When Miles Barnard, principal in South Fork Studio Landscape Architecture in Chestertown, discovered that the horticulture and landscape architecture departments shared a building at University of Maryland it was kismet.
“I always thought I’d be an architect,” he said. “But I loved plants and considered majoring in horticulture. Both departments mingled in that building. I thought that was so cool.”
Even so, the path from student to founding the design firm was a long and winding road. Partway through college, he dropped out and came to Chestertown for a job, which turned into a series of jobs.
“I worked at Echo Hill Outdoor School. I worked for Judge Anthony climbing trees, and for M&M Marine Construction building piers,” he said. All reinforced his love of and connection to outdoor spaces, but didn’t give him a career path. “Then I met my wife. Lex, and she motivated me to go back to school.”
Barnard started with James Urban Landscape Architecture in Annapolis and worked there for six years before starting his own business in Chestertown in 2003. His work – residential, institutional, commercial, and pro bono – runs the gamut from The Japanese American Memorial in Washington D.C. and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis to development projects on both sides of the Bay. Local projects include residences in town as well as Radcliffe Mill.
“Chestertown’s a great place to be a landscape architect because there’s a diversity of landscape,” said Barnard who works in several counties on this shore. “And there are people here who want to do interesting things.”
Unlike many designers who insist on putting their ‘stamp’ on a place, Barnard starts each project with practical considerations: what are the needs of the client; will the space be truly useable not just a pretty picture in a magazine?
“I try to be different from other designers by making the design about creating a really functional, livable space,” he explains. “If it doesn’t work, then what’s the point?”
Yet while he wants the space to meet practical needs, he is also keen to make it beautiful and sustainable – the right materials, careful attention to paving patterns, the brickwork patterns on a wall, the grading patterns, water reclamation and conservation.
“Once I know the space can function and work, then it’s about those little details,” he said. “The details put the final touches on the space.”