Young landscape architect works to shape the future

Posted: November 24th, 2017 | Community, Features, Profile, Top Stories | No Comments

By Delle Willett

As a kid, Nate Magnusson always wanted to be an architect.

Growing up in Tempe, Arizona, Magnusson was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture, and had opportunities to explore several of his commercial, institutional and residential projects.

“Those early experiences helped sharpen my vision for design,” he said.

Nate Magnusson

And after his first two years studying at the School of Architecture & Environmental Design at Arizona State University, Magnusson changed his major to landscape architecture, “… as it resonated better with my goal of connecting people with nature through design.”

Although he still has a love for architecture, Magnusson appreciates being a landscape architect.

“Now, working on projects from all shapes and sizes, I’m able to see the communities who benefit from our hard work and dedication to elevate the public and private spaces throughout San Diego and Southern California,” he said.

As one of the younger presidents of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), San Diego chapter, Magnusson has brought passionate energy to the 40-year-old chapter and is helping to formulate its reputation as one of the most active of the organization’s 50 chapters in the country.

Magnusson designed the Lake Skinner recreation area splash pad and new
inclusive playground. (Courtesy Schmidt Design Group)

Magnusson first joined ASLA in 2011, serving as vice president of community outreach. This year he has been serving as president and when his term ends, he will continue on as immediate past-president and said he’ll still be heavily involved in the chapter’s future.

As president, Magnusson co-chaired the ASLA 38th annual golf tournament on Sept. 11. In addition to raising $5,000 for their community grant, he challenged the members to raise an additional $3,000 for the 9/11 Memorial in New York City, which they did.

“When I visited the memorial, it had a moving impact on me,” Magnusson said. “The design of the reflecting pools and surrounding forest of oak trees provide a place for contemplation and remembrance. As landscape architects, we can all continue to have an important role in providing spaces, large and small, to strengthen our communities.”

Stone Brewery Liberty Station water feature and garden (Photo by John Durant)

Following Magnusson’s encouragement for the ASLA to collaborate with San Diego’s American Institute of Architects (AIA), the two associations are doing a joint holiday meeting/gala in December for the first time.

Magnusson is a senior project manager at Schmidt Design Group (with headquarters on Sixth Avenue in Downtown San Diego), where he’s worked for the past 11 years.

Notable projects he has managed include Stone Brewery World Bistro and Gardens in Escondido, which won the 2007 Orchid, and ASLA San Diego President’s 2009 awards; Stone Brewery World Bistro and Gardens at Liberty Station, San Diego, which won the People’s Choice Orchid Award 2013; Civita Park, Mission Valley, San Diego; Lake Skinner Recreation Area, Winchester, California; Vive on the Park, San Diego, and Lux Art Institute, Encinitas.

Civita Park Cloud Amphitheater (Courtesy Schmidt Design Group)

Magnusson lives in La Mesa with his wife, Tatum, owner and jewelry designer of Love Tatum Jewelry, and their French bulldog, Dumpling. In his spare time, he enjoys surfing, drawing, painting, and experiencing new and delicious food.

Once his term is over, Magnusson plans to continue his involvement in shaping the future of the local ASLA chapter, along with shaping the future of his brand-new baby girl, Ever Aila Magnusson.

— Delle Willett has been a marketing and public relations professional for over 30 years, with an emphasis on conservation of the environment. She can be reached at

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