Mark Haney moved to Baltimore in February of 2014. Since then, he dove right into volunteering with NDC and was the designer of the Mount Clare Gateway project, Ambrose Kennedy adjacent lots entryway, New Carrollton Veterans Memorial, Edmonston Veterans Park, and the Tunbridge Schoolyard projects.
Where are you currently employed?
I’m actually in the midst of changing jobs. I’m using the opportunity to evaluate what I’ve enjoyed thus far in my career and to focus on accomplishing more of those things.
What is your professional background?
My professional background begins with a bachelor’s degree from Penn State University in Landscape Architecture. Since graduating, I’ve worked in an urban design / planning office and a high-end residential design / build contracting office.
How did you get into design?
My family was very self-sufficient in our home’s construction projects and I think helping build a deck when I was very young got me interested in construction. Later projects, including a pool deck, putting a new roof on the house, and simply playing in the stream next to our house got me into design. My senior project in high school researched this concept of healing gardens and how nature is restorative to the human psyche and translates over into actual measurable health benefits. As the project portion, I designed and constructed a small garden on the grounds of my elementary school with my dad’s help in memorial for a teacher I had who had passed away from cancer.
I hadn’t heard of Landscape Architecture until taking a career placement test in my junior year of high school. I’d been interesting in architecture and possibly civil engineering and saw this listed as a possible career choice, researched it further, and decided I wanted to do that. The career’s scope of building parks, studying human habitat, creating impressive civic spaces, city plazas, and squares was very interesting to me and I chose to pursue this path at Penn State, which consistently has a top program in the nation.
How did you first get involved with NDC? What is your history with the organization?
I found the NDC by searching for volunteering opportunities after I moved to the area. I wanted to get out in the city, meet other professionals, learn about Baltimore and her people, and gain experience in my career outside of my job. My first NDC project was creating an entrance gateway and revitalizing a small veterans memorial for the Mount Clare neighborhood. It was a group project and the community’s stakeholders were thrilled at what our group had produced and I was hooked. I’ve completed three other projects since, two of which are built, and it’s a very satisfying experience to know you helped a local community develop their corner of the city.
What motivates you to volunteer with NDC?
I’m a strong believer in local community groups taking control of their neighborhood projects, as I believe they care about their everyday surroundings more than any bureaucracy ever could. The people who come searching for assistance through the NDC live, work, and play in their neighborhood, and have active roles in the community. They want to see the best for their neighborhood. Being able to help them improve their area is very fulfilling. It’s a great opportunity to practice your own professional development, meet community leaders, and find opportunities to advance yourself.
What do you find most rewarding about your work with NDC?
Completing a project, seeing it adopted by the community, and eventually seeing it implemented is very rewarding. Meeting people and making contacts in Baltimore’s small design community has also been rewarding.
What is inspiring your work now?
In my professional life, I’m seeking to move out of residential landscape design and back to my passion of urban design and planning. As the industry and world moves towards more resilient and environmentally friendly planning, I’m looking towards creative green infrastructure, adaptive urban reuse, and brownfield redevelopment. I think reclaiming old industrial sites for public civic functions is fascinating, and I look to firms that specialize in that. I also find inspiration in small-budget, neighborhood-level projects to improve the community. A majority of jobs at this level may never appear in a high-end design magazines but they too have a direct impact on the happiness and morale of a community. Good design should be accessible to all sizes of budgets and NDC makes that happen.
Has working with NDC changed the way you practice design? If so, how?
Still being relatively young, it’s been a learning experience to see how the industry works, and perhaps more importantly, to see how the public thinks. As a person educated in design, I value certain things differently than a person with a background different than mine may. What I’ve learned is the community has a voice and goals, and they may not match with your initial thoughts of a site. Sometimes the community has a variety of voices and your first task to to hear the most resounding goals. What’s invaluable to the process is taking their goals, using your expertise in design, and mixing them together to arrive at a design that achieves their desires in sustainable, creative, and aesthetic ways.
If you had to name a favorite Baltimore building, place or landscape, what would it be and why?
My favorite building in Baltimore is the historic Belvedere Hotel. The French aesthetic and gargantuan mass of the building are impressive today and were no doubt an accomplishment in the early 1900s when it was built. Generations and generations of the nation’s top influences knew the Belvedere and you can see their pictures on the wall entering one of my favorite spots, the Owl Bar. My favorite view of the city is traveling north on 83, just after you get on the freeway. The way the city stacks itself from this angle is just the best and shows layers of brick, stone, concrete, glass and metal. In a way, it reveals the timeline of Baltimore’s major additions. Baltimore also has an amazing civic space in the Harbor Promenade.