Suzanne Turner, FASLA
Susan Turner was born in Plaquemine, and though she is an avid urbanite, the weekends that she spent as a young girl across the river in sugar cane country apparently got under her skin deeply. Turner has lived in Atlanta, and Boston, and spent summers in Italy and England, but she eventually returned to her Louisiana roots to teach at LSU in its School of Landscape Architecture. And although she’d vowed early in adulthood not to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a rabid preservationist, these things have a way of turning on themselves, and she found herself drawn to the rural countryside of south Louisiana and moved to try and protect its fast-disappearing agricultural landscape.
During her twenty-five years in academia, Susan was able to hone her interests in southern landscape history through projects like the Shadows-on-the-Teche and Drayton Hall, both properties of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, where she collaborated with national firms Diana Balmori (the Shadows) and Michael van Valkenburgh Associates (Drayton Hall) in developing as landscape historian. The academic schedule allowed time for extended periods of research as well as travel that augmented some of the interests developed during her degree work in the history of art. Study tours with Pratt University School of Architecture over the course of two summers gave her the chance to visit the built works of modernist architects Alvar Aalto and Le Corbusier, as well as Antonio Gaudi. Another summer was spent studying preservation, first with Professor Peter Hornbeck and a group from Harvard’s GSD, followed by the Attingham Summer School, focusing on the history of British architecture, fine art, and decorative arts. The summer of study in Cortona, Italy, ostensibly focused on Italian gardens and landscape architecture, was actually what catalyzed a life-long fascination with open-air produce markets and local foods. This would culminate in Susan’s co-founding of Baton Rouge’s Red Stick Farmers Market in 1995, now a community institution.
The founding of Suzanne Turner Associates was a natural extension of Susan’s decades of consulting practice for historic and cultural landscapes, and her love of the design studio setting and the collaborative creative process. She sought to gather a few like-minded people to work together, along with teams from other disciplines, on projects that offered the potential for innovation in design and planning, and quality in execution. After a few years in formation, she is pleased to be able to see her idea of a small workshop firm taking shape.
A brief footnote: Susan did not grow up gardening. Her mother was an avid gardener, so again, she avoided plants until she happened to rent an apartment in Athens, Georgia with a rosemary bush and an abandoned vegetable garden in the back yard. The possibility of actually cooking with something she’d grown, and grazing in one’s own place opened up a world of possibilities in the early 1970s, years before the craze for backyard farming became commonplace. From that point on, plants had their way with her and she’s been a closet-plantsman ever since. This love of the principal material of landscapes has a profound influence on her practice.