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Landscape Architecture

Marie Reinke

A first-generation undergraduate student stepped foot on the Texas Tech University campus awaiting her four-year landscape architecture experience. A passion for landscape architecture and campus involvement allowed this student to find their second home. 

“My interpretation of landscape architecture is designing the outdoors in sustainable ways that allow humans and wildlife to interact with nature.”

Landscape Architecture Student

Marie Reinke, from Waco, Texas, is a senior at Texas Tech dual majoring in landscape architecture and business management.

“Some might not understand what this degree is or what we do. My interpretation of landscape architecture is designing the outdoors in sustainable ways that allow humans and wildlife to interact with nature,” Reinke said.

Reinke is a member of the Student American Society of Landscape Architects (SASLA) at Texas Tech and served as the event coordinator.

The SASLA provides an excellent experience through professional opportunities. Something that the organization does differently is putting together an event called WreckShop.

Marie Reinke is a Texas Tech student that has built a strong foundation through her professors and peers within the Department of Landscape Architecture

“This event is something that as a student officer, we spend all summer and most of spring and fall semesters preparing for,” Reinke said.

The three-day event Reinke put on is filled with educational experiences showcased at the First Friday Art Trail, a monthly city art show in Lubbock, Texas has each month.

Reinke emphasized the importance of being involved during her collegiate experience.

“You may ask, where does my business management degree come into play,” Reinke said, “having a business management degree is appropriate and relatable no matter the type of business it is one is working for.”

In August 2020, Reinke will graduate with her Bachelor of Landscape Architecture and Business Management. Her career goals are to use her skills to work her way up in a company.

“The participation that I have had within the landscape architecture community has been extremely helpful with making connections with professors and professionals in my field of study,” Reinke said, “it has opened doors for opportunities and relationships that can be built beyond my time as an undergraduate.”

Mihail Tsapos

Growing up, when Mihail Tsapos, also known as Michael, was not at school, he said he was always planning his next camping trip around his hometown, Roanoke, Texas.

“I have always been interested in nature, and I enjoy going camping and backpacking,” Tsapos said.

Tsapos is a senior landscape architecture student at Texas Tech University. His hard work and passion for landscape architecture has led to success throughout his collegiate experience.

“You know, we’re all landscape architects, and we’re all passionate about what we do.”

Landscape Architecture student

 “I have always wanted to be an architect, but when I discovered landscape architecture, I realized that it is the perfect mix of the arts and the sciences that  I wanted,” said Tsapos.

Tsapos has an active involvement within the landscape architecture department. He is the president of the Student American Society of Landscape Architects and the winner of the 2020 Olmsted Scholar award.”

The Olmsted Scholar award is given to one student at every university within the landscape architecture department. The student then attends a convention with all of the Olmstead Scholars from around the nation.

Campus involvement is an important aspect to a student’s experience and Mihail Tsapos has certainly made the most of his time at Texas Tech University in the Department of Landscape Architecture.  

“This award is an honor, but it’s also about being around peers that share your passion for landscape architecture and meeting professionals that are at the top of the field,” Tsapos said.

According to the Landscape Architecture Foundation, the Olmsted Scholars Program recognizes and supports students with exceptional leadership potential who plan to advance sustainable design and foster human and    societal benefits.

“You know, we’re all landscape architects, and we’re all passionate about what we do,” Tsapos said.

Tsapos will be graduating in May 2020 with a Bachelors of Landscape Architecture.

“I encourage people to go and explore landscape architecture,” he said, “because it is such a wide discipline, whether you want to be a student of landscape architecture, like me, or someone that may use our services in the future. The role landscape architects play in the 21st century is a lot greater than before.”

A Blueprint for Growth

Jason Sowell has full confidence in the success of After Design.

andscape architecture design is a tedious process. Every inch of a design has been thought out to ensure the final product is harmonious and successful. Each finished blueprint has numerous hours and dedication hidden behind paper. Jason Sowell and Justin Palacios took on the task of making a blueprint for an event to showcase Texas Tech University’s Department of Landscape Architecture. The event started on paper would be known as After Design.

