the real David McCullough…

Last week, I posted a blog about our Altair project, which towards the end thanked the design team. In doing so, the magic of WordPress has begun to automatically generate links throughout this post…one of them being to our great friend David McCullough, or so I thought. Finding out from his wife Catherine that this link was not about ‘our buddy Dave’, but rather about David McCullough, a Historian, Lecturer & two-time Pulitzer Prize recipient – we set ourselves thinking about “well who is the real David McCullough?”  Throughout our 6 years in the US, many of you have heard us speak many times of this ‘Dave’, with little or no context other than me following that with “he is our cool landscape guy!”…well, I wanted to follow that up a little by expanding, now that some of you could be confused that I may be referring to a 77-year-old writer.

Back in 2005, Dave was commissioned by Matthew Cumming to work on the Stella project with us. We soon began to like the way he works & thinks, & his trusty sidekick of the time, David Solmes. Being totally impressed with their efforts on Stella, they were quickly invited also to work on our Embassy1414 & Centro projects that we had designed for CPG. This dynamic duo jelled well with ours & were able to provide ‘outside the box’ radical ideas when we needed them, but ensure that cost-effective & climate appropriate designs & selections were made for each design.

In 2008 when Ivan & I created our own design studio, we inherited 2 projects from our previous mentor Matthew who had left back to Australia. Not to our surprise, we found that David was also working on these which just goes to show how much a good work ethic, design sense & strong client relationships can go for keeping steady work flowing. Shortly after, in 2009 – David invited Ivan & myself to speak at Pecha Kucha No. 3 in San Diego – as he was the emcee. This turned out to be a great mix of stress & creativity as we had no clue what we were in for – to eventually be up first in front of 300 or so people on the Ivy Roof top.

In 2009, we had also invited David to work with us on our design for the Indian Wells Luxury Hotel in the Coachella Valley, CA – to which he was kind enough to offer his studio space for us to share so we could collaborate closer together on the project. With a successful entitlement on this hotel design, we followed up shortly collaborating again on a boutique hotel in Austin, TX. In 2010 Dave won an amazing project – the landscape design for a new theme park called Fushun DreamWorld in Fushun, China to which he invited us to be apart of with him. This gave us the chance to really think outside of our regular contemporary boundaries & be a lot more playful with ideas & now, after all these exciting opportunities we even have a couple of new projects (both smaller residential & larger masterplans) currently under design that I will share in future blogs.

Also in 2010, we officially moved dbrds to our Gaslamp location to collaborate with Dave & his current team in a closer studio setting. Sharing a great space we often bounce ideas, concepts & strategies back & forth often yelling ideas throughout our double height space…its very cool & we get a lot of energy from each other in this setting.

Over the course of these 6 years, we have really enjoyed getting to know Dave, his wife Catherine & all of the cool landscape designers that have worked with him including the ever so eccentric Erik & the office music influences of the cool, the calm, the DJ Taylor. We have partied up with his team on some ‘interesting’ nights out, we have celebrated at such events as the Portuguese CrabFest, the Annual VIP Palace Chili Cook Off & riding the mechanical bull at U31. All of which bring us closer as a studio & keep the energy at a high level. We love that Dave is as passionate about design as we are & that he is not afraid to let it all hang out in our design ‘throwdown’ sessions.

We hope that gives you a bit of insight into ‘our’ David McCullough & if you would like to meet Dave, feel free to come & visit our studio at 363 5th Avenue, Suite 201 San Diego CA 92101, or you can visit his website at

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