An interview with Kate Stickley and Gretchen Whittier of Arterra Landscape Architects
Kate Stickley fell into landscape architecture by chance, a suggestion from her college counselor, as a path that could combine her love of the outdoors, patterns, weather and art. Her career began in Florida, master planning international resorts and hotels, where she realized what was missing in her experience and process, “for me the connection with the end user is so important. This type of work didn’t allow me to connect with the individuals who were actually going to be interacting with the landscape.” After practicing around the world, she was ready to settle into her own practice, focusing on residential projects.
After moving to the Bay Area- Kate joined forces with close confidant and collaborator Vera Gates and together they birthed Arterra– a name encompassing the core of their work Art + Terra (Latin for Earth). Growing a practice while raising families solidified Arterra’s values as a residential firm- family centric, women run, and sustainably focused.
Gretchen Whittier described her growth into a landscape architect as a “regression.” As the daughter of a stone mason and a gardener on a 30 acre property in New Hampshire, concepts like soil management are in her blood. It wasn’t until getting behind a drafting table in a UC Berkeley extension class did she realize that landscape architecture fed all of her varying interests. Gretchen joined Arterra in 2005, and was promoted to partner in 2015.
Today, Arterra has found their niche as local leaders in site sensitive, sustainable, residential landscaping. The firm began designing small urban gardens, but has since grown to bigger and more environmentally complex projects. They find joy in connecting with their clients in envisioning their long term goals- and achieving them in the most sustainable way possible.
The Arterra team has always thought that working native and Mediterranean plants into their landscapes made the most sense aesthetically and environmentally – even before it was trendy. They aim for their designs to seamlessly connect architecture to the site, finding harmony between the two.
This organic indoor connection is perfectly framed in our Sonoma Wine Country project- designed as a dialogue between landscape, architecture, and site. Kate remembers being so in tune with the Feldman team that even a slight redesign in to the master bath lead to a re-envisioning of some of the outdoor elements, which in turn sparked a reference to the interior fireplace. “That’s what why we love working with FA, we value each other’s contribution in the design process, and our teams collaborate beautifully and effectively.”
“There is no signature Arterra garden. Our landscaping is all specifically tailored to the site and the architecture. We want our clients to say ‘I cannot even remember what it looked like before.’ It should look like it has always been there”- Kate Stickley