One of the coordinators of the event, Jason Sowell, is an associate professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture. He said the inspiration and reasoning behind the event was his research.

“This event emerged from my research in landscape technology, which increasingly recognizes the role of management and maintenance in a landscape’s development and execution,” Sowell said. “Contemporary landscapes require the integration of complex social, technical and biophysical processes, especially over protracted time periods.”

Sowell said After Design will allow outside recommendations for the research happening in the Department of Landscape Architecture through speakers and workshops. Sowell said he hopes After Design will be create a network of scholars to discuss management concerns in landscapes. Secondly, Sowell said he wants to start a discussion about making management a critical link to landscape architecture design.

Sowell is looking forward to the scholars speaking at After Design.

“The speakers are world-renowned scholars within their respective disciplines, and they each have expertise for creating a better world,” Sowell said. “The chance to meet and discuss their work and its application is exceptional.”

After Design is also a blueprint for appreciation. The event was partly put together to highlight the Department of Landscape Architecture’s growth. Alumni of the program will have the chance to see the changes in the department.

Justin Palacios is the marketing coordinator and graduate student in the Department of Landscape Architecture.

“We wanted to set forth that our department is in a revitalization stage,” Palacios said. “We wanted to get the word out there and get that bus rolling.”

After Design will also provide the opportunity for alumni to receive continued education hours. Landscape architects are required to have 12 hours of continued education hours to be a licensed architect in Texas. After Design will allow alumni to get up to four and a half hours for free just by sending in the lectures for proof of attendance to the American Society of Landscape Architects. Palacios said this added bonus of the event shows the care the department has for its alumni.

“We care about you when you are in our program and after you leave the program,” he said.

After Design’s blueprint took a year’s worth of planning to set into motion.

“A lot of effort has been put into developing, organizing and scheduling the symposium’s content from all involved,” Sowell said.

Sowell shared his hopes about the outcomes of After Design. He said he hopes that an appreciation for management as a form of innovation.

“First, I hope for an appreciation for management as a focus in the design of landscapes, infrastructure and urban regions,” Sowell said. “Second is an interest in how different disciplines understand or address management concerns, and what we can learn from one another.”

Planning an event this size was a challenge. Palacios said he had to step back from planning and revaluate to understand and appreciate the purpose and outcome of After Design.

“I see a gala. I see a lot of people talking, a lot of two-way communication between scholars and alumni and students networking,” Palacios said.

Lubbock Landscaping Redefined


hat started as a college student trying to earn money on the side has bloomed into West Texas’ oldest premiere provider of landscape design and construction. Tom’s Tree Place has re-defined the meaning of growing a business while holding onto its local roots.

Texas Tech alum and current owner of Tom’s Tree Place, Alex Scarborough, recalls his dad, Tom Scarborough, sharing the story of how the popular landscape-design company began.

“When World War II was over, my dad was headed to Texas A&M to go to forestry school there.” Scarborough said he hitch-hiked and thought he would stop by and see his Navy buddies in Lubbock. He said he got out of the truck and saw his first tumbleweed rolling across the ground.

There was a lack of admission slots due to so many veterans coming back from WWII, so the state of Texas required Texas citizenship to attend any of the universities within the state. Luckily, that did not stop Tom, the southern Mississippi native, from still attending one. 

“His buddies were getting ready to start the semester and they asked him, ‘why don’t you just go to school here?’” Alex said. “So, they went down to the admissions office with him and swore he was from some little town in Texas.” 

While Tom was attending school, he started a tree-spraying business to earn extra cash. It was not until a customer expressed how difficult it was to get in contact him without a place of business that Tom decided to purchase some property in Lubbock, Texas.

“He got a place on West 34th street, way outside of town. He came out here in 1950 and started the business on this location,” Alex said, pointing at the ground. “This is the original.”

Despite the growing popularity of landscape architecture, many people are not aware of the various roles they play. The Lubbock-based landscape design company is making it known that the landscape industry has more to offer than just jobs mowing grass.

Abbie Jones, marketing coordinator of Tom’s Tree Place, said the retail nursery is one of the many services offered by the company. 

