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American Society of Landscape Architects


May 2007 Issue

Reality Check: Three Under Thirty
Starting WAS Design was a dream come true. Learning to run a business was another thing entirely.

By Susan Hines

Reality Check: Three Under Thirty Mark Worden

Watkins Acy Strunk (WAS) Design is the fulfillment of a dream that began late one night in a landscape architecture studio at Mississippi State University. “We joked we would get out and start a firm that would be a super firm, the next EDAW,” Jared Acy, ASLA, remembers.

Three young landscape architects were brought together by their differences, rather than their similarities. “Even back in school, we realized we had different strengths that really complemented each other,” says Troy Strunk, ASLA. “After we got some real-world experience, we dreamed of getting back together and forming our own firm.”

Acy always wanted to be in a design field and is the standout in terms of graphics, while Strunk’s primary interest has always been big-picture land planning. Detail, specs, and construction oriented, Chad Watkins, ASLA, took eight years to complete MSU’s five-year landscape architecture program because he was still running a design/build firm on the side.

“When we worked on a school project together, we actually broke apart roles and treated it like office work and kept our time,” Watkins explains. “At the end of the project we knew exactly what we had done and how we had gotten it done.”

After graduation they parted ways. Strunk headed to Pennsylvania to work for an engineering firm, while Watkins and Acy went to work for firms in Birmingham, Alabama, and Jackson, Mississippi, respectively. But e-mails went back and forth regularly.

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