Profile | Mark Johnson, President, Civitas


Mark Johnson is President and the leading designer who has spearheaded Civitas’ most challenging projects. He began his career at Utah State University where he received his Bachelor of Landscape Architecture. He worked at Maas and Grassi, an Ogden Utah design firm, and landed his first dream job with Jones & Jones of Seattle. There he worked on several zoo exhibits, urban plazas and streets, parks and several major river plans. He left Seattle to earn an MLA in Urban Design at Harvard, where he found important mentors in Peter Walker, Moshe Safdie, and Jose Luis Sert. These great designers and thinkers fuelled Mark’s passion to make a real difference in how cities work for both people and the environment.

Since co-founding Civitas in 1984 Mark has led major public space projects, urban design plans and strategies, and has become widely known for his impact on several cities, on education, and on the role that landscape architects can play in leading complex projects to successful results. Mark is a regular lecturer at AIA, ASLA, APA, ULI events and also RESITE 2014 in Prague where WLA Editor Damian Holmes first met Mark Johnson(MJ). Mark has courteously agreed to answer our three Landscape Architect Profile questions to give our readers an insight into his prestigious career.

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North Embarcadero waterfront park | San Diego, USA | Civitas

San Diego’s new North Embarcadero waterfront park forms part of a revitalized gateway to the city’s downtown center and establishes an energized destination within a rapidly developing area of the city. The 1000-foot-long linear park adjacent to San Diego Bay is the first phase of a $200 million, 10-phase project which had remained in a conceptual stage for more than 20 years. Denver-based urban design studio Civitas as part of the team of consultants has worked with clients Civic San Diego (formerly known as Centre City Development Corporation), Port of San Diego, and the City of San Diego for the past seven years to bring this first phase of the project to completion. The design team evolved an existing master plan to develop a people-friendly, urban park area and promenade alongside a working waterfront that is home to cruise ships, fishing operations and museums.


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Civitas creates landscape immersed in history at Lane Field Park


Baseball veterans, including a participant from the final game played, were on hand to throw out a ceremonial first pitch for the recent grand opening of San Diego’s Lane Field Park, created by Civitas. The park was placed on the former site of Lane Field baseball stadium, home to the then-Pacific Coast League San Diego Padres from 1936-1957 – history that played an integral role in the design. At the same time, this new park is visually tied to the Port of San Diego’s massive North Embarcadero Visionary Plan, which includes the Civitas-designed grand esplanade that opened in November 2014 just across Harbor Drive.

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ONE City Plaza | Greenville, South Carolina | Civitas


Image Credit | Fish Eye Studios

“It’s gem-like in a gem-like city,” says Mark Johnson, founding principal of Civitas about the new ONE City Plaza in Greenville, South Carolina. The project’s simple elements – including urban sofas, trees, water and shade structure – combine for maximum impact in creating an outdoor experience that attracts pedestrians for shopping, dining or just strolling in the city’s central downtown district.

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VIDEOS | Design Adds Value to the Commons

Design Adds Value to the Commons – Michael Speaks, Dean, University of Kentucky College of Design from UK/CoD on Vimeo.

Design Adds Value to the Commons was a design symposium hosted by The University of Kentucky College of Design in conjunction with Lexington’s Downtown Development Authority’s Town Branch Commons Design Competition. Design Adds Value to the Commons was five landscape architects discussing the importance of good design for downtown development and including presentations by
Mark Johnson of Civitas, Shane Coen of Coen+Partners, Petra Blaisse of Inside Outside, Julien de Smedt & Diana Balmori of JDS Architects/Balmori Associates and Kate Orff of Scape

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Waller Creek Design Competition Shortlist announced

Existing View North of Waller Creek from 6th Street

The Waller Creek Conservancy in Austin, Texas has announced that nine teams from 31 submissions have been selected  to continue onto the next stage of the ‘Design Waller Creek’ design competition.

