Julie Soss

Employer & Position
MK Consulting Engineers, LLC,
Registered Landscape Architect

Registered Landscape Architect (ASLA) and Certified Professional Horticulturalist

How long have you been in the Baltimore/DC area?
I graduated from Liberty High School in Youngstown, Ohio, in ’96 and came to the University of Maryland for college. I have been exploring the area since graduating in 2000. Marylanders were nice, jobs were plentiful, and the area had a lot to offer, so I decided to stick around.

How did you get into design?
The reason I’m a landscape architect is because of my family. I loved spending time with my grandfather. He taught me all about gardening; he had the patience to walk around his garden with me, deadheading flowers and planting vegetables that we had started from seeds under grow lights. My mom took master gardener courses at the local park. She had this beautiful garden that we would tend to. I loved helping them and being a part of the beauty and joy that the gardens created.

My other grandfather was an architect. I loved design, buildings, and figuring out how things worked. But the architect’s view of outdoor spaces seemed like an afterthought. So I tried to combine architecture, drafting, design, and horticulture and found landscape architecture—the best of both worlds. You get to think about things that nobody else thinks about. You get to see people enjoy a space without realizing all the components, all the effort, planning, design, and coordination behind it. It’s amazing and gratifying to see people using a space that you helped design.

How did you first get involved with NDC? What is your history with the organization?
I went to University of Maryland and was in a studio class with Jan Townshend who used to run the Prince George’s NDC office. I remember how passionate she was about it. She always tried to get me involved with projects, but I never had the free time or the gumption to join her. When I was going through a personally rough time a few years ago and had more free time, I thought I should do something with my life—something different and gratifying. I looked up NDC and got accepted to be a part of the West North Avenue project. I really enjoyed the time I spent working with the NDC team, City council members, and Coppin State University staff. It made me feel like I could make a difference—like we could accomplish something better for the City of Baltimore.

What motivates you to volunteer with NDC?
Making people happy. It really starts at the local level. If you think you can’t make a big change or a positive impact, you’re wrong—it just takes little steps. And even if you can’t make that big, national or state-wide change, you’re still doing something better for your immediate area, so why not?

What do you find most rewarding about your work with NDC?
I think there are a couple different points. First, when you have that initial meeting and people get excited and energized. People want to be heard—really listened to—and feel like their opinion counts. So at the beginning it’s gratifying to get excited for a project. At the end, when you see a project through, and the community can see that there is forward progress, that’s exciting, too.

What is inspiring your work now?
I’ve been keeping up with continuing education credits through universities, professional groups, through the regulatory agency and learning about different things I wouldn’t come across on a regular basis. It’s been very refreshing, it renews my passion to be around other people who are passionate about their craft.

Has working with NDC changed the way you practice design? If so, how?
It’s given me an outlet for being creative and having my ideas heard. I work for a planning and engineering firm, so usually the civil engineer comes to me and says, “I need this in this area and that in that area and I don’t care what it is, and stay within this budget.” You get to design to a point, but it is already constrained by someone else’s work. NDC is a refreshing outlet where I can expand the boundaries of my creativity, work with communities who are grateful for my efforts, and make a difference.