EDSA | Then and Now | Bob Behling

Then & Now

Previous interns – now employees, share their perspectives, advice and insights about all things landscape architecture and their experiences with EDSA.

Bob Behling of Utah State University joined EDSA as the first ever intern back in the summer of 1972 before graduating with his bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture. After accepting a full-time job offer with the firm, Bob quickly proved himself to be an invaluable asset to team and became a member of EDSA’s ‘Big Six’ – the group of leaders that shaped and solidified our firm as a prestigious global practice. Bob now serves as a Principal and Chairman of EDSA, utilizing his 40+ years of expertise to help guide the next generation.

Q: How did you first learn about the profession of landscape architecture?

A: Well, I was two and a-half years into my education at Utah State and one day my friends and I were all sitting around an area of green space on campus and started talking about the future. When explaining how I wasn’t sure about my career path, Chuck Killpack – who was a friend I grew up with in a small, rural community in southeast Utah – asked me if I ever heard of landscape architecture. Of course, I had no clue what it was but I decided to look into it. After meeting with the professors and learning more about the work they were doing, it seemed to be a good fit for me and I jumped in.

Q: Tell me about your career journey – what led you to EDSA, and what kept you here for all this time?

A: EDSA was looking for someone to come in and work for the summer, so I ended up applying and getting accepted. I drove across the country and ended up in South Florida and it was a great time – back in those days it was Fort Lauderdale at its finest. After ending my internship, I didn’t think I would be back, but I then received a call from Ed Stone Jr. himself offering me an opportunity to join the practice full time. I agreed and spent a predetermined four years in Fort Lauderdale until I left for a short time to explore free-lance opportunities in San Francisco and the West. I also opened a small regional practice in Salt Lake City that’s still there today. Though those experiences were great, I knew I belonged at EDSA. I ended up rejoining the firm in 1986 and have been here ever since.

What kept me here has been the people I’ve met, the experiences I’ve had and the projects I’ve worked on. At EDSA we get the unique opportunity to travel the world, design for, and with, other cultures and build international relationships – creativity and learning are endless. The chances for growth are here, you just make them what you want to make them – and I think it turned out pretty good for me.

Q: What is your design philosophy?

A: I’ll keep this one short and sweet: you need to let the land you’re dealing with dictate what you do. Really understanding what the site is about through a thorough analysis is something that we’ve always done and is one of the most important elements of the design process. You can have a great program, but if it’s not executed in the correct context – or compatible with the land, it won’t be what it had the potential to be.

Q: What is your favorite EDSA project?

A: One project I’ve always liked was PepsiCo World Headquarters in Purchase, New York. Though it was completed in the late 60’s before my time at EDSA, how they positioned the buildings and the level of detail in the architecture and landscape was just absolutely incredible. It’s very simple, but so strong in terms of design and placement. Thousands of people still visit the campus each year, which is a true testament of great design.

When it comes to projects I’ve been involved with, I would say One & Only Royal Mirage. It was my first project in Dubai and captured the true essence of the locale. There was a lot of detail that went into the project, which included the siting of the buildings and the incorporation of local patterns and materials. Once completed, it set the standard for what five-star resorts should be – or could be – in the Middle East and really helped the region blossom. Well known EDSA projects, such as Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club, Madinat Jumeirah and Bluewaters, are a result of the work and relationships formed during our time working on Royal Mirage.

Q: When you think about your time at EDSA, what’s one word that comes to mind and why?

A: I would say awesome. I’ve been involved in some great projects around the world, but equally important are the experiences I’ve gained during the time I spent working on those projects. I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time with Ed Stone Jr. and the memories that we shared were endless. You know, when I was first presented with this question, what came to mind were examples from outside of the project realm. Like driving down the coast of South Africa – somewhere I always wanted to go, and I was fortunate to have couple projects there and I took Ed on a trip with me. We spent a day driving the Cape, doing some whale watching, and just the ability to cruise and take it all in was incredible.

Another thing would be the diverse people we have at the firm. During my time at Utah State, our landscape architecture program only had about 13 people graduating, but they were from all over the country – I used to think that was so cool. Now, when you look at EDSA, we have an amazing international group of designers and work in hundreds of countries around the world. That diversity, in people, places and projects, is what it’s all about. So, yea, it’s pretty awesome.