When Billy Roberts was a teenager, he used to help his grandmother in her garden. He spent time with her, watching her work and learning about plants. He saw their uniqueness and how they interact with each other.
At the same time, he was developing a growing interest in design.
While at Louisiana State University, he decided to take an introduction to landscape architecture class.
“Immediately I was hooked,” he says. “I found a creative outlet that combined two aspects that enthralled me at the time: plants and design.”
Though creative activities and craftsmanship had always appealed to Roberts, landscape architecture still showed “a whole other world” when he first learned about it. By incorporating living features, he found a way to shape a given space, a new way design could affect viewers’ mood and behavior.
After graduating from LSU with a degree in landscape architecture, he became a professional landscape architect. He started working at Mesa Design Group in Dallas in 2004, and his first project was helping with the landscape master plan for the expansion of NorthPark Center.
Since the shopping center was established in 1965 by real estate developer Raymond Nasher, landscaping has gone hand-in-hand with fine art. In Roberts’ introduction to NorthPark, he was seeing not just a landscape design concept decades in the making, but possibilities of what could come, possibilities he had the opportunity to mold.
As he worked alongside Judy Cunningham — who was selected by Nasher and his wife, Patsy, to head the design — Roberts realized what makes NorthPark different.
“Everything has to be executed with excellence, intention and a level of craftsmanship that rivals most artisans,” he says. “Detail is everything.”
Cunningham, who died in September, showed Roberts how interior planting design could be a form of art. For the past eight years, they collaborated on projects at NorthPark. And now he has stepped into her former role, happy to continue her legacy. This fall, he oversaw the unloading of two semi trailers full of pumpkins, just like Cuninngham used to spread 80,000 pounds of pumpkins and gourds throughout the mall.