Executive Spotlight Q&A: Ryan McKnight

Photography by Don Kadair

Ryan McKnight

Position: Owner and landscape architect

Company: McKnight Landscape Architects

Age: 39

Family: Wife, Casey; two children: Hailey, 10, and Nathan, 8; and an English bulldog, Phineas Maximus

Hometown: Central, Louisiana

Education: LSU, bachelor of landscape architecture

Though he initially set out to become an architect, Ryan McKnight enjoyed an intro class to landscape architecture at LSU so much that he changed his plans and ultimately altered his career path. The husband and father of two launched McKnight Landscape Architects in 2005, a little more than three years after earning his degree at LSU. “I still dabble in architecture when designing outdoor kitchens and minor home additions,” says McKnight, who also more recently launched another new venture. “I love to make things. In order to satisfy this desire, I started FABRIC8TED, a custom signage and architectural fabrication shop. We do everything from signage to furniture and many other custom pieces.”

What was your very first job and what was your takeaway from the experience?

As a teenager I worked part time at a small pizza restaurant. I learned from watching my superiors that age didn’t guarantee integrity or work ethic. 

When did you first know you’d like to pursue a career in landscape architecture?

I started off in architecture but switched to landscape architecture after enjoying an intro class. I still dabble in architecture when designing outdoor kitchens and minor home additions.

If you hadn’t gone into landscape architecture, what other career path do you think you might have taken?

I’m already living my other career path. I love to make things. In order to satisfy this desire, I started FABRIC8TED, a custom signage and architectural fabrication shop. From signage to furniture and many other custom pieces. You’ve probably already seen my work around town.

What’s the best thing about your job, and what’s the worst?

Relationships and creativity: Every day I get to work closely with colleagues and clients to dream, strategize, plan and then watch those dreams come to life. On the flip side, I’m not a perfect fit for every client and not all projects get built.

What’s something about your job that might surprise people?

I color outside the lines on purpose.

How is technology changing your profession and what is your company doing specifically to use new technology to enhance your services?

It’s making production drawings easier to produce and modify. We can now quickly build computer generated models and renderings are becoming more realistic, but at the end of the day there’s nothing better than your favorite pen and paper to work through design concepts.

From a design and use standpoint, what are some of your favorite public green spaces in the Baton Rouge area, and why?

That’s a hard one in regards to use. I’m lucky to live on the 10-acre McKnight compound. It’s my family, along with my two brothers’ families. So, we really don’t use any of the public greenspaces on a regular basis. However, I think City Park is great!

Your firm handles a wide range of commercial and residential projects, which are your favorite to work on and why?

My true passion lies in design. Therefore, I love all of our projects. I truly enjoy the variety of work that our firm handles. However, if you twist my arm I’d probably say residential design is my favorite.

What are your best productivity hacks?

Time blocking, when I stick to it.

You’re taking me out to a business lunch in the Capital Region. Where are we going and what do you recommend I order?

I choose food based on mood and especially weather conditions. If it’s a perfect sunny, cool spring day, we’ll go sit on the patio at Superior Grill and enjoy blue corn stacked enchiladas and a cup of black bean soup.

What’s the best purchase you’ve ever made, and what’s the worst?

Probably our house for both. My senior year at LSU, Casey and I bought a 1925 Acadian and had it relocated to our property. It is truly a home full of memories but fifteen years later we’re still making improvements. It’s a love-hate relationship!

What are your hobbies, or your favorite things to do in your free time?

I enjoy coaching baseball, teaching Sunday school, cooking, hunting, fishing, hanging with my family, and making things.

What’s an important life lesson you learned the hard way?

I don’t have one moment that I could pin point, but the older I get the more I’ve learned to trust myself. It’s the times that I didn’t that have gone wrong. 

What is one of the luckiest things that has ever happened to you?

Complete luck, hit a hole-in-one, won a trip and my ticket was drawn for the cash prize during a golf tournament. 

What is one thing you are absolutely determined to do in life?

Make the world a better place. Sounds cliché but as Wes Jackson once said “if your life’s work can be accomplished in your lifetime, you’re not thinking big enough.”

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