Kevin Clark

First and Last name: Kevin Clark       

Hometown (city and state): Louisville, Kentucky

Graduation Year: 2000


1)     Can you tell me a little about what initially drew you to our program at UK? How’d you know this was the major for you?

As with many landscape architecture students, I took a circuitous route before getting into the program. When I started at UK, I simply didn’t know what landscape architecture was—I started out majoring in mechanical engineering. It wasn’t until I had been sitting in Calculus 3 class after getting out of a Physics lab (yes, it was brutal), that I had an epiphany. I had hit my math ceiling; engineering was boring. When did we get to create something? So, after nearly two full years, I decided to switch courses.


I made my way to the New Student Services office to explore options for my new major, which I thought was going to be architecture. It was there that I saw an information sheet about landscape architecture, which brought together so many topics that interested me: design, the environment, urbanism, gardens, places for people. I did a little more online research and I forgot all about architecture.  I called up Horst Schach and took the admissions test and the rest is history.  


2)     What’s one of your fondest memories about being a landscape architecture student at UK?

The trips. We went on at least one trip every semester, usually to the location of the national ASLA conference, but sometimes to other places that related to something we were studying. These trips served as bonding experiences with classmates and professors and allowed us to explore so many cool cities and places.


While I was in the program we went Boston; Portland, Maine; Baltimore; Charlottesville, Virginia; Asheville, North Carolina; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Atlanta; Washington, D.C.; and Chicago, to name a few destinations. We camped in Big South Fork, Tennessee and the Daniel Boone National Forest, went sea kayaking in the Chesapeake Bay, toured the national monuments at night, sketched Monticello (Thomas Jefferson’s plantation home), and watched a White Sox game in 30-degree weather. We learned how to take the El, the T, the MARTA, and the Metro.  We swam in the Atlantic on a rainy day and drank Sam Adams in a pub near Harvard Square. These moments have stayed with me; they were formative and further spurred my interest in how people interact within cities and how good design contributes to making places livable.  



3)     What was your main area of focus? Did you have a research interest?

My main interests turned out to be landscape urbanism and urban-related issues, which is why I ultimately ended up in graduate school for urban planning to build upon my degree from UK.


4)     If you have had a study abroad experience or completed an internship, tell us a little about either your study abroad experience or your internship that you completed as a landscape architecture student.


I participated in a three-week study abroad trip to Italy and England after third year studio. The value of this was immeasurable, not because there was an amazing curriculum, but rather because of the exposure it provided to different cultures. We actually visited many of the places that we had studied in History of Landscape Architecture class. There is no better way to learn how to water color than to do it while drinking a glass of wine surrounded by Palladian buildings in Vicenza. Seeing those places in a book pale in comparison to experiencing them in person.


5)     What was your first job like after graduating? Where did you go after you graduated from UK?

After I graduated, I moved immediately to Chicago and began working at a small design firm in the Loop. It was a good place to learn and apply the practical knowledge I had obtained from the UKLA program. The program was great for preparing me to step into that world because of the focus on construction documents and methods and graphics, as well as the broader exposure to urban planning and environmental issues it provided. It was exciting to move to a big city like Chicago and show that I could do it. I haven’t left.  


After a couple of years, I began graduate school in the Urban Planning and Policy program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I completed my master’s degree part time, while continuing to work and gain experience.  


6)     What’s one thing you learned as a landscape architecture student that’s been especially useful post-graduation?

I learned very quickly that you must be a self-starter, motivated, curious, and well-read to succeed in this industry. It’s a very competitive field, but the work ethic that the program at UK instilled in me prepared me for the type of fast-paced, deadline-driven world I was entering.


7)     Tell us a little about what you’re doing now.

I’m the Director of Design at a Chicago-based urban planning and landscape architecture firm called The Lakota Group where I oversee the firm’s urban design projects. In this role, I span the design/planning continuum working on a broad range of projects, including large-scale comprehensive plans for communities, downtown, corridor, and district master plans, and design of open spaces, streetscapes, parks, and plazas.


A major part of my role is speaking at conferences and representing the firm as the lead principal in public processes and business development activities. This position has also allowed me to spend time in lot of cities and towns, talking to people and helping them improve their respective community, which ultimately is very rewarding.


8)     What’s one piece of advice you would offer to prospective college students?

For any prospective student that is considering landscape architecture at UK, I would tell him or her that the program is great. I’ve worked with a lot of people that studied landscape architecture at other schools, and Kentucky grads stack up to all of them and I would say, surpass most of them. But, be prepared to work; it’s not an easy program.


9)     What are some skills you’re using in your current job? Are there skills you’ve had to pick up on your own?

I still design with pens, markers, and trace paper. This is a quick, easy way to get thoughts on paper and communicate graphically. I learned this at UK and I see it as a dying art. I would urge any student to hone this skill and to avoid defaulting to using computer programs to design. There are lot of other skills that were formed while I was a student and have flourished over the course of my career. These include public speaking, writing, and organizing. Communication is a major part of this field, so I have tried to master (or at least become better at) all of these different methods.



The Lakota Group