“The retail nursery is where people come in and buy plants,” Jones explained. “It’s kind of like the do-it-yourself customers that come and get the fertilizers, garden seeds, and the plants and trees.” 

Jones said there is also the landscape architect sector of the business, where the design aspect comes into play.

“We bid projects out for jobs that are already designed, and we just offer to install them,” Jones said. 

Landscape construction comes with two different aspects: a hardscape division and a softscape division. Jones explained hardscape and softscape are the complete opposites of each other; both are necessary to make a landscape fully functional.

I think that we all think it’s important to give that back to the community.

“The hardscape sector of the business is anything that’s not living.” Jones said. “This would be the concrete pavers, brick walls, and a bunch of grading and drainage. Then we have the softscape side of the business, which is installing all the living products. The trees, the plants, the flowers all go with that.”

Whether their work has been recognized or not, almost everyone in Lubbock has seen a job done by Tom’s Tree Place. From the landscape installation at Texas Tech’s new performance center, to the re-construction of the Dairy Barn, it is hard to believe that there is someone in Lubbock who has not come across a Tom’s Tree Place project.

An often-visited development is the re-design of the Will Rodgers and Soapsuds statue on Texas Tech’s campus.

“The statue’s the same, but it used to be to where you couldn’t walk right up to it,” Jones said. “We redid the hardscape on it, so we poured all the concrete that’s around it.”

An ongoing project Tom’s Tree Place has upheld since 2000 is the maintenance and upkeep of North Overton. 

“When I went to college, students didn’t dare go off in there because it was a scary place to go,” Scarborough said. “We’re really proud with how that’s turned out, it’s changed that whole area of town. It’s just a nice place to live now, well-lit sidewalks, good bus connection, a lot of bicycling. The whole neighborhood is pretty neat.”

Tom’s Tree Place is also responsible for the re-design of the fountain and planting the trees at the Broadway and University Avenue entrance to Texas Tech. Jones, who graduated in 2011 from Texas Tech with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications before she worked for Tom’s, said she is most proud of the beautification of the campus. 

“That was just a really cool project to be a part of because Texas Tech is so near and dear to my heart,” Jones said, “and it’s cool to see our stamp around campus and contribution to the beautification of it.”

Not only does Tom’s Tree Place deal with commercial landscape construction, but they are also engaged with the community in a variety of ways. Since 2014, Tom’s Tree Place has hosted an annual Easter egg hunt. This event was created to encourage kids in the neighborhood to have a fun, safe egg hunt.

“The egg hunt is a fun event to get our neighborhood involved with the business,” Jones stated. “I think that we all think it’s important to give that back to the community and the egg hunt is the one that gives back to this actual neighborhood the most.”

When it comes to challenges the company faces, Jones said the biggest one is keeping themselves relevant to the community.

“A challenge is how to keep yourself relevant, but not to the point where you’re only focused on the bottom line,” Jones said, “but you’re also focused on the community and your positive impact on the community.” 

Architecture, After Design


s everyone is seated, Jason Sowell stares out to the crowd of students and peers. The attendees are on the edge of their seats waiting to learn more about landscape architecture.

Sowell is a registered architect and a professor at Texas Tech University in the Department of Landscape Architecture. Sowell spearheaded the Texas Tech event, After Design, at the College of Architecture in April 2019. After Design is a symposium the role of management to students how architects think about how architects think about landscapes and the steps it takes to implement them long-term.

 “I invited a whole series of scholars and practitioners in the state of Texas, who are at the forefront of management concerns in a whole range of different landscapes,” Sowell said.

Sowell had help from his graduate student and communications manager, Justin Palacios, on this project. Palacios is handling the marketing and communications aspects of the event and has created groundwork for future events.

“This is a brand-new event that is going to become an annual event,” Palacios said. “So, I’m really trying to create a foundation for him.”

I invited a whole series of scholars and practitioners in the state of Texas.

