McCullough’s Holistic Design Unites a Campus Experience

“Before” photo of the Centennial Mall

Since 2015, San Diego State University (SDSU) campus planners have made a concerted effort to improve the overall campus landscape and site experience. We are fortunate to have designed over 15 projects that are part of a campus beautification effort, fulfilling the university’s goal. The landscape is becoming a unique experience that students and educators proudly connect to.

The decision was originally spurred by a desire to add a tree canopy, reduce unusable turf grass areas and create a uniquely Southern California landscape experience that incoming students expect from a San Diego university campus.

Our efforts have led to the addition of hundreds of new trees and the transformation of thousands of square feet of unused turf into usable social gathering spaces.

“Before” photo of East Campus Drive

Our Approach, Driven by Purpose
Conversations during the beginning of the process with campus planners and architects brought up key questions that guided our approach. These include:

• What defines the SDSU campus experience?

• What does a prospective student or educator expect from the spaces?

• Does the campus have a theme? Should it?

• Does the campus foster a healthy learning experience?

• What are the constraints and opportunities to be considered?

• Are current site practices sustainable?

• Are there operational measures that could be explored for improvement?

Campus planners have been actively working toward a stronger, more well-defined campus theme, focused on Spanish Colonial. However, some eclecticism is inevitable since there are varying styles of existing building structures. We concluded that it was crucial for us to give special attention to the daily student/educator experience. Our holistic approach ensured that there would be a unified experience across the campus. Therefore, continuity of landscape/site elements was critical.

At the direction of Robert Schulz (Associate Vice President of Real Estate, Planning & Development), Laura Shinn (Director of Planning) prepared the “Campus Design Principles and Guidelines,” which were adopted on June 6, 2017. The McCullough team consulted on developing the “Landscape and Site Elements Guidelines,” which outlines the principles used to design the campus landscape.

Centennial was the First
The first project McCullough completed was the Centennial Mall improvement. Through 2019, our completed projects include:

• Olmeca Hall improvements

• Villa Alvarado housing entry

• Montezuma Road

• East Campus Drive

• The Alumni Center

• The Love Library

• Aztec Walk East

• The “Student Garden” (collaborated with campus students and part of a sustainable site grant)

Other sites we reimagined (slated for possible future development) are:

• Hepner Hall

• Police Headquarters

• Aztec Mesa

• The School of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences

• The Mediterranean Court

• The Arts District

• College Drive

• Campanile Mall

• The ENS Courtyard

• The University House

East Campus Drive

SDSU East Campus
In addition, McCullough has been engaged in a full campus site update for the SDSU Calexico campus. Calexico is a largely underserved community located in the Imperial Valley, on the U.S. Mexico border east of San Diego.

As the SDSU campuses continue to transform, we are excited for students and educators to benefit from renewed spaces that are sustainably designed to suit their needs and lifestyle. The distinct look and feel gives them more than just another college campus.

David McCullough, PLA, ASLA
Principal Landscape Architect

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Forecast for Construction and Development for America’s Finest City


Principal David McCullough will be moderating a panel hosted by Bisnow on September 26. The event, titled San Diego Construction and Development Summit, will answer relevant topics such as:

• What are the major projects coming up?

• What are market leaders doing to attract major tenants?

• How can San Diego compete with other regional markets?

All of this and more will be answered by a stellar panel of development, construction and real estate professionals.

Part of our mission at McCullough is to be a part of the conversation on urban planning and renewal; therefore, we are a sponsor for this informative event. We hope to see you there!

Register today →

Historic Preservation Meets Modern Design Elegance

Client:  Tim Wright, Wright Real Estate Management and Development  Architect:  AVRP Skyport Studios  Tenant:  The Indiana Luxury Apartments  Sector:  Residential/Communities  Size:  Site 24,326 s.f.; Lot coverage 8,635 s.f.  McCullough Project Manager:  Eric Tran, ASLA  Services:  Landscape Design, Environmental Planning

Client: Tim Wright, Wright Real Estate Management and Development
Architect: AVRP Skyport Studios
Tenant: The Indiana Luxury Apartments
Sector: Residential/Communities
Size: Site 24,326 s.f.; Lot coverage 8,635 s.f.
McCullough Project Manager: Eric Tran, ASLA
Services: Landscape Design, Environmental Planning

McCullough’s recent collaboration with the architectural firm AVRP Skyport Studios, completed a beautifully designed landscape for Indiana Street Apartments, located on the west side of North Park. AVRP’s architectural design is a blend of colonial bungalows built in1920s and three new modern multi-dwelling apartments. The project was designed to incorporate these two remaining historical-designated homes with the contemporary structures.

