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Legacy Circle: Jon Pate

Jon Pate
president, Pate Landscape Architecture

Professional and philanthropic interests:

BSA Foundation tops the list, of course! Through my recent work on Symphony Park in the Fenway neighborhood, I became aware of Boston Park Advocates, who aim to elevate the status of all of our parks. Earlier in my career, I had the opportunity to work on a healing garden at Dana-Farber's Yawkey Center for Cancer Care, which opened my eyes to the importance of healthcare design. I am also committed to community gardens, tremendous places where folks work hard and get to know their neighbors, which I learned firsthand from our community garden in the South End. Designing and constructing senior living gardens at Brooksby Village (Peabody) and Linden Ponds (Hingham) were also key to my early professional development.

What are you working on now?

We are working on Bentley University's new Multipurpose Arena. The arena and site have been designed to meet LEED certification and serve a variety of events such as concerts, career fairs, orientations, and hockey games with seating for 2,000 people. We are also working on a double-width private home in Back Bay, multifamily housing in Beverly, and a commercial project in Newton along the Charles River.

How do you/did you/would you explain to your mom what you do for a living? 

My mother was an amateur gardener where we lived in southern Indiana and would be curious to know what new plants I use on projects today.  Of course, I only spend 10 percent of my time designing the planting and the rest is devoted to figuring out how people will most benefit from their park, playground, or college campus. In the warmer months, I work one day a week at The Chimneys in Manchester by the Sea, alongside professional horticulturalists in this exquisite landscape.

What inspired you today?

While selecting trees at a plant nursery, I saw a stunning row of full-sized Heptacodium miconioides (commonly known as the Seven Sons plant). 

What are you reading?

One book and one magazine: Influences from Japan in Danish Art and Design and Garden & Gun, to get my Southern fix.

Has your career taken you anywhere you didn’t expect?

I have worked on many retirement communities over the years and see the resemblance to college campuses. In both settings, we aim to make places for people, create circulation that is purposeful yet enjoyable, and work closely with architects.

What inspired you to support the BSA Foundation as a member of the Legacy Circle?

Common Boston is how I first became involved, organizing tours of the Emerald Necklace from the Boston Common to Franklin Park. Then I learned about the BSA Foundation while volunteering for the Common Boston Festivals. [The Foundation’s] support allows this annual  festival and a staggering number of other exhibitions, events, design competitions, and talks that bring design awareness to benefit all of Boston’s residents and visitors. This inspires me to be a Legacy Circle supporter [and] widen my network beyond Common Boston. The Foundation is uniquely positioned to bring together community members with design professionals like myself to work toward common quality-of-life goals.

Thinking about the power of collaboration and design to change lives in Greater Boston, how can the Foundation harness that power to help build a better Boston?

The Foundation should continue to engage the public and bring design awareness to our built environment. This helps everyone influence Boston in countless ways.

Can you remember the first time you understood the relationship between design and quality of life?

At Purdue University, we had an assignment to navigate the campus in a wheelchair being pushed by someone who was blindfolded. I learned a lot in a single hour about accessibility and universal design and how building entries, sidewalks, curb ramps, and street design impacts all of us.

Who or what deserves credit for your success?

My first employer was a nursery owner, landscape architect, and judge: Judge Joseph Weber. From him I learned the first few things about my profession, and I also learned how to stay out of some trouble.

If you could give you-of-10-years-ago (or longer) advice, what would it be?

Not every project can be outstanding, but some aspect of every project can be outstanding. Look for a design advantage even on the smallest project with the smallest budget.

What do you love about Boston and why?

Boston’s neighborhoods are walkable, and each has a distinct character. That makes it a real pleasure to just walk anywhere.

If you could sum up your outlook on life in a bumper sticker, what would it say?

Look for inspiration everywhere—not just through your own professional lens.


Header image courtesy of Jon Pate.