Aside from After Design, Sowell also teaches landscape architecture studio classes where he helps students craft a variety of solutions to architectural problems or questions. During the spring 2019 semester, the students worked toward generating different scenarios on how downtown Lubbock can be redesigned to fit the city’s Draft Master Plan.

Jason Sowell PhD works in his landscape architecture design program to develop lesson plans for his students.

“The Draft Master Plan proposes to revitalize the downtown as a new place for commercial, residential and retail,” Sowell said.

Sowell has a passion for landscape architecture and plans to remain teaching students the proper curriculum. He will also continue working as a registered architect to help solve some of the leading issues in the industry. He resonates with nationally renowned landscape architecture icon, John Brinckerhoff Jackson, and supports his definition of landscape architecture.

“J.B. Jackson, who was a significant cultural historian of landscapes, asserted that landscape is, in essence, humanity taking upon themselves the responsibility to accelerate biophysical prophecies,” Sowell said. “It also means that there is a need to care for that landscape and manage it in order to achieve the goals and objectives that the cultural and social outline.”

Going, Going, Greener

Gary Morgan with the Museum of Texas Tech is one of the visionaries of this innovative project
Gary Morgan with the Museum of Texas Tech is one of the visionaries of this innovative project

Summer is bare, hot and burning. Winters can be harshly frigid. Powerful winds are practically a seasonal constant. In West Texas’ arid climate it is difficult to create and maintain aesthetically pleasing landscaping. There is a profound symbiotic relationship between the land and people missing.

The West Texas landscape holds a plethora of natural beauty that is often overlooked in landscape design. Utilizing native plants in landscaping architecture is a major factor in the care of the landscape. The West Texas Garden project is a collaborative effort aimed at creating a new standard of sustainable landscaping in West Texas.

Modern Pioneers

There are three entities involved in the conception of the West Texas Garden Project: the Museum of Texas Tech University, the National Ranching Heritage Center (NRHC), and the Texas Tech Department of Landscape Architecture. The landscape construction will take place between and around the museum and the NRHC. Students and alumni of the Department of Landscape Architecture drafted ideas for the project and will assist in overseeing the implementation of landscaping.


At the most pragmatic level, the project began as a consideration of how to make the northern part of the museum more approachable and user-friendly. Gary Morgan, executive director of the museum, said he thinks the main approach from the north is currently unremarkable.

“It’s a mix of concrete and that rather awful cobble concrete with all the pebbles coming out of it as it erodes and very large areas of dead grass,” Morgan said.

Physically, it is an unwelcoming approach from the parking lot to the museum. Through this project, the northern entrance of the museum will be transformed into a huge external gallery. The outdoor exhibit will ultimately reflect and link to the stories being told inside of the museum and NRHC.

The area being landscaped is between the the NRHC and Museum of Texas Tech.

Jim Bret Campbell, NRHC executive director, says he is most excited about the physical bridge the garden will create between the NRHC and the museum.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations, in my 30 days here, about building greater partnerships and making this a cultural corner,” Campbell said.

Creating lasting partnerships and innovation through collaboration is a resounding theme of the West Texas Garden Project. Campbell said the NRHC is interested in any project that enables it to collaborate with other departments at Texas Tech and especially with its neighbors next door at the museum.

“It just makes sense for all of us to work together,” Campbell said.

Collaboration Station

Under the direction of Eric Bernard, chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture, students will have a direct role in the creation of the garden. During the department’s annual WreckShop event on March 7, 2017, students had the opportunity to collaborate with professionals in an informal workshop setting. Through design charrettes, students researched, sketched plans and presented their ideas to leaders of the museum and NRHC.

William Hall is a third year landscape architecture student and said he is enthusiastic about having a direct role in the production of the West Texas Garden.

“People come up with unique ideas,” Hall said. “Each team is solving different issues, and a mass workshop works toward solving the overarching issue.”

Ideas student teams shared at the conclusion of WreckShop included plans to change infrastructure, plans for outside galleries and plans for installation of native flora. Specifically, permeable driveway surfaces, playa lakes, interactive sensory spaces for kids, vegetative drainage, and an observation deck for learning.

Landscape architecture students got in groups to draft ideas for the conception of the West Texas Garden Project.