The entire development includes 23 units on a half-acre canyon near the intersection of Indiana Street and Myrtle Avenue.

Our designers created an arrangement of our traditional species of plants, like Rosa Floribunda ‘iceberg’ and Ligustrum Texanum (pictured below). These were combined with other plants that are more commonly used today, such as Hesperaloe Parviflora and those popular, drought-resistant aloes and agaves (pictured below). This juxtaposition of two distinct plant selections illustrates how seamlessly the plant palettes work together, creating interest within their contrast. The finished landscape has a pleasant fragrance from the variety of flowering plants. Passersby will be tempted to stop and take it all in.

As stewards of the built environment, our team thrives on this playful, creative challenge, specifically for the preservation of historic spaces like found with this project. Our work is formed around our company’s vision, which is rooted in empathy, community and the human spirit engaged in nature. We believe the Indiana Street Apartments reflects this vision.

Eric Tran, ASLA
Studio Team Leader

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Rosa Floribunda ‘iceberg’

Rosa Floribunda ‘iceberg’

Hesperaloe Parviflora

Hesperaloe Parviflora

Agave Blue Glow

Agave Blue Glow



Our President and CEO Catherine McCullough was just interviewed this past week by Patricia Kathleen, a San Diego-based entrepreneur and host of her self-titled podcast series. During her podcast, Patricia discusses with industry leaders what experiences women have in today’s business world. She interviews women entrepreneurs, founders, business owners and gurus from diverse backgrounds and industries.

Hear how Catherine’s journey brought her to lead McCullough, a thriving landscape architecture firm, in today’s challenging built industry. Her advice and encouragement will help other ambitious women to become leaders in their respective businesses.

McCullough’s New Accountant Focuses on Project Tracking

These photos are from our project at SDSU East Campus Drive.

As McCullough continues to grow, having an experienced accountant to manage project costs benefits our clients and our front office. It’s with great pleasure that we welcome Victoria “Vika” Gallich, our latest hire and Project Accountant.



Vika will support project administration, accounts receivable and contract records management.

After earning her associate’s degree in accounting from a college in Bellingham, Washington, Vika went on to achieve her Bachelor of Integral Studies from California Institute for Human Science. She recently moved to San Diego from San Francisco where she worked at Source Planning Construction as a project accountant.

“As a nature lover, I am excited to join a team of visionaries who thoughtfully create beautiful green spaces all over the world. I look forward to bringing a mindful approach to accounting, and I am thankful for all of the clients that partner with us.”
—Vika Gallich

President and CEO Catherine McCullough commented, “Vika is specialized in accounting for the construction industry. She will help our firm analyze project-management procedures and maximize service efficiencies. This will be reflected in improved project delivery and strengthened client service.”

A fun fact about Vika is that she loves big adventures; she once owned four motorcycles and embarked on long-distance motorcycle trips throughout Canada and the United States.



Our President/CEO/CMO Catherine McCullough is headed to Washington D.C. July 31st through August 2nd for the annual SMPS Build Business conference. Highlights this year include:

• Digital skills labs (customized technology-based learning);

• A symposium on building your firm’s seller-doer strategy;

• A swanky rooftop reception, where guests will enjoy stunning views of the Capitol at sunset.

A/E/C professionals from around the nation meet each year to learn innovative marketing and service practices, make valuable contacts to expand their network and learn the latest strategies in business development, marketing and leadership.

Are you attending the conference? Catherine would love to grab coffee or lunch and hear about your conference experience—click below to connect on LinkedIn and send her a message.

Connect with Catherine on LinkedIn →

View the program schedule →

McCullough HAD A Swingin’ TIME at the SMPS Golf Tournament


SMPS San Diego went above and beyond to deliver another great golf tournament this year. Not only did we have a blast, the proceeds went to benefit Monarch School, which provides education, skills and experience to homeless youth in need.

Thank you clients, colleagues and friends for taking a break at Hole 10 for refreshments and to pick up a few of our awesome giveaways.
(Special note: People LOVED the safari hats)

Marty Glaske of Gafcon, won the $50 Nordstrom gift card. Congratulations! A not-so-secret-secret...the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale is currently going until August 4th!