2017 Circle of Excellence: Landscape Architect Sheri Sanzone
Founder, Bluegreen, Aspen
This year’s Circle of Excellence recipients continue to elevate our landscape and enhance their legacies. Here, learn about winning landscape architect Sheri Sanzone, founder, Bluegreen.
Listen to Sheri Sanzone talk, and she can sound more like a writer than a successful landscape architect, using terms like “editing,” “clarity” and “legibility" to describe her work.
What Sanzone, whose Bluegreen studio is celebrating its 15th year in 2017, is referring to is the ability to “distill a landscape design down to its essential components and stay true to it, so there’s a clarity to the spaces, not a lot of extras, and yet there’s still a sense of discovery as you move through it.”
Portrait by Jennifer Olson
Sanzone took a circuitous path to landscape architecture. “When I was growing up in Washington, D.C., my dad was a general contractor, so I was always interested in the details of how things were put together,” she says, “but I took this really long, roundabout way to get to this profession.” She earned an undergraduate degree in science, geography and regional planning at Maryland’s Salisbury University before getting a master’s in city planning at Penn (while there, she and her dad designed and built their family’s beach house) and then moving to Aspen, where she worked for five years at Design Workshop before launching her own firm.
Bluegreen strove to honor the agrarian history at the Double Bar X residential community near Aspen. [Photo courtesy Bluegreen/Jason Dewey]
Bluegreen, which now has five employees (“the sweet spot where I can stay intimately involved in every project”), does 90 percent of its work in Colorado, from the Aspen Art Museum to transit stations to residential design. “I’ve known Sheri for 15 years,” says client Paul Nicoletti. “She’s very attentive, listens well, is fun to work with and is progressive in her thinking; she knows, for example, that I don’t want a lot of maintenance in my yard, and she understands the minimalist look. She is very talented.”
“We bring the same approach and philosophy to every project,” says Sanzone, “but the problems are different and the people are different and the perspectives are different. That’s what makes it really exciting.”
Bluegreen established a framework to spotlight pieces in an existing sculpture garden. [Photo courtesy Bluegreen/Jason Dewey]
The meaning of Bluegreen: “I didn’t want to name the company after me because I wanted it to have a studio environment feel, where everyone would be collaborating in the design process. For me, the colors blue and green felt very fresh, very clean, very modern, and strongly related to ecological stewardship and sustainability. The name conveyed an emotion to me.”
Open-door policy: “Our studio is intentionally made up of people who are very creative and inherently curious, so it’s rare to be doing a project and not have someone say, ‘Hey, what are you working on?’ And we don’t have cubicles, so it’s hard to hide anything from anybody. It’s all here—pinned up on the wall, laid out on the middle island table. Even if we’re working on our computers, someone will say, ‘Hey, can you come down and take a look at this for five minutes because I’m kind of stuck.’ ”
The outdoor spaces of a limestone and slate home above Castle Creek take advantage of views near and far. [Photo courtesy Bluegreen/Jason Dewey]
Cause and effect: “The environment in Colorado is so beautiful and so sensitive, it’s much more apparent why we should be protecting it. On the East Coast, where I grew up, it’s not as easy to see the cause and effect: If I do this, then this is going to happen. Here, everything is so much more intense. If you don’t get the irrigation right, your plants are going to fail or be severely compromised.”
The importance of sustainability: “Just as people have different perspectives on what landscape architects do, so are there different perspectives on what sustainability is. Some folks say, ‘Oh, I did these three things, so that’s enough.’ But our approach is to integrate sustainability into everything we do. If we’re designing a planting bed, we want to make sure we’re capturing rainwater to help supplement the irrigation. If we’re doing a design, we’ll try to do it so we’re only moving dirt on a site once so we’re not running equipment unnecessarily. As long as sustainability is not costing a client any money or added construction time, we’ll build in those sustainable features. It’s fundamental to who we are.”