As a landscape architect for international firm Spackman Mossop and Michaels, Rodewald-Bates, who received his bachelor’s degree in agriculture from SFA, spends his days working with representatives from cities, communities and some private citizens to reimagine and reinvent urban environments in more functional and beautiful ways.
The firm has two offices, one in Sydney, Australia, and the other in New Orleans, Louisiana, where employees work to develop large urban spaces and infrastructure that reinforce an area’s culture and ecology. The firm is responsible for the design of New Orleans’ landmarks like the Rosa F. Keller Library and Community Center, St. Roch Park and the City Park observation deck, as well as numerous projects across Australia.
The business is a natural fit for Rodewald-Bates, who was fascinated with design, building and nature from an early age.
Growing up in Chireno, a tiny hamlet of about 400 people east of Nacogdoches on State Highway 21, he developed an early interest in the forests just beyond his front door.
“Thanks to my parents, my sister and I spent most of our childhood exploring the woods and national forests in East Texas. They taught us how natural systems work and how people impact those systems,” he said. “I’m still using many of those same lessons today.”
A passion for gardening led Rodewald-Bates to the Texas Master Gardener program, where he began learning from and working with horticulturists like SFA Gardens’ Greg Grant.
Grant, a research associate at SFA’s Pineywoods Native Plant Center, spoke at many of the master gardener classes Rodewald-Bates attended and encouraged the young naturalist to volunteer with the SFA Mast Arboretum.
In fact, it was Grant who initially introduced him to the world of landscape architecture through a series of courses on the subject, which appealed to his natural interests.
“That also was around the time Barbara Stump started working on the Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden, which brought Darrel Morrison to Nacogdoches. He was the first landscape architect I met and certainly convinced me I was on the right path,” Rodewald-Bates said.
So far, the 31-year-old’s career has taken him north of the pineywoods, where he worked for the design firm Sasaki Associates in Boston, Massachusetts.
He also worked in Marfa before moving to the Big Easy. Today, the ecology of his workplace isn’t unlike what he had as a student at SFA, he said.
Spackman Mossop and Michaels’ New Orleans office is a tight-knit organization with eight employees, which Rodewald-Bates said is reminiscent of the close ties he enjoyed with professors and fellow students at SFA’s Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture and the Music Preparatory Division, where he studied violin.
He said the ability to work closely with people of different interests and expertise is something that serves him well in his professional life.
Landscape architecture is an inherently multidisciplinary field, and he is currently in the midst of coordinating more than a dozen projects in various stages of development. On a daily basis, he consults with contractors, subconsultants and clients discussing everything from the design and layout of a space to technical construction details.
“It is a great time to be a landscape architect. We are uniquely positioned to deal with complex issues, such as storm water management, transportation, cultural landscapes, ecology and public health, that increasingly shape our urbanizing population,” Rodewald-Bates said. “One of the unique things about the profession is its very wide reach. Landscape architects are trained to design across many scales and collaborate with allied professions to create beautiful spaces, both private and public. Chances are if there is a public space that you enjoy or a great park somewhere, it was probably designed by a landscape architect.”
Rodewald-Bates shapes minds as well as spaces as an adjunct professor in Tulane University’s School of Architecture, and he previously taught at the Boston Architectural College and Louisiana State University’s Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture, from which he received his master’s degree.
His professional expertise was used to craft something unconventional in his personal life, as well. An essential ability of landscape architects is reimagining common spaces and items to be more functional and aesthetically appealing. As a resident of one of the largest port cities in the world, he and his wife saw an opportunity to do just that with their home.
After consulting with his colleague, New Orleans-based architect Byron Mouton, Rodewald-Bates and his wife, Elisabeth Davies, developed a home built from shipping containers.
“Elisabeth and I started working on the design of the house about four years ago. The use of containers isn’t exactly new, but certainly unusual in the U.S.,” he said. “We were interested in re-using such a common item, especially in a large port city such as New Orleans.”
Rodewald-Bates said his professional, academic and personal accomplishments can be traced back to those formative years among the towering pines of East Texas and SFA.
“Looking back, the amount of one-on-one time with faculty was amazing,” he said. “Dr. Dave Creech, Dr. Isidor Saslav, Greg Grant— those three in particular are still some of the best teachers I’ve had.”