Brian Higley was born and raised in rural Vermont, where he developed a deep respect for nature. He is the son of a builder, and so at a very early age developed a thorough understanding of the construction process as well. He received a degree in Architectural and Building Engineering from Vermont Technical College, and worked for architectural and engineering firms around the country before returning to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst for his training in landscape architecture.

ASLAMember of the American Society of
Landscape Architects
(ASLA)

Professionally, with the office of Dean Cardasis & Associates, Higley received the profession's highest Honor Award in 1995 from The American Society of Landscape Architects for his role in the design of the Durfee Gardens project in Amherst, Massachusetts (Landscape Architecture Magazine, awards issue November 1995). The project also received the 1994 Urban Landscape Award from the Massachusetts Horticultural Society.

In 1993 Higley became the first recipient of the James C. Rose Fellowship, and went on to serve as Assistant Director of The James Rose Center for Landscape Architectural Research and Design in Ridgewood, New Jersey, home of one of the pioneers in the Modernistic movement in landscape architecture. For four years he designed residential gardens in New Jersey while absorbing the rich legacy of this important historical designer. Higley also worked for the internationally recognized firm of Oehme Van Sweden and Associates before returning to practice on his own in 1998.

Higley strives for integration of landscape and architecture in all his work. He has a keen interest in architecture and has built works to his credit. He also designs and builds furniture and other special projects as a hobby.

Brian Higley's practice is now based in Beacon, New York, a Hudson River town about one hour north of New York City, home of the Dia Art Center and a growing community of artists and creative thinkers. Higley is a licensed Landscape Architect in the State of New York and has a broad base of landscape design and site planning experience. He has been a guest critic for design presentations at Rutgers University graduate program for Landscape Architecture. His projects to date have ranged from as far south as Princeton, New Jersey, to eastern Long Island, west to New Paltz, New York, and north to Stanfordville, NY, Massachusetts, and Vermont.

Philosophy

Function, Integration, Unity
Less is More

My designs are contemporary in nature. I feel that a simple approach is usually best, and leads to a more pleasing and beautiful design, and also helps the project to be more functional, coherent, and cost effective.

I believe that the landscape should be strongly integrated with existing and proposed architecture. Whenever possible they must be thought out together. A whole host of landscape elements are carefully considered, and arranged in a way that ultimately shapes the overall "floor plan" of a site. When architecture and its various functions are also connected to this overall floor plan in an intimate way, something rare is achieved that gives personality and uniqueness to a place. When devoting a significant amount of energy and resources to a project, it is worth starting with a complete picture. Especially in an age where landscape considerations are becoming increasingly more valuable. Using this approach, one can take advantage of a very brief moment in time, when landscape and architecture can be made to fit each other.

I am most influenced by the philosophies of architect Frank Lloyd Wright and landscape architect James C. Rose.

Mission

Type of client: I would like to work with:

Clients who can appreciate the value of design.
Clients who want an exceptional design
Clients who are good people (ie: we like and respect each other)

Type of office: Low volume of clients desiring high quality of design.

I am a small creative Landscape Architect office. I love design. It matters to me what kind of projects I work on and the kind of people that I work for. From a business perspective I have learned over the past 22 years that a mid-sized office model feels far too stressful, joyless and unprofitable. It involves getting large volumes of work and managing well paid employees. The burnout rate is high, and creativity can be squashed with the required volume of work.

It can be hard to stay small as well, but it is what I strive for.

Type of design: I strive for smart design

ie: design that is imaginative and/or beautiful, but beyond that, functional and purposeful. For example; a chair design cannot only look fabulous, it must also be comfortable to sit in.

Landscape design happens within a very real world of drainage, circulation, space and technical details, relative to varied human functions and needs. My design starts with the basic function and needs, then vigorously explores ways of making it beautiful, intriguing, and a unique experience of space. Landscape design is not simply about plants and flowers. Proportions of space are critical in achieving an otherwise unexplainable sense of coolness. Like architecture, these outdoor spaces are three-dimensional volumes.

Type of life: Having one is important to design

A well-known architect I had the privilege of working with, once told me “How are you ever going to design someone a boat house if you have never been on a boat?”

I want to stay inspired. Inspiration comes from outside myself and my own little world. When I am only sourcing from within myself on my own projects, or looking at pictures on the internet, I am not being inspired. So in order to stay creative, I need to create at least some time to see interesting places and things, and be with inspiring people - and also to be a good father/parent. This makes me a better designer, who continues to care about his work.

Other types of work:

I love drawing and design, but sometimes sitting in front of a computer all the time starts to get to me. I have had a lot of experience building things, and in the past few years I have taken on my own designs as building projects where I actually build things. This gets me out into the physical world, keeps my designs real, and lets me use my hands which I also love to do. It seems to be in my blood somewhat and an important thing to me. In the coming years I would like to build more of my projects, and explore the making of outdoor furniture and other things as part of my work. (See heading “Built by Higley L.A.”)