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Meet Lu Gay C. Lanier, LA, FASLA, LEED AP

Timmons Group, Richmond, Virginia


Lu Gay C. Lanier, LA, FASLA, LEED AP

Lu Gay C. Lanier, LA, FASLA, LEED AP, is a landscape architect with over 35 years of experience in designing and executing projects from large-scale government headquarters to comprehensive eco-roof integrated systems. Her award winning projects throughout Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina effectively combine classic design principles with modern awareness, addressing infrastructure with "green" alternatives to craft spaces that stimulate positive social interaction and purpose. Lanier designs outdoor spaces that educate students, preserve natural, historical and cultural resources, and create joy in many lives.

As principal at Timmons Group, Lanier is responsible for land planning and landscape architecture. She pushes for environmental solutions to complex challenges and focuses on regionalism and utilization of native plantings. One example of this success is at 1050 K Street, an LEED Gold certified green building in downtown Washington, D.C. The landscape architecture was acclaimed by the green roof community for the total integration of the green roof, stormwater capture, bioretention, and irrigation system on an ultra-urban site.

Lanier has mentored many aspiring landscape architects, and taught the professional practice course for landscape architects at the University of Virginia from 1993-2001.

Master's degree, landscape architecture, University of Virginia, 1980
Bachelor of arts, environmental science, University of Virginia, 1976

Professional Affiliations:
Council of Landscape Architecture Registration Boards (CLARB) president, 2000; president-elect, 1999; treasurer, 1995-1997; regional director, 1993-1995; Landscape Architecture Registration Examination, chair, 1992-1994
American Society of Landscape Architects: Fellow, 1999-present; trustee, 2013-present; nominations committee, 2015-2016
Virginia Board for Architects, Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, Certified Interior Designers and Landscape Architects (APELSCIDLA), 1990-1998; president, 1994, 1998
Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board, 1998-2006

Virginia, 1982
North Carolina, 2005
Maryland, 2005
LEED BD & C Accredited Professional, 2009
Green Roof Accredited Professional, 2011


1050 K Street, Washington, D.C.
This LEED Gold project involved an innovative green-roof plaza stormwater design for an 11-story office building. Lu Gay Laniercollaborated closely with the architecture team to cultivate the concept of a "living" building that would blur the lines between inside and out. The building has two levels of green roof, with one level doubling as an overlook and entertaining terrace. Roof water, chiller water and plaza runoff collects in a cistern underneath the building, which is then filtered and pumped through a water feature bordering the entrance lobby.


Henricus Historical Park, Chesterfield County, Virginia
The Center for Women and Families sought to transform its courtyard into a restorative and playful space for its shelter residents. BDC had three goals: create a welcoming and rejuvenating space that safely accommodates active play, social interaction and healing for women and children; use plant varieties that can withstand active play while featuring edible and native varieties that require clients' care; and provide color and excitement by using sculptural elements to highlight the garden and create a bright, tranquil space. Though the courtyard is relatively small, areas were designated for mothers to congregate, children to play and people to gather. A ribbon-like tricycle path winds its way through the courtyard as an active play element.
Photography by Kenneth Hayden, Louisville, Ky.

Q & A

1. What was the pivotal or motivating factor(s) that made you choose a career in landscape architecture?
Undergraduate studies in environmental science and biological systems were leading me towards a career in scientific photography. I took a one-credit filler course in landscape architecture during my fourth year at the University of Virginia (UVA). Harry Porter, dean of the School of Architecture at UVA (and founder of the landscape architecture department), delivered the first lecture, and his introduction to applied design fascinated me. The second lecture was presented by Ben Howland, a lifetime landscape architect for the National Park Service. His talk was life changing. After the course, I proceeded to pursue landscape architecture and never looked back.

2. If you had not become a landscape architect, what profession might you have pursued?
I might have become a scientist.

3. What do you most enjoy about being a landscape architect?
Every day brings a new challenge or opportunity to broaden my skills and knowledge. The profession is diverse and is addressing major issues facing society including resiliency in a time of global change, the demise of pollinators, strengthening our daily connections to nature, and creating walkable, less car-centric communities. I feel privileged to have the opportunity, through design, to make a difference in the quality of life in communities.

4. Do you think women landscape architects generally get the same respect as their male counterparts? Have you experienced any discrimination because of your gender within the profession or by clients?
Yes. Personally, I have always been respected for the unique approach that I bring to the design team. If anything, as a senior practitioner, being a woman has been an advantage. Networking organizations like Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) encourage collaboration between women leaders and provide mentorship opportunities for younger women leaders.

5. When you first meet people not affiliated with the profession and explain that you are a landscape architect, how do you describe what you do?
I always focus my answer on the true extent of my practice -- which is a broad range of projects -- but I am very polite and answer any questions they ask about landscaping and gardening: plants, pests, and pruning.

6. What in particular do you attribute your success to?
I attribute my success to a very strong undergraduate education in aquatic ecology, hydrology, soils, geology and biological systems. That foundation was married with my professor Ben Howland's love for design "laying lightly on the land." My studies with him, including a thesis project conducted along the coastline of Virginia, shaped my environmental conscientiousness and design ethos.

7. What is (are) the most important contribution(s) made by landscape architects in the field of design today?
Landscape architects today are playing a major role in the movement to get our children outside again, learning, playing, and exploring. There is a paradigm shift towards interactive play taking place in learning at schools, parks, and conservation areas. Landscape architects have embraced this movement and will have a major impact on how design shapes childhood development. The second area that landscape architects are impacting in the field of design is the certification of site planning and design and the increasing emphasis on landscape performance. The SITES program will change the norm for integrating environmental sensitivity across the landscape into design and construction.

8. How has the landscape architecture profession changed since you first began working in the field?
Back in the day, hand lettering, sketching and drafting were the norm. Today, many landscape architects lack these skills. Hand drafting and drawing has been replaced by digital design software: CAD, Photoshop, Sketch up and so on. Technology brings new dimensions to our profession and design capability, but I worry that the element of touch--putting pencil to paper -- has been lost.

9. What career advice would you give to recently graduated landscape architectural students as they enter the profession?
When you are searching for your first job, look for a firm that dedicates time and resources to mentoring employees and furthering their education. Plan ahead to take the LARE as soon as allowed and become a licensed landscape architect.

As seen in LASN magazine, November 2016.

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November 19, 2019, 10:24 pm PDT

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