By LISA MONTI
Landscape architecture is so much more than plants. The profession incorporates science and art among other disciplines to conceive and design such projects as college campuses, public parks, golf courses, historic preservation and restoration, urban transportation corridors, residential and commercial sites and many others.
And like other professions, including medicine, landscape architects in every state must earn a degree, gain several years of practice, pass an exam and take continuing education courses to be licensed to practice.
Christopher Hoffman has been in practice for 27 years and as sole proprietor of his practice in Clinton since 1994. He said the variety of each project is what he finds appealing.
“If you have exterior space, that’s what we deal with: how buildings relate to each other, the entryways, parking lots, drainage and lighting, anything outside the building. Plant material is just one part of that. The one thing we like to tout is that we are able to take a lot of different site elements and cohesively bring them together so the project flows. It’s a design profession.”
Hoffman said the work of a landscape architect is about “how we live, work and play in design.”
His award-winning firm prepares and submits site design, grading and drainage and construction detailing plans to city and county governments as part of the site plan review for mixed use development, offices, commercial and retail space, educational and health care facilities, industrial sites, subdivisions and residential developments.
Hoffman was the landscape architect or part of a team on numerous award winning projects including the first phase of the Southern Pine Electric Power Association Campus in Taylorsville that received the Mississippi Associated Builders and Contractors Excellence in Construction award and the Belhaven Medical Office Building in Jackson, both in 2013. Other visible projects include the Biloxi Bay Bridge rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina, the Natchez Trace visitors center in Clinton and the Elvis Presley Birthplace Renovations Project in Tupelo.
His approach to creating and designing projects is connecting the buildings to the natural environment, finding the best ways to enter and move around the space and making the most out of the property characteristics.
The Texas native who earned his degree from Texas Tech University has been appointed to the Mississippi Landscape Architectural Advisory Committee of the state Board of Architecture by Govs. Kirk Fordice, Ronnie Musgrove and Phil Bryant and has served as chairman three terms.
He has been a full member of the American Society of Landscape Architects since 1991. He has held several posts on the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards and was recently elected president-elect for 2015-2016.
CLARB was established in 1970 to ensure that landscape architects are qualified to practice by establishing standards for education, experience and examination.
Members include the licensure boards in the U.S., Puerto Rico and the Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario.
“A lot of what CLARB does is sharing best management practices,” he said. “We just finished our strategy planning session for the upcoming year and the issue we will tackle as a group is looking at how demographics and technological changes will affect our profession.”
Hoffman remembers the early technology that was available when he was a student.
“It was just the beginnings of the transition from hand drawn to computer drawn. I remember turning in a project on one of the original Apple computers. You had to sign up for your time to get on it in the lab.”
The profession is on an upswing, Hoffman said, slowly rising in the aftermath of the recession.
“LARE exam candidate numbers have returned to pre-recession levels, pointing to signs of continued economic recovery,” he said.
Hoffman said the benefits of being a volunteer with CLARB is traveling as well as the learning experience and teamwork interaction with other professionals working toward the future of the profession.
He enjoys spending time with Laura, his wife of 25 years, and two sons, Corbin, 21, and Brooks, 17. His other interests are skiing and playing percussion at First Baptist Church in Jackson. He’s been performing in the church’s Christmas production since 1988.
Hoffman is committed to his profession and his clients for the long term.
“I love what I do. The work may be similar but the projects are always different. I certainly enjoy all the challenges of every project and see myself continuing doing it,” he said.
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