Beginnings. . .
Dan began his career 40 years ago. He was a blank slate with a limited number of work experiences, but one caught his eye and stirred his passion for the industry. While attending community college, he received a suggestion to come work for a retail plant nursery in Brea that had a landscape designer on staff. There, he quickly developed a keen interest in plants, and became fascinated with that career possibility.
The nursery was owned and operated by a robust, gregarious Japanese couple, Bob and Kitty Susuki, whom Dan came to adore. They were brilliant horticulturists and astute, successful business people. While working there, the nursery became his studio and he soaked up every experience he could. He learned to identify plants by working with their extensive selection of both indoor and outdoor plants.
Eventually, Dan worked his way into sales, and under Kitty’s direction, gained valuable experience behind the register, assisting customers one-on-one.
Eternally grateful for the experience, the work ethic instilled in him and lessons learned, Dan went off to Cal Poly Pomona, where he received his BS in Landscape Architecture.
His Career Begins. . .
Dan has been lucky to have so many supportive friends throughout his career. After spending a couple of years at a multidisciplinary A&E Firm, Dan received a call from a friend that suggested he interview with Lifescapes. That was the decision that changed the trajectory of his career. In October 1980, Dan began his work for another amazing couple, Don and Barbara Brinkerhoff, talented designers with a strong horticultural basis and ferocious work ethic.
He started at the bottom and took on any jobs needed of him, learning all aspects of the company.
Lifescapes had been known for their lake projects. When Dan was brought in, Lifescapes affectionately called itself “Lakes ‘R Us.” A customer once said that you could portage across Orange County on all of the multifamily lake projects they completed.
Experience has proven that you never know where an opportunity might lead. The Lakes Country Club project in Palm Springs led to a project in South Africa for an international hotel developer that had visited the project. That opportunity paved the way for The Four Seasons Beverly Hills, which ultimately led to The Mirage in Las Vegas. Building a successful portfolio in Las Vegas gave Lifescapes a global presence and changed the destiny of the business.
Dan’s perseverance paid off and 13 years after starting at Lifescapes, he was asked to manage the company. Throughout his tenure here, he has assembled what he believes to be, “The finest landscape architectural team anywhere.” Our team is made up of specialists, not generalists, who bring their particular skill set to every project, from design and horticulture, to project management and art direction, to technology. The result is stunning, iconic projects with an enduring legacy. It hasn’t been without its challenges! Dan not only oversees the business functions, but he also manages the day-to-day operations and puts together teams with the right chemistry for each individual, complex project.
He prides himself on bringing to the table people with unique ideas and passion for their work, and to collaborate with clients that value the landscape environment and see it as critical to their business. Although it’s hard to pick “favorites” throughout his career, Dan is exceptionally proud of The Mirage, Bellagio, Jurassic Park the Ride at Universal Studios and The Americana at Brand.
What Inspires Him. . .
Dan finds much of his inspiration from nature and the outdoors. He enjoys food and wine, and is as passionate about cooking as he is about finding new restaurants. He finds beauty in all things including art, music, movies, cars, travel and his family.
He has an irreverent sense of humor and loves making people laugh. His sometimes salty disposition sits in contrast to his immense heart. People might be surprised to learn that Dan is a huge animal lover, pet parent and enjoys feeding wild birds, an homage to his late mother.
Spending time with his son, Tyler, is exceptionally important to him, and they spend as much time as they can on trails, hiking and mountain biking together. He has rafted 160 miles of the Colorado River and plans an annual backpacking trip with Tyler and six of his friends in the High Sierra. He says his greatest challenge is keeping up with them!
What the Future Holds…
Dan’s goal is to continue Lifescapes’ legacy, with the experiences and guidance he has learned in his nearly 39 years with the firm. He doesn’t rest on the laurels of the firm’s amazing portfolio of completed works. He will continue to nurture our client relationships, seek out the best projects, and find the most talented people to work on them, while continuing the legacy of excellence and creativity to drive Lifescapes forward.
Have a Question for Dan?
Email Dan to find out more.