memberSPOTLIGHT < Tanya Olson

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Tanya Olson, PLA, ASLA
South Dakota Section Chair

Principal, Tallgrass Landscape Architecture
Custer, South Dakota

When did you realize you wanted to become a Landscape Architect?

College orientation! I had never heard of landscape architecture and was planning to get a degree in horticulture with an art minor. The guidance counselor suggested landscape architecture, and it couldn’t have been a more perfect fit.

What is your favorite landscape and why?

My favorite modern designed landscape is the High Line. It’s inspirational on so many levels – the planting, the spaces, the unique perspective on the City, and the messy, wild landscape within an ultra-urban context. I am enamored with revealing the transient nature of human constructions by reinventing abandoned and industrial sites, spaces, and materials.

I am a member of ASLA to learn, to be inspired, to connect, and to give back.

What is the most important thing you have learned since joining the profession?

Landscape architecture primarily about people and relationships. No one will help create or maintain your vision, no matter how brilliant, unless they are invested in its success.

What do you believe needs to be the next area of innovation in our profession?

A change in perspective is critical to innovation. If we want to grow, we need to change the lens through which we view design AND be proactive about cultivating designers from unrepresented and underrepresented frames of reference. We haven’t even begun to tap the creative and innovative potential out there.

What might (someone) be surprised to know about you?

I’m a songwriter and musician.

Share a project that holds great meaning to you.

My first built project at the first firm I worked at out of college. It was a creek restoration and multifamily housing development ,and I did much of the layout and all of the planting design. It was an incredible confidence builder, particularly to see it constructed. It was also where I learned the most important lesson (see above). A lot of the native plants later got torn out and replanted with annuals and more tame plants.

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