The plan will have physical delivery stages. It will be an expensive effort and will not be possible to do all at once. The first stages will consist of testing landscaping and implementing plans. Next, will be a progressive transformation in a series of stages with plantings of native plants that are reflective of a range of habitats of West Texas. These plantings will represent vegetation across the Short Grass Prairies, the Chihuahuan Desert and the Caprock Canyons.

It just makes sense for all of us to work together. Jim Bret Campbell

Significance of Sustainability

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the garden is the example of sustainability it is setting for the West Texas area. The West Texas Garden has an opportunity to display the evolution of ecology of the area. It will also exhibit the benefits of using native plants and grasses whether from a landscape architecture point of view, water saving point of view and a grazing management point of view.

Morgan said because the community looks toward Texas Tech as a leader, it is important to show what is attainable by example.

“For us to demonstrate what is possible through sustainable architecture and sustainable architectural landscape design, that’s a really important role for us,” Morgan said.

The notion of sustainability is factored in from the beginning. As the area is reworked, existing materials are reincorporated into it rather than thrown away. All plantings will be water sustainable, so the garden will not require any additional water. It will also have a low maintenance design.

The NRHC is excited to be associated with an image of sustainability. Campbell said he hopes to include what habitat and grazing management means when telling the story of ranching through the West Texas Garden. This project will show the symbiotic relationship that needs to exist between native habitat and grazing and the best ways for ranchers to do so going forward.

Highlighting ranchers’ role in conservation efforts is key to the mission of the NRHC.

“Ranching has always been about the land,” Campbell said. “I truly believe, not that we’ve always been good at it, but ranchers were the first conservationists.”

LEED the Way

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a rating system used on buildings to measure sustainability. Any expansions on the museum will be LEED certified. Morgan said he believes the sustainable design of the garden will present learning opportunities pertinent to the natural environment for the people West Texas. Looking toward a sustainable future, the garden will catalyze how the community can positively engage with climate change.

Eventually, Morgan has plans to incorporate seating, dining and night lighting creating a day and night destination spot for Lubbock. The space may even be used for events in the future.

Morgan said he is excited about the possibilities this project will bring to not only the museum, but the Lubbock community.

According to Morgan the West Texas Garden will be unique to the area. He said it has proved to be highly beneficial to all three parties involved. Students are engaged in a hands-on landscape design experience. The NRHC and museum will gain an external face-lift and expansion. The community will have an outdoor space to learn about sustainability and the history of the land.

Morgan said although this is a project with educational, environmental and practical merit, he thinks there is a humbler reason why the project heeds so much value.

“I think people will come simply because it will be a lovely spot,” Morgan said.

When Nature Nurtures

One in six children suffer from obesity, according to the Center for Disease Control.

This figure is not shocking as Dr. Nilda Cosco, Ph.D., of the Natural Learning Initiative, explains children spend an average of 35 hours per week in daycare. A clear culprit for this pandemic has emerged. Parents have little, if any, control over the health, exercise and nutrition of their children. The CDC also stated that while more than 12 million children regularly spend time in childcare arrangements outside the home, not all states use licensing regulations ensuring childcare facilities encourage healthful eating and physical activity. When the system that parents trust to care and nurture their children fails, the only thing left to do is change the nature of the system.

The Course of Change

In the fall of 2016, the landscape architecture program at Texas Tech partnered with the Texas Department for Public Health and Safety and the Natural Learning Initiative. To bring change to the system, they will plan, design and construct the first childcare center designed exclusively to prevent childhood obesity, promote natural learning, and stimulate self-innovation in Lubbock, Texas.

Associate Professor and Interim Department Chair of the Texas Tech Landscape Architecture program, Charles Klein, Ph.D., described this partnership as taking root during the hectic period near the end of the semester. That special time when students are hanging on every word from their professors in hopes an eager attitude will be awarded an A at the end of the term; and professors are frantically juggling grades while trying to meet the needs of every student’s nervous email. It was then Klein received a call from the TDPHS.