“Through the competition process, we enlisted the leaders in urban landscape, innovation, sustainable design, theory and practice,” Donald J. Stastny FAIA FAICP FCIP, competition manager of “Design Waller Creek: A Competition,” said.  “The submittals help to define the design challenge and inform the jury and Conservancy about an appropriate mix of design professionals to undertake this complex task. We find within the teams a very strong promise of collaboration and experience in ‘integrated’ design—how different disciplines come together to share talents and skill sets to create environments that are not only functional and sustainable, but contribute to raising the human experience.”
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Cream rises to the top for The City + The Arch + The River International Competition

The international design competition for the reinvigoration of the area surrounding the world renowned landmark the Gateway Arch has move on to the third and final design phase with Five Teams selected. When you look at the first list of nine teams announced back in February 2010 for the second stage it was the Who’s who of design but now that list is down to five teams; its the cream of the crop and the winner of the next stage will be a hard decision for all those involved and I guess we all have to wait until late September to find out the winner.


The leaders of the design teams entering the third and final stage of the competition are:

· Behnisch Team led by Behnisch Architekten – Stuttgart, Germany, Los Angeles
· MVVA Team led by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates – New York City
· PWP Landscape Architecture, Foster + Partners, Civitas – Berkeley, Calif.
· SOM, Hargreaves, BIG – Chicago
· Weiss/Manfredi, Architecture/Site Design/Urbanism – New York

“The goal of the first two steps of the process was to identify design teams with the talent, capacity and commitment to create thoughtful design solutions addressing the complex issues of the site and its relationship to the city, the river and the Illinois side. With this selection, that goal has been accomplished,” said Competition Manager Donald J. Stastny, of StastnyBrun Architects. “The selected teams represent local, national and international perspective, and we look forward to working with them over the next few months as their visions evolve and they create their designs.”

“Having this level of architectural, engineering and landscape design power focused on such a visible urban park is exciting,” said Tom Bradley, superintendent of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. “We are committed to incorporating our parks into the life of their surrounding communities. I look forward to seeing the designs in August.”

The five teams will begin now and work through the spring and summer on design concepts, which will be put on public exhibition on Aug. 17, 2010. Details will be provided closer to that date.

The eight member jury – which counts a Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic, a professor in the humanities, a former deputy director of the National Park Service, a real estate economist, a museum curator, renowned architects and renowned landscape architects among its members – presented its decision to competition managers after meeting with the nine teams that competed in Stage II of the competition.

The final jury pick will be announced Sept. 24, 2010. The project will be constructed by Oct. 28, 2015, the 50th anniversary of the completion of the Arch.

The public is invited to meet the design teams on April 28 at the Roberts Orpheum Theater downtown. Joe Buck will moderate a discussion about how their past work will influence their efforts to win this competition.

The “Meet the Design Teams” event will begin at 7 p.m. It is free and open to the public. Preregistration is helpful and available through the competition Web site,

St. Louis native Joe Buck is the top play-by-play man for Major League Baseball and the National Football League on FOX Sports.

“I am looking forward to moderating a forum that promises to be informational, educational and exciting for the future of our community,” Buck said.

Buck will be joined in hosting “Meet the Design Teams” by Stastny, the competition manager.

The Roberts Orpheum Theater is located at 416 North 9th Street in downtown St. Louis. Public parking is available across the street.

Also while in St. Louis, the teams will explore the competition area, be briefed on project issues and the values of the national park, and get to know the region and its people.

To help the teams understand, from a personal standpoint, what the Arch stands for and the values it represents to our region and our nation’s history, members of the public are invited to share their thoughts, stories, photos and video. Competition organizers will post selections to the Web site and include them in a presentation to the competitors. This will help the teams in their effort to meet the design goals. Submissions can be posted to the Community Connections page of the Web site or to the City Arch River facebook and Twitter accounts.

Continuing education credits, HSW, will be awarded by the American Institute of Architects St. Louis for the April 28 event.

[SOURCE: City+Arch+River competition]

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