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How landscape architect James Corner got his start

July 30, 2011 | 12:30 pm

Corner James Corner, whose urban-design firm Field Operations is designing a pair of highly anticipated parks in Santa Monica, has emerged in recent years as one of the most prominent landscape architects in the world. But every designer has to start somewhere, and in Corner's case inspiration for a career creating big-city parks came in the form of a childhood that provided access both to urban grittiness and wide-open nature.

After Corner and I visited the site of the new parks earlier this month, he told me about growing up in a town that was just outside Manchester, England, but also close to the famed Lake District.

"You could say that there's an interesting collusion there in my childhood: a sort of tough working-class urbanism in Manchester juxtaposed with some amazing wild nature," he said. "Because of how close we were to the mountains and lakes in the Lake District, I did a lot of rock climbing and outdoor activities. And also enjoyed the city as a real city person. So this combination of nature and city is perhaps an influence."

A Critic's Notebook on James Corner's recent work and his firm's plans for Santa Monica.

--Christopher Hawthorne

Photograph: James Corner in Santa Monica. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times