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Meet Ilisa Goldman of Rooted In Place Landscape Architecture and Consulting in Point Loma

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ilisa Goldman.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Ilisa. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I have held the core values of stewardship, social equity, and environmentalism since I was a teenager. If you would have asked me twenty years ago what I would be doing now, I think my answer would have been very similar to the work I do today: fostering community and connecting people to the natural world.

I was introduced to Landscape Architecture during my senior year at Rollins College in Winter Park Florida. Majoring in Environmental Studies, I learned environmental issues from various perspectives including: cultural, historical, economic, and science based. One of my professors, Bruce Stephenson, was a planner and had us work on the design of a community in Florida. I was taken by how powerful design could be in not only physically shaping our communities, but also impacting the quality of life and the environmental ethics of those who lived there.

During my graduate studies at North Carolina State University, I sought out classes, mentors, and projects that allowed me to focus my values. From studying permaculture, to children’s environments, to community design, I saw the importance of taking an integrated approach to design.

As I started practicing landscape architecture in 2002, I felt it was my responsibility to bring these values into my work. I am grateful to have worked for Spurlock Landscape Architects (Formally Spurlock Poirier Landscape Architect’s). During this time, I was encouraged to bring my knowledge to table while learning the realities of Landscape Architecture, budgets, etc.

After having children and realizing I wanted to focus my time on my passions, I started volunteering at San Diego Children and Nature, teaching at the New School of Architecture and Design, and began my training in the Pomegranate Method for Creative Collaboration. It was during this time that the saw the need for community-oriented projects that improved the quality of neighborhoods and public space.

In 2012, I started Rooted in Place Landscape Architecture and Consulting, focusing on neighborhood public spaces and dynamic outdoor learning environments for children of all ages to play, learn, and develop a relationship with nature. Through a strategic and inclusive community engagement and place making process, we work with community organizations to design and build projects that respond to their own distinctive sense of place (ecology, culture, history) and its users. Collaboration is weaved into every project at Rooted in Place. Whether working with other design professionals, clients, contractors, or community stakeholders and user groups, each project encourages cross-sector collaboration, which ensures the best ideas are heard, all needs are met and a sense of ownership is developed.

In 2015 I was joined by Kasi Schnell, Rooted in Place Co-Creative. For the past 3+ years we have been working passionately with communities and organizations in San Diego to transform underused or blighted spaces in healthy neighborhood places.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I am very grateful for where I am today, but it has not been without bumps and struggles. A majority of our clients are community oriented and/or educational non-profits. These organizations are often in underserved communities and grant funded, maximizing each dollar. Being so dependent on grants and fundraising typically it has been challenging to maintain a steady revenue stream and bring in enough profit to sustain Rooted in Place.

We have explored various organizational structures from Non-profit to social enterprise models to determine what the best fit for Rooted in Place. We need to bring in enough revenue to be sustainable and support ourselves, which can often be in tension with maintaining our accessibility to organizations who need us most.

Rooted in Place Landscape Architecture and Consulting – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Social equity, ecological health and inclusion are the intrinsic values and principles of Rooted in Place. Our goal is to engage communities and empower them to create vibrant neighborhood spaces and healthy outdoor environments. From idea to construction we take a unique design approach to all of our projects through a holistic community engagement and place making process. Each project is unique; responding to its own distinctive sense of place (ecology, culture, history) and its users. Rooted in Place embraces a strategic design process, ensuring each project is fulfilled from an idea to a reality. Collaboration is weaved into every project, whether working with other design professionals, clients, contractors, community stakeholders and user groups, which ensures the best ideas are heard.

Rooted in Place Landscape Architecture and Consulting, specializes in creating neighborhood public spaces and dynamic outdoor learning environments for children of all ages to play, learn, and develop a relationship with nature. We provide programming, facilitation, and design for outdoor environments, with a focus on connecting users to the natural world. Specializing in creating healthy outdoor play and learning environments, as well as eco-revelatory design and community build projects, from concept to construction Rooted in Place is part of the entire process, ensuring the highest quality projects that support the vision of the client. We take a unique approach to all of our projects through a holistic community engagement and place making process. Each project responds to its own distinctive sense of place (ecology, culture, history) and its users.

From community programming workshops, to community build events; Rooted in Place embraces a strategic design process, bringing each project to fruition from an idea to a reality. Collaboration is weaved into every project at Rooted in Place. Whether working with other design professionals, clients, contractors, or community stakeholders and user groups, each project encourages cross-sector collaboration, which ensures the best ideas are heard, all needs are met and a sense of ownership is developed.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Winning the Circulate San Diego, Momentum Local Hero Award was very special. I was totally surprised and it felt so great to see our work being valued.

Being asked to be interviewed for the Voice of San Diego Podcast: I made it in San Diego, was pretty incredible.

However, the day my oldest daughter (now 10 years old) told me she was learning about important women in history in school. She said that one day she thought people would be learning about me and the work I am doing for our communities and environment. Made my heart melt. 

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Alex Calegari, Dennis Wood, Ilisa Goldman

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