP
Haven Plaza; Photo Credit: Pavel Bendov
Sarah Lawrence College, Barbara Walters, Bronxville, NY; Photo Credit: QRP
Barnard Milstein Center; Photo Credit: Magda Biernat
What is YOUR story? What led you to a career in landscape architecture? When did you realize you wanted to become a Landscape Architect?
A combination of intention and kismet led me to the profession. My previous career in fashion advertising revealed a knack for client facilitation and project management but fell short on creative participation. I left that job and participated in a 4-hour career assessment which suggested I look to the natural sciences. Testing that theory, I enrolled in a couple of horticultural classes at NYBG and designed a roof terrace for a friend to entertain clients. The terrace was a big success and luckily for me, one of those clients asked to meet with me and introduced me to the field of landscape architecture. At once it seemed to satisfy my desire to create something tangible and utilize my business experience. Initially I pursued an education in horticulture solidifying my love affair with plants then took it to the next logical step, an MLA to give me the tools needed for a career in urban landscape architecture. I love the changeable nature of my work. No two projects are alike and I continue to learn something new every day.
What project or work that you have done at any point in your career are you most proud of and why?
Well the project with unquestionably the largest public impact has to be the Reconstruction of the Battery at the tip of Manhattan, a 10 year, public/private partnership that reinterprets the function of the historically significant park for today’s needs. The project resulted in a new horticultural destination, a bikeway link and a much needed public assembly space that shortly after completion entered into New York history as host for climate activist Greta Thunberg’s address at the 2019 Climate Strike N.Y.C. to the assembled tens of thousands. Currently I’m most proud of the custom playground fence with local bird motif that my daughter designed for Lower Highland Playground in Queens, NY, as a guest artist with our firm. She’s got a bright future ahead of her in service of the public good.
What is your favorite outdoor space in the greater NYC area and why?
There are so many wonderful natural and designed open spaces vying for this honor, but for sentimental reasons, the Green-Wood Cemetery has always been my favorite NYC refuge. As a child growing up on Long Island my family and I would make the trip into Brooklyn once or twice a year to visit the family plot. With its undulating and curvilinear layout, we frequently got lost—the good kind of lost where you give in to it and make discoveries. We’d head up to Battle Hill to see the Statue of Liberty across the harbor and visit the water bodies looking for herons and turtles and fish. Here I was told stories of my family’s past and on walks past notable graves and monuments, of New York’s past making history real to me. I’ve been honored to work on several project in Green-Wood Cemetery and love that when I’m finally laid to rest there, I will have contributed to that long history.
What do you do to de-stress, relax or escape?
Like many urban dwellers (and maybe more often among landscape architects), there are times when I have to get out of the city to stay sane. Escapes for me are about removing the visual noise that urban landscapes provide and replacing them with restful long views. Getaways almost always involve immersion in nature whether camping, kayaking, road-tripping through unfamiliar landscapes, or simply forest bathing. My daughter and I have become very keen, albeit novice bird-watchers. To keep me sane on a day-to-day basis, I dance to release endorphins and to transfer my creativity to my body for a while.
Where do you go for inspiration or what do you find inspiring?
Inspiration for me comes by letting go of what I think I know and letting other input take center stage for a bit. One of my favorite places to do this is in a design charrette with kids. Not confined by any pre-conceived notions, kids are fearlessly creative and make me remember that joy and possibility are as important as constructability.
What landscape do you feel is unknown or underrepresented?
Highway interchanges! Often a non-productive monoculture or horticultural display, this overlooked open space could potentially do a lot more!