At McCullough, Navigating the Ever-Changing Landscape Is a Family Affair

Photo courtesy: San Diego Magazine

Whatever Catherine and David McCullough’s system, it’s worked for the 21 years they’ve been in business together  — and ever since they met at a Hollywood nightclub during college.

The husband and wife duo behind McCullough Landscape Architecture strikes the perfect chord as partners in life and in work. She’s the go-getting extrovert, he’s the conscientious introvert.

“We each have different strengths, so we’re a great balance for each other,” David says.

Specializing in landscape architecture, environmental planning and urban design, McCullough Landscape Architecture is a valued partner of the San Diego Architectural Foundation. David also sits on SDAF’s Board of Directors and spearheads the foundation’s popular PechaKucha program.

Back in 2006, David helped bring the popular Orchids & Onions awards program to the organization and co-chaired the show for its first two years under SDAF’s direction.

The couple’s people-focused approach, and David’s passion for the built environment, makes them strong believers in SDAF and its mission to inspire others to appreciate the built environment.

Here’s a look at the McCulloughs’ expertise and the conscientious philosophy behind their company’s success.

Shaping the Landscape with People in Mind


A graduate of the marketing program at Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) in L.A., Catherine serves as McCullough’s president and chief executive officer, as well as chief marketing officer. She took the post in 2002, allowing the firm to become a woman-owned Small Business Enterprise.

A seasoned marketing professional, before joining her husband in business Catherine served as marketing director for Westfield UTC mall. Though her strong suit is marketing and business development, she also oversees human resources and finances.

David, meanwhile, serves as McCullough’s principal landscape architect. A graduate of Cal Poly University, San Luis Obispo, he formed McCullough Landscape Architecture in 1999 as a sole proprietor.

In overseeing all aspects of project design and production, he says he’s more imaginative and less organized than his wife. Yet he brings a mindfulness and easy-going temperament to the role that is well suited to the serene landscapes he designs in his clients’ vision.

David’s passion for landscape architecture led to the company’s founding. While McCullough champions an empathetic approach to the landscape, empathy also shines through in the couple’s others-focused attitude.

A plant improvement project from McCullough in La Jolla Cove

“People, and human need in general, are the driving force behind all our projects,” David says. “While some landscape architects are energized by the prospect of bringing their own vision to life, what moves us is creating a better human experience for others.”

Famed 20th century landscape architect Thomas Church once said “gardens are for people,” but David takes it a step further, saying the built environment is for people.

“Landscape architecture highlights the interplay between the human world and the natural world,” he says. “By being mindful of nature, and by listening to what clients hope to achieve with any given project, it’s possible to meet their needs and my own professional standards at the same time.”

Priorities Rooted in Family


As important as the business is to them, for David and Catherine, family always comes first. Maintaining a work-life balance “is probably one of the biggest challenges” when you’re a married couple working together, Catherine says. But striking that balance is worthwhile.

Parents to Molly, almost 18, and William, 19, the couple is preparing to become empty-nesters this fall. “Our kids always come first,” Catherine says. “I do feel confident that we’ve been present in our kids’ lives.”

In business and in life, the McCulloughs live in a conscientious manner that continues to shape their course and their goals.

“We’re here on this planet for just a short time,” David says. “The last thing we ever want is to say we took up space. We want to feel like we gave more than we took. And that’s what drives us, every day.”

To learn more about McCullough Landscape Architecture, check out Ian Patzke’s personable interview with David.

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