By Chris Westaway – Vancouver, BC
Speaking to Michael Bjorge of Pacifica Landscape Works, I get a sense that I am speaking to a man of uncommon vision, not just in terms of his ability to plan and execute a landscape design project, but in the most literal sense; he is an acutely visual person.
Starting from sketches in his notebook, trying to draw out the possibilities from the unaltered landscape around him, then building a concept through design, constructing it, and finally capturing it through the lens of his camera… from beginning to end, Bjorge’s design process is guided by vision.
Growing up in Port Hardy on the northwestern end of Vancouver Island, “it seemed like a natural progression to go into landscaping,” he says. He was deeply influenced by the natural beauty of the north coast of British Columbia. Viewing the natural features inspired and influenced him to go on to recreate what he had seen in nature.
“I was doing photography well before I was doing landscaping. I just remember always having a camera in my hands from a young age,” he says, “seeing beautiful places and just wanting to capture and remember them.” Recreating nature on a small scale in his photography then gave way to working on a much larger scale, creating the landscapes themselves.
He emphasizes the value of the visual aspects of his process. “The most important aspect is bringing it all out on paper. People say ‘we don’t need a design,’ and that’s just a recipe for disaster.” Bjorge places a great deal of importance on being able to present clients with a clear vision through his sketches as they proceed through the design process. “People have a greater appreciation when an image is presented to them.”
This vision doesn’t end at the purely aesthetic, however, as Bjorge tells me about his ideal of water-wise landscaping. “I think it’s quite crazy that we use potable drinking water to wash cars when we could easily be harvesting rainwater instead. It’s the most important resource on our planet and it’s literally evaporating away.” Troubled by the persistent drought conditions in California, he champions the use of synthetic turf as a more environmentally sound choice and emphasizes the importance of the “right plant for the right place,” choosing flora that is native and adaptable. “You don’t want to be taking things from opposite ends of the spectrum,” he says, as exotic plants demand much more watering. It’s evident that Bjorge has an eye to the future.
With such attention to detail and an eye for beauty, it’s no wonder that Bjorge’s work is appreciated on both sides of the Pacific.