As daughter of a painter and an architect, Sandra Youssef Clinton’s upbringing was colored by the creative minds of her parents and their artistic friends. As she grew up, her creativity drew on both of her parents’ trades — but also in gardening, a passion she discovered as an adolescent through helping a neighbor cultivate his garden.
“I learned a lot, and didn’t realize how much I was getting out of that experience of helping him,” Clinton said. “I laid my first brick and screwed my first screw and nailed my first nail in his back garden.”
Now with 35 years of experience in landscape architecture and horticulture, Clinton has designed an abundance of meaningful landscapes across the country.
At 12:15 p.m. Tuesday, July 26, in Smith Wilkes Hall, Clinton will bring her expertise in landscape architecture to Chautauquans, highlighting the processes and importance of curating an outdoor space reflective of indoor living. Clinton’s lecture, “Gardens Transformed: Designing for People and Place,” is part of Bird, Tree & Garden Club’s Brown Bag series.
Clinton comes to Chautauqua with a bachelor’s degree in horticulture and plant science from the University of Delaware, and a master’s in landscape architecture from the University of Virginia. Clinton worked for several architecture firms before starting her own, CLINTON+RIES Landscape Architects, in 1998. She is a fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects and serves on the Stewardship Council of the Cultural Landscapes Foundation.
Her lecture will teach Chautauquans about developing thoughtful gardens based on their needs and show how homeowners can create an outdoor area that marries indoor living with nature. Clinton plans to share a brief history of her work in landscape architecture and display images of her firm’s past projects.
“I’ll show a few large-scale residential projects and small-scale residential projects, and a few commercial projects that all have examples of process and intention in design, and how we go about doing it,” Clinton said.
Clinton also plans on devoting time in her talk to spotlight her mentors, including the late landscape architects Roberto Burle Marx and Conrad Hamerman, whose works and counsel were instrumental in Clinton’s design journey.
Her inspiration also comes from her personal travels and the works of Monet, Matisse and Picasso.
“I think that none of us design in a bubble,” Clinton said. “I think we design with what we know and what we see and what we experience with others. Almost anything that I look at, I’m inspired by.”
Clinton recently retired from her firm, yet continues to foster relationships with her clients and consult the firm with design ideas.
While retired, Clinton hasn’t strayed far from her work in landscape architecture; she now gives design and architecture tours throughout Morocco and southern Spain with native Moroccan tour guide Addi Ouadderrou. Together, the two merge their interests in Moroccan culture and horticulture to offer vacationers an immersive, educational experience in a uniquely designed environment.
Anticipating her first visit to the Institution, Clinton says her goal is to have Chautauquans look at their surroundings through a new lens that allows them to appreciate the importance of their living spaces.
“I hope it’s inspiring to people,” Clinton said. “I hope I bring a sense of newness and design, and an outlook on nature and plant material— To get people to really just look, and look again at things, and really pay attention to what’s going on around them, how that might influence the way they live, the way they work, the way they speak, the way they look at things.”