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Meet Karen McCoy PLA, ASLA, Principal
Women in Landscape Architecture

Karen McCoy, PLA, ASLA

Karen McCoy began her professional experience at Karlsberger Associates Architects in 1979. In 1984, she joined Richard Trott and Partners for seven years, then working with NBBJ for a short time. After leaving NBBJ in 1992, Karen joined MKSK, formerly Myers Schmalenberger (MSI), where she demonstrated design leadership on a variety of award winning projects and was elevated to design principal in 1996. During her tenure, the firm grew from 7 to 40 licensed professionals, supported by 39 landscape architects, technical staff and administrative support. Karen has provided design leadership and overview on a variety of high-profile projects, including cultural, educational and health care campuses, gardens, municipal parks, urban planning, mixed use centers, entertainment and theme park design.

Her creative talents and professional drive address project functions and construction budgets. A strong believer in design collaboration, Karen contributes from initial design work through to project completion. Karen takes every project to heart and "sweats the details," often working closely with fabricators to achieve customized touches.

Karen was an instrumental team member in securing and designing the Nationwide Arena District Master Plan (Columbus, Ohio) and Implementation project. This threshold project began in 1997; construction continues today, with over $52 billion in public investment and $1 billion in private investment.

MKSK, Columbus, Ohio
Officers also in Indianapolis and West Lafayette Indiana, and Covington and Lexington Kentucky

BS in landscape architecture, Ohio State University, 1979

RLA in 1982

Professional Affiliations:
American Public Garden Association
American Society of Landscape Architects
Columbus Development Commission Member (3 terms)
Columbus Landmarks Foundations Member (2 terms)
Ohio Percent for Art Program Core Advisory Committee (2 terms)
Ohio Arts Council (Panelist/Juror)
Center of Architecture and Design Board Member

Co-authored landscape master plan for Franklin Park and Franklin Park Conservatory with Julie Moir Messervy (2000). Master plan led to a $25 million investment in first phase of projects, including Conservatory additions, the Brides Garden and the Scotts Miracle-Gro Community Gardens campus. Karen is also heading up Master Plan 2.0 update for the Conservatory, a projected $50 million dollars in park and garden development.

Nationwide Arena District Master Plan, Columbus, Ohio

Once a vacant brownfield, the Nationwide Arena District in downtown Columbus features the Nationwide Arena; the nightlife corridor, Ludlow Alley; a movie theater; a concert venue; a minor league AAA ballpark; restaurants; offices and an emerging urban neighborhood. The master plan's design features a relocated historic road bridge now used as a pedestrian bridge to connect the north district with the historic public food market (North Market) and the Franklin County Convention Center. To the south is a new urban park (McFerson Commons) that connects the district to the Scioto River and the Daniel Burnham Arch, salvaged from Columbus' historic Union Station as a highly visible focal point of the design. Running east-west is a new brick paved street (Nationwide Boulevard) with new retail shops and restaurants that connect the district to the downtown. The Arena District development has resulted in private investment. It's a model success story of urban revitalization, and a great case study for other cities planning downtown projects. Karen McCoy was the principal design lead.

Scotts Miracle-Gro Community Gardens Campus, Columbus, Ohio

The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company Community Garden campus offers a central place for education, communal gardening and celebration through artfully designed gardens, terraces, structures and edible landscapes. The inspirational gardens exhibit custom details and unique ideas and materials. The six-acre campus was organized by function around a central cross-axial green. Structures frame the greenhouse education venues, the demonstration live-fire cooking areas, storage and whimsical places of respite. The gardens and construction materials were carefully designed and selected to meet organic and sustainable principles, and to reflect the objectives of the Conservatory's mission to "elevate quality of life and connect the community through educational, cultural, and social experiences." Karen McCoy was the principal design lead and principal in charge.

Franklin Park Conservatory Brides Garden, Columbus, Ohio

The Brides Garden is an exquisite terraced garden full of intricate details, such as the imported Harbor Blue limestone terrace with an inlaid Indiana buff limestone knot pattern. The curved walls of Ohio blue sandstone feature hand coped and carved caps, a level of custom detail that harkens back to traditional masonry. The formal wall fountain introduces the calming sound of water into the garden, and is lined with iridescent glass tile. The custom iron and masonry arch swing offers a romantic vantage point. The careful detail extends to the custom designed and fabricated ironwork of the handrails, graceful bow atop the stone bench and in the arch and swing. The terraced garden staircase has plantings tucked under each stair step. Thoughtful schematic design, design development and construction documents resulted in this unforgettable garden. The project was designed in collaboration with Julie Moir Messervy. Karen McCoy was the principal design lead and principal in charge.

Columbus Museum of Art West Garden, Columbus, Ohio

As part of Columbus Museum of Art's $33 million multiphase expansion, the design and development of the new West Garden provides group tour entry and ADA accessibility to the historic 1936 Museum Building, and serves as the temporary main entrance for the museum during the renovation of the Ross Wing and the new building addition. Key drivers of the garden design included ramped entry to the elevated 1937 building entrance; group assembly for class instruction; small venue event space; and security and containment for school groups. The sensitive integration of accessibility into the garden design, and the artful custom fence and gate for the new museum campus yield "function as art." Karen McCoy was the principal design lead.

Crocker Park, Westlake, Ohio

Crocker Park is a 75-acre, new town center with retail shops, restaurants, offices and a mix of residential offerings located in Cleveland's west suburb of Westlake, Ohio. The design of Crocker Park is focused on the creation of memorable and enduring public spaces. The boulevard park and its plazas provide multiple venues for community-based special events, as well as a peaceful respite for nearby residents. Its picturesque cobblestone and brick walkways and fountains create an engaging environment to shop, dine, work and play. Karen McCoy was the principal design lead.


1. What was the pivotal or motivating factor(s) that made you choose a career in Landscape architecture?
I would say less pivotal and more cumulative. As a child I made cities in my sandbox, built condominiums for the 17-year locusts and deconstructed my Barbie Doll house for a better floor plan. My grandparents and father were avid gardeners and at a young age I grew to love plants. After a year and a half of college, majoring in art, I became aware of the landscape architecture profession: The perfect combination of all my interests.

2. What in particular do you attribute your success to?
The ability to "hear" the clients' needs and desires, dogged commitment to resolving the best design and attention to details though construction.

3. What career advice would you give to recently graduated landscape architectural students?
Travel and observe as much as you possibly can. Try to record what appeals to you about a space, including the size, proportions, materials and details, which will help you build your own design vocabulary.

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