Ben first thought of becoming a Landscape Architect in high school while he was taking co-op programs in engineering and drafting. It was the openness for creative thinking that led Ben to choose the field of landscape architecture.
Landscape Architect, Ben, is a hands-on, DIY creative type, and not one for daydreaming. When not designing million dollar sports facilities, you might find him in a suburban backyard with a can of spray paint, dark lines in the grass where he’s marked out plants, trees, boulders. At his own house, Ben excavated his entire front lawn and planted a perennial garden – mass plantings of Russian sage, blacked-eye susans Echinacea, anything that grabbed his interest in shape and colour.
Ben enjoys the challenge of coming up with ideas for landscapes, and has been prolific over his 14 years in the industry, with a large portfolio of sports fields, walking trails, schools, and stadiums.
Ben’s path to becoming a Landscape Architect started in a forward-thinking high school that offered its students work co-ops. His first choice was municipal engineering and he spent some time as an intern at Associated Engineering. While assisting with stormwater and sewage treatment plant projects, Ben soon decided that engineering was not for him. He saw that engineering required him to follow a hard, linear thought process; it was methodical and did not have room for creative thought.
After finishing his internship, Ben enrolled in a high school drafting class where he worked on architectural plans and learned about Landscape Architecture. He liked that LA was more creative, he could be more thoughtful in his design process.
Ben researched several institutions in Ontario and decided to register in Fanshawe College’s Diploma program in Landscape Design. The course taught him skills in design theory, plant identification, planting design, horticulture, and landscape and building materials.
After earning his diploma, Ben continued to the University of Guelph where he completed his Bachelor’s Degree in Landscape Architecture.
Fourteen years on, Ben is a licensed registered landscape architect within the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario, and in Atlantic Canada. He has provided landscape architectural design for schools, trails, pedestrian bridges, sports fields, and large sports facilities.
What Inspires Ben
Ben is inspired by native plantings, the artistic nature of things, abstract artwork, art coming out of Vancouver, a print by Canadian painter, Alex Colville. His attention is swayed by random artistic finds, such as the placement of chairs in a museum display, the opera house in Oslo, Copenhagen, beaches in New Zealand.
Ben is also inspired by the natural world. He takes time out to hike and explore the Canadian landscape, and then brings those images into his designs. The ocean, the motion of the waves, a lone surfer, landscapes he’ll never see again. He talks about his love of the outdoors, about the landscape he has hiked through in Canada, bison spotted at Elk Island National Park, the grand, mountainous landscape of Jasper, Alberta. Ben has stored a catalogue of visuals – snapshots of his experiences in nature that inform his work in Landscape Architecture.
Ben’s Work at Binnie
Ben balances his outdoor explorations with a busy career changing and improving the parks and sport facilities in Canada. It can be rewarding work for someone who values the outdoors. Once Ben’s projects are built he sees an immediate and direct result: more people spending time outside.
As a Senior Project Manager and Landscape Architect at Binnie, Ben writes proposals, assists in business development, and keeps his hand in sports and recreation design work. He shares about his design for a sports field in Whistler. He enjoyed the challenge of designing a field over a landfill:
We did feasibility assessments for five or six locations before we selected this site. Challenges include looking for solutions to mitigate settlement. I worked with a geotechnical engineer and we need to be a certain distance over the liner. We needed to design a more flexible site, less rigid, less hard, we needed to avoid concrete sidewalks, etc. Pieces will be more modular so we can adjust as settlement occurs.
It’s about what ideas you can come up with.
Having joined Binnie’s Calgary office in April 2017, Ben is settling in to the busy, employee-owned culture.
Binnie is very laid back, still a young company compared to other places I’ve worked at. It’s smaller than I’m used to, but I get to be involved in a lot more projects. I have more interaction with clients.
Looking back at his 14 years in Landscape Architecture, Ben recalls designing a segment of the Etobicoke Creek Trail in Ontario as his most rewarding job so far. Delivered by MMM Group, the off-road, multi-use trail runs along the border between Mississauga and Toronto, crossing through valley lands and then out to the Greater Toronto Airport. It was one of the first trails built within airport lands in Canada.
Ben was the Project Coordinator and led the design of a 5-km segment of the trail; he worked with the airport authority, Department of Fisheries and Oceans; he dealt with contaminated sites and materials, issues with runway tailings.
I enjoyed the process of getting the project through… the multi-tasking and the relationships I had with the geotechnical and structural teams.
Ben led a multi-disciplinary team in building four cyclist bridges as part of the trail, including largest bridge in his career at 40 metres. He helped the design of approaches to the bridges and took part in a grand opening with a crowd of kids and the local council in attendance.
I have walked the trail several times since it was completed in 2010. When I fly into Toronto, you can catch me looking down to see the trail and other projects I completed in the area.
In his free time, Ben enjoys skiing, hiking, and walking his dog, Tucker, an Irish setter.