Nate Cormier Joins Rios Clementi Hale Studios as Principal

Landscape Architect Promotes Urban Landscapes as Instruments of Change

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Nate Cormier, ASLA, PLA, LEED AP, Principal Landscape Architect. Image courtesy of Rios Clementi Hale Studios. Click here for high-resolution images.

LOS ANGELES: Landscape architect Nate Cormier, ASLA, PLA, LEED AP, has joined the leadership of Los Angeles-based Rios Clementi Hale Studios to bring his perspective to the design of parks, streetscapes, civic spaces, and plazas.  His talent for telling stories of place through landscape architecture grew from his civic activism and experiences living in communities that seldom attract the attention of the design community.

“As a new principal landscape architect, Nate brings incredible energy and depth to our team,” says firm founder Mark Rios, FAIA, FASLA.  “His divergent interests—from Japanese gardens to the future of urbanism—will expand our practice and lead us in new directions.”

Long drawn to exploring the public realm, Cormier views underserved neighborhoods lacking parks and amenities as opportunities to rethink existing rights-of-ways in urban communities.  This interest has led to transformative projects—such as Seattle’s Bell Street Park and Denver’s Downtown Loop—that turn city streets into vibrant gathering places.  Cormier views such repurposed urban thoroughfares as the wave of the future, as the need for wide lanes, parking, and curbs is waning with the rise of driverless vehicles, the sharing economy, and more walkable communities.

“The advantages of cities—proximity, diversity, new ideas—are ascendant,” says Cormier.  “Landscape architecture and the multi-disciplinary practice of Rios Clementi Hale Studios can be influential in making places where old-timers and newcomers come together and appreciate each other and the magic of cities.”

Before joining Rios Clementi Hale Studios, Cormier spent two decades working on parks, nature preserves, transit station areas, educational and research facilities, and public spaces for large and small firms in Seattle and Los Angeles, including SvR Design Company and AECOM, respectively.  He views landscape architecture as a way to shape cities at the scale of where people live, rather than as a design pursuit focused solely on plantings.

“Landscape architects can tell new stories about how we share the city and the natural environment surrounding our housing, streets, parks, and schools.  We can nudge our neighbors and policy-makers toward more equitable and sustainable living,” Cormier says.

At Rios Clementi Hale Studios, Cormier is applying his experience to projects such as the Palm Springs City Park at the heart of the California desert city.  The future public space will feature the historic Aluminaire House (A. Lawrence Kocher/Albert Frey, 1931), along with spaces to accommodate events ranging from rallies and festivals to outdoor concerts.  “The park will allow people to come together to enjoy civic activities and performances in a place that expresses an authentic story about the rise of this city as an inviting oasis in the desert,” says Cormier.

A licensed landscape architect in California and Washington, Nate is a frequent lecturer and critic at universities around the country.  In 1995, he graduated from Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME, with a Bachelor’s degree in Asian Studies, and received a Master’s Degree in Landscape Architecture degree from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design in 1999.  While at Harvard, he met Samantha Harris, ASLA, PLA, LEED AP, a landscape architect and long-time Principal at Rios Clementi Hale Studios.

“I was always impressed by Nate’s career path, dedication, design talent, and deep involvement in the profession,” notes Harris.  “This remarkable ability has allowed him—within only two years of moving to Los Angeles—to internalize the complex nuances of practicing in LA.”

As an exchange student in Japan, Cormier studied imperial villas in Kyoto and apprenticed with a Japanese garden artist.  Those experiences, and spending weekends in his grandfather’s vegetable garden as a child, led to his interest in landscape architecture as a career.

As a professional landscape architect, Cormier focuses on the possibilities of urban spaces designed for a broad cross-section of the public.  “The landscape architect’s role in society is to make city life so magnetic that people are willing to live very close together, so natural and rural areas are preserved for spiritual sustenance and survival,” he says.

Cormier lives in the South Park district of Downtown Los Angeles with his Brazilian-born wife, Patricia, and their two young sons.  “The boys’ school, Metro Charter Elementary, and its efforts to take root downtown represent the challenges that families face in making urban life a viable option,” he notes.  Reflecting on Rios Clementi Hale Studios’ work, Cormier admitted that “Grand Park made me willing to raise my kids downtown.”

Cormier was elected to the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council, where he serves on its Planning and Land Use Committee, and is on the Board of Friends of Spring Street Park.  He was a 2014-2015 Director of the Seattle Architecture Foundation, a 2010-2015 Executive Council Member of Green Seattle Partnership, and a 2010-2014 Director of the Landscape Architecture Foundation.

Rios Clementi Hale Studios has earned an international reputation for its collaborative and multi-disciplinary approach, establishing an award-winning tradition across an unprecedented range of design disciplines.  The firm’s partners—Mark Rios, FAIA, FASLA, Julie Smith-Clementi, IDSA, Frank Clementi, AIA, AIGA, Bob Hale, FAIA, and Mark Motonaga—comprise a team involved in every aspect of design, from practice to education.  Acknowledging the firm’s diverse body of work, the American Institute of Architects California Council gave Rios Clementi Hale Studios its 2007 Firm Award, the organization’s highest honor.  For its varied landscape work—from civic parks to private gardens—the firm was named a finalist in the 2009 Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards.  Since 1985, the architects, landscape architects, planners, and urban, interior, exhibit, graphic, and product designers at Rios Clementi Hale Studios have been creating buildings, places, and products that are thoughtful, effective, and beautiful.  In May 2017, Rios Clementi Hale Studios will release its first monograph entitled Not Neutral: For Every Place, Its Story, a robust visual collections of the firm’s multidisciplinary work, published by AMMO Books.  The monograph is available at www.notneutral.com.