“It was late in the semester and that’s always hectic, but I listened,” Klein said. “ I guess I’m one of the few that actually just listened and became involved.”

Klein said the first meeting they had was a conference call while he was still teaching abroad in Spain.

“I was like, ‘Yeah, I think we can handle that.’ The next thing I know, I’m not just helping with it, I’m in charge of it,” Klein said.

Preventing Obesity by Design is a product of The Natural Learning Initiative, NLI, based out of North Carolina State University. The program has gained national attention as they seek to create healthy biospheres and outdoor spaces that strive to promote healthy human development in childcare centers across the nation. TDPHS caught wind of this opportunity to incorporate a preventative approach to promoting the health and wellbeing of children and decided to take action.

“This whole idea is going to be a statewide part of the daycare accreditation system,” Klein says. “The first project is here in Lubbock.”

Meet the Team

Klein along with the help of two graduate students in the department, Afsana Sharmin and Amanda Gunter, have been tasked with designing and presenting the plans for construction of the first redesigned daycare site using the NLI’s model. The Covenant Hospital Childcare Center in Lubbock will be the first, of hopefully many, to incorporate this design.

“They were very excited that Tech has cross-disciplinary folks like exercise and sports science, nutrition and environmental design, all ranges and scopes of research,” Klein said, “This project really fit in well, and Texas Tech was willing to take on the project.”

Sharmin, a graduate student from Taka, Bangladesh, who is assisting with this project, thoughtfully explained that in dense cities, such as her home, it is often very difficult for children to go outside because there is not enough space. She said this lack of room for outdoor activities has led to a sharp rise in children substituting this time to play video games and spend time on computers.

“The first thing is to be aware of the use of technology that is restricting your child to be indoors,” Sharmin said. “We are losing our connection with nature, gradually. Being outdoors and being interactive with nature contributes not only with physical development of the child, but also the psychological development of the child.”

We are losing our connection with nature, gradually.
Afsana Sharmin

While NLI is using their research models to prevent childhood obesity through the creation of environments that encourage children to be active, the approach serves two-fold. Not only will the new Covenant Childcare Center in Lubbock promote activity, it will also serve to help children learn about nature and the environment.

Amanda Gunter, a graduate student also assisting with this project, said most children do not understand where their food comes from. The age threshold of children who benefit from childcare services exist in a pivotal stage where exposure to nature and cognitive learning would develop pre-interest in cooking, nature and biology.

“It stems from small things,” Gunter said. “Kids are more likely to experiment or figure out something that they’re not going to pick up in a classroom or just by being told. When kids are engaged with nature, they are more active and learn more about the environment.”

The Vision

While the Texas Tech landscape architecture program will be submitting the final designs for the redesigned childcare center, which currently sits on the corner of Joliet and 22nd Street in Lubbock, determining the elements to be included has been a poly-partisan effort.

“We incorporated everything,” Klein said. “We have several looping pathways. A fruits and vegetables area will help kids learn about healthy choices and a variety of activities will keep kids moving and engaged.”

Through a series of workshops and community events held in Lubbock, staff from the TDPHS, Child Protective Services, NLI and employees from the current childcare center teamed up to plan the new childcare center.

“We had an open-to-the-community discussion about why it’s important to have environments for children that aren’t just boring equipment with gravel and grass,” Gunter explained. “It’s more than that.”

Klein said he meticulously puts emphasis on not just the instruments children have to engage with, but also the pathway in which they are organically inclined to follow on the playground.

“If you have a pathway that goes from here to there, students go from here to there; even if there are different stations and activities along the way. Going outside is good, but we want them to have more activity than just being in one place at one time.”

Klein, who is jointly heading this project with guidance from NLI, is excited to turn this project into a statewide mission as more and more Texas childcare centers may adopt this design.

“We hope to turn it into a funded, applied research project,” Klein said. “Texas is so big that there may be four or five regional centers, hopefully.”

The project with the Covenant Childcare Center is the first of its kind in Texas. Klein said, as a pilot project, he hopes this kind of thinking will continue long into the future with both childcare centers across Texas and the nation adopting the methods set forth by Texas Tech and NLI.

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