Local architect strives to plant memories

Landscape architect Michael D’Angelo at the penthouse terrace of The Clarendon in Boston.
Landscape architect Michael D’Angelo at the penthouse terrace of The Clarendon in Boston.

The smallest details count in landscape design, from storm water drainage to paving materials and seasonal plant color. It is not unusual, for example, for landscape architects to spend an entire day planning the placement of trash receptacles, said Michael D’Angelo, 27, a landscape architect at Copley Wolff Design Group in Boston.

D’Angelo’s experience ranges from green roof decks to college campuses. He is currently working on the penthouse terrace at The Clarendon, a 33-story luxury residential tower in the Back Bay. “I strive to make landscaping memorable,” he said, “by including a unique feature that draws people there, whether it’s a quiet corner to sit and read, or a beautiful garden terrace.”

You’re designing a fountain for a park — what’s the thought process behind it?

This is a 36-foot long, 18-foot-high water feature that will be an iconic focal point. We develop physical models as well as computer models and look at it from all vantage points. In addition, there are safety concerns, such as people slipping and falling, so mechanical devices need to be built in to shut the water off if it’s too cold or windy.

Urban architects are often creating ‘streetscapes.’ What is a streetscape?


This is a phrase we use to talk about an area adjacent to a building, whether it’s a concrete sidewalk or seating area. If trees will be planted in a sidewalk, there is a lot of science involved, such as using soils developed by different universities that provide both structural support for sidewalks as well as nourishment for the trees.

What are some of your favorite plants?

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I like working with a really simple color palette. I prefer using a handful of plants, versus 50 to 60. This gives a strong vivid impact when looking at the landscape from afar.

Why the increasing popularity of green roofs?

Green roofs create insulation for buildings, which lowers heating and cooling costs and absorbs runoff from the rain.

What do you think is an example of excellent urban landscape design?

Chicago has a lot of really cool public spaces, such as Millennium Park. I love to travel around the country and study what other people are doing. That’s what inspires me.

Who is your architectural role hero?

Frederick Law Olmsted, who is widely considered the father of American landscape architecture. It’s amazing how many thousands of projects he did. He had a very simple and natural style that I try to reference in my work.

What does your own backyard look like?


I have a 10-by-12 backyard in South Boston. I have four very nice planters, a grill, and a table squeezed in there. I really enjoyed planting those four planters.

Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at