KINGSTON, R.I. – May 8, 2007 – Warwick resident Rayna Coletta had a passion for art in high school while also enjoying botany and gardening.
“When it came time to pick a college major, I decided to combine the two and major in landscape architecture,” she said. “I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, but I really liked it.”
As she prepares to graduate from the University of Rhode Island on May 20, Coletta looks forward to a job in New York City and occasional trips abroad.
“Landscape design is a great way to express yourself,” explained the 21-year-old graduate of Pilgrim High School. “We first learned about graphics, and then I took construction classes. I like to see the metamorphosis of an idea and how it ends up completely different from when you started.”
Coletta’s landscape architecture coursework included major projects examining complex issues in collaboration with local communities and state agencies. She spent a semester assessing how to revitalize a two-mile stretch of Route 1 through North Kingstown, including recommendations for roadway improvements, bike paths, wildlife habitat, and historic features. She organized workshops for community residents to seek their input about the need for more shopping or residential areas and for their assessment of roadway problems.
“This semester we did a huge project at the Woonasquatucket River in Providence studying storm water management, low impact development practices, historic mills and access to the river in an industrial area,” she said.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about landscape architecture,” Coletta added. “It’s not just designing gardens, though that’s part of it. It’s a very in-depth discipline that works closely with environmental managers, traffic engineers, architects and all sorts of others.”
Coletta’s favorite aspect of landscape design involves plants.
“You need to know the best plants for a site,” said the URI student. “Are they drought tolerant or salt tolerant, for instance. The more you know about plants, the better your designs can be. Plants are the artist’s palette in landscape design.”
After graduation, Coletta will begin work at R.F. Landscape Architecture, a small firm in New York City that works mostly on high-end residential projects. With family and friends living nearby, Coletta said “everything is fitting into place. I’m very excited about it.”
Some day Coletta hopes to work as a landscape architect in Europe, where she has traveled several times during spring breaks and hopes to continue visiting regularly.
“After that, I’d like to move someplace else entirely. I have a strong desire to see different places. Eventually I’ll settle somewhere, but not until after I’ve been a nomad for a while.”
URI News Bureau photo by Michael Salerno Photography