Vivian Reynolds believes landscaping should work as one with architecture – and never be an after thought.
She’s in a good position to espouse that idea. Born and raised in Bolivia, Reynolds came to the U.S. to earn a degree in architecture in 1978. She was a practicing architect for several years when she traveled to Japan to study her craft and decided to spend a summer working at a professional landscaping company there. Learning that country’s approach to design changed her own perspective entirely.
“In Japan, you can’t decide about the house until you decide what the garden is going to do. It’s a completely different thing than what we do here,” she says. “My dream is to bring that awareness – that the building and the actual surrounding environment
Should be developed simultaneously.” A few years later, Reynolds went back to school, this time to the University of Oregon to earn a double masters in architecture and landscape architecture.
“I knew that I wanted to give equal importance to both,” she says. “I already had the background in the built environment; now I needed to learn about the natural environment to integrate the two.”
Family, specifically her niece, is what brought Reynolds to Austin in 1999. She worked with a number of architecture firms around town, always trying to break into landscape architecture or site planning. By 2004, she had launched her own landscaping business in Lakeway, and followed that up with a retail store, Sienna Design and Gardens, two years later.
She credits the store, which she ended up closing last fall, with helping her survive some rocky business times and gaining her exposure among Lakeway homeowners. Word of mouth also helped. To date Reynolds’ Naturalis Landscape artistry has done landscape designs and installations for clients from Dripping Springs to Volente.
“I’ve been incredibly blessed to be able to touch my clients in a very deep way through my work,” Reynolds says. “And I want to touch more. I want to inspire more people to have a closer relationship with nature.”
Yet while she enjoys the work she’s done on the residential front, Reynolds also wants to expand and tackle larger scale projects – such as urban parks, squares and gathering spaces. It’s those types of projects – the ones that can be used and appreciated by the masses – that most appeal to her creative spirit.
“When you do larger projects like those, you end up bringing a greater level of architectural design into landscape architecture through things like pavilions and sculptures,” she says. “It’s manipulating the environment in a different way.”
As she continues her work with Naturalis, Reynolds is also working with partners to launch a new business early next year around Vietnamese ceramic pottery. The group has already imported a shipment of high-quality pots, with the objective of selling them along the corridor between Nebraska and Texas. They could also begin designing their own pots via their Vietnamese provider and will be looking at options for creating small garden “kits” for apartments and condos using the pots.
“It’s a whole new avenue that I’m very excited about,” says Reynolds