Photography by Ye Rin Mok
David Godshall is a landscape architect and co-founder of TERREMOTO, a landscape architecture firm with offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco. David is both purist and punk—a native of Southern California who understands that the messier a geography, the more interesting a project. He specializes in localized landscapes that are both formally and conceptually adventurous. To say the least, David makes poetry of plants. In a couple of months he'll open a garden store with an anarchist twist in Glassell Park, CA called Plant Material.
We were lucky enough to catch David and his (very cute + very patient) 5 month old son, Calder, for a moment in his home garden when the light was perfect and the Tagetes lemmonii was wildly fragrant.
How did you get into landscape design?
Gardening! I really just liked to garden, get in the dirt. In my early 20s my Mom randomly said to me one day “Have you considered landscape architecture?” and I had never heard of it, but it had a nice ring to it. So I applied to graduate schools not really knowing what the profession was at all. Thankfully it worked out.
Tell me a little bit about your company, Terremoto!
We’re a landscape architecture office that believes that built work should be the manifestation of exploring ideas, concepts and dreams. Garden-making as examination and inquiry, little micro-expressions of culture. We believe in dialogue, prioritize process, and simultaneously embrace exactitude and ambiguity. Terremoto is a practice and a team, it’s David + Alain + Diego + Jenny + Nadia + Erik + Story + Rachel + Katherine + Sarah + Dawn + Sam + Kasey.
When working with plants, how do you plan for change / growth / age / life / death?
First, we have to acknowledge that all gardens take maintenance. When we design a garden at Terremoto, we craft a thing that will then take a shape of it’s own and evolve with time. We do our best to space plants appropriately, consider aesthetic and ecological relationships of plants and materials, and do our best to leave the client with a clear idea of how to take care of their garden with time.
How have your daily routines or practices changed in the last five years?
Oof. We started Terremoto 5 years ago, and I had no children 5 years ago! So, a lot has changed. I used to work about a million hours a week and I’d drive to San Francisco constantly. Now I’m mostly in Los Angeles and Alain, my friend and business partner, runs the SF office, and we’re two offices operating under a shared philosophical spirit. I still work slightly intense hours, but it’s not really work, so it’s okay. No disciplined routine other than showing up to work every day a week and giving it my best. Now that it’s a large office, most of my job is really just communication, which is an art unto itself. Making sure our team has clarity, and that the project focus / design intention has clarity. Clarity clarity clarity.
What are your personal "rules", what are your professional "rules"?
They’re kind of one in the same! I strive for honesty, kindness, love, dialogue and meaning in all things, whether we’re talking about my relationship with my wife, son, Mom, Dad, client, employee, etc. Doing what I feel is right.
What about your life now, would be most unexpected to your younger self?
That if I’m in bed at 8:30pm that’s awesome.
What's your favorite thing about being your age right now?
I have children! And I love them! They’re cute and weird and funny!