Interview With Bianca Bodley

Interview by Michelle Heslop. Photos by Jody Beck.

Biophilia has grown significantly since starting in 2012. You emphasize that ongoing learning is important to you and your work ethos. What would you consider your most significant lesson to date? Over the past several years, I have had the great honour of working closely with Indigenous communities on a variety of projects. I have listened to and learned so much from Elders in Nuu-chah-nulth, Tla-o-qui-aht, and Snunéymuxw communities. These experiences have deepened my understanding of the natural world and have awakened in me new depths of responsibility and understanding.

I recognize that any land I am engaged with requires a deep understanding of its origins in order to design in a truly responsible and respectful way. I now realize that my role is more than just connecting people to nature – it is to use this incredible opportunity that I have to connect and to work with our wise, passionate and skilled communities to help heal and restore the land that existed before “development” took place.

Finding ways to help the natural environment thrive allows people to experience it in a more authentic way and supports the surrounding ecosystem through pollination, soil retention, water management and green corridors for birds and wildlife. As a designer, I strive to create spaces that are inspired, intentional, and beautiful and always entirely connected to the principles of restoration and ecological integrity. I’m so grateful for this learning and for how it will impact and shape the way we design as a company going forward. We are already focused on specifying indigenous plants, retaining storm water, and encouraging food production and security more than ever before.

Are there any exciting new projects coming up? When I first started working in this industry 15 years ago, I was inspired by the flora of my homeland in South Africa that endures intense summer heat and drought and then comes alive again with the summer rains. The hillsides get covered in desert blooms awakening after the drought, regenerating hope and beauty from the dormant earth.

Currently, some of the most exciting projects on our board for the upcoming year are working in a very similar geographic context in Baja California Sur, Mexico. I am honoured to have the opportunity to design landscapes for two incredible homes by an architect whom I have long admired. Working within this desert ecosystem allows me to realize my dream of working within this context and to explore and nurture new environments, unique cultures and lifestyles.

How has your business evolved since starting in 2012? We began as a design and build company and operated that way for the first five years. When my daughter was born in 2016, I quickly realized that I needed to adjust the business model to fit our new rhythm of life.

This new model included shifting to strictly landscape design, landscape architecture and project management, subcontracting the build work to a team of talented trades and artists. Four years later, we are a close-knit team of six with a diverse mix of projects, including multifamily, commercial, and public space design in addition to single-family residential projects.