Michael Dowhan

ASLA, CLARB

Senior Associate | Senior Landscape Architect

At SMMA

  • Michael oversees business development and expansion for SMMA’s Rhode Island market
  • Utilizes his extensive landscape architecture and urban design background to manage and provide guidance on planning and site design projects in Providence and Cambridge
  • Establishes himself as a resource for clients through his relationship-building skills and his ability to assume an important leadership role in the coordination and execution of complex multidisciplinary design projects

Symbiosis at Work

Even after 25 years of professional experience, Michael places exceptional value on new learning opportunities and mentorship for both himself and his peers. “I’m always interested in incorporating a new perspective,” he explains. “I feel like I learn as much from younger professionals as they learn from me. Sharing information and knowledge keeps everyone on the same page in terms of emerging technologies and design strategy, and that can lead to some really exciting design solutions.” Michael’s two-way relationship with his team doesn’t end with education and process, it’s all-encompassing:

“I want my team to feel a sense of ownership and understand the importance of their work. I’ve found that being open and transparent with them about budgets, deadlines, obstacles, and solutions allows them to accept a greater sense of personal responsibility. The more I engage younger professionals in this way, the more committed they become to the success of the project and the more confidence they gain moving forward.” 

Inspired by Childhood

Much of Michael’s personal and professional inspiration stems from his upbringing in a Northern Rhode Island mill city along the banks of the Blackstone River. His design aesthetic is influenced by wildly disparate elements and experiences he was exposed to early in his life — the fiercely overgrown mill landscapes that he played near as a child, the natural and rugged riverbank landscapes, and his love for industrial design born from his fascination with the look and sound of the giant spinning machines that he would see whenever he visited the mills. “When I was a kid, we played alongside the banks and ran among the mills — That was all I knew.  As I got older and began to observe the buildings and landscapes from a different perspective, I realized that I was skilled at drawing and building with my hands. Once I discovered what landscape architecture was and realized the power and creativity it possessed, I knew that I had found my passion.”

Michael is also inspired by his family, particularly his love and pride for his son. “The experience has completely changed my life and perspective on work,” he says. “I’ve designed a lot of K-12 educational facility landscapes, but after my son was born I began to pay close attention to play and exercise from a child’s perspective. It now guides how I design these spaces. I’m so grateful that my son can help me create better learning and play environments for other people’s loved ones.”