Christian Preus, who grew up in the small Mississippi Delta town of Webb, found his professional calling when he was just a high school student in Clarksdale.
“I discovered landscape architecture and felt it was a great fit for me,” he said.
What appealed to Preus most was the diversity of the profession, and how “I could have opportunities to work at different scales from large scale urban planning, to working with architects and engineers to marry buildings with the layout and forms of the site.”
Today, Preus is the principal of Christian Preus Landscape Architecture, PLLC, a design, planning, and landscape architecture firm with offices in Ocean Springs, Miss., and Fairhope, Ala. He plans to open a third office this fall in Jackson.
Preus’ passion for his career was fueled by a prestigious internship he received midway through junior year at Mississippi State University. EDAW, an international firm specializing in urban planning, tapped him in 2001 as one of only 19 students from around the world to help design the 4,700-acre Stapleton community in Denver. The former site of Stapleton International Airport was the largest urban in-fill redevelopment in the U.S. The internship also took Preus to projects in Atlanta and Miami.
“It was one of those life-changing experiences,” he said. “It kick-started my passion for urban planning and neighborhood design.”
After graduation in 2002, Preus worked in Birmingham, Ala., before moving to the Mississippi Coast to design Florence Gardens, an award winning traditional neighborhood development in Gulfport.
In Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath, Preus worked with the Governor’s Commission on projects including Gulfport’s downtown redevelopment, and that spun off into a consulting business. “It opened doors I never thought possible,” he said. “I started doing consulting work for cities from Pascagoula to Pass Christian and doing projects all over the state.”
Preus applied his background in planning and neighborhood design to the post-Katrina projects and said he gained “a lot of real world experience” working with carpenters, brick masons and other tradesmen on various jobs.
After opening his office in an 1800s cottage in downtown Ocean Springs in 2011, Preus soon started getting calls to be on design teams for projects all over the state, including the Grammy Museum in Cleveland, the MGM stadium in Biloxi and the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center under construction in Meridian.
One major project just getting under way is the Mississippi Aquarium being developed on the Gulfport beachfront. The firm has developed the master plan for and is continuing work on the first phase of Adelaide, a 480-acre traditional neighborhood development in Starkville. It recently completed an expansion of the campus of the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center in Gulfport, and is nearing completion at the Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis K. Sullivan-designed Charnley-Norwood House in Ocean Springs.
Preus calls his firm a “family centered business,” that includes wife Brooke, who handles marketing and accounting, brother Oliver, a landscape architect and community planner, and Cory Gallo, who helps with campus planning projects for schools, churches and other clients.
Preus is on the board of the Mississippi Heritage Trust, has served as an executive officer for the Mississippi and Alabama Chapters of the American Society of Landscape Architects and was recently awarded the inaugural Young Alumnus of the Year by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Mississippi State University.
He recently received the Honor Award presented by the Mississippi Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects for the Lighthouse Park project in Pascagoula. The award is the highest awarded to a project at the state level and has special significance for Preus.
“We had a shoestring budget so my task was making the most of the space under the bridge and around the lighthouse area,” he said. The jury made note of the use of stormwater concrete pipe as amphitheater seating and reuse of masonry scraps of the old Round Island Lighthouse for the park signage.
Looking ahead, he said, the firm will continue to do planning and larger-scale design projects in Mississippi and expand into Alabama in the next several years. “I’ve been blessed with great clients and good relationships,” Preus said. “I’m very fortunate to have had the experiences we’ve had over the last 14 years.”
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