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Out of the Ordinary

Julie Brinkerhoff-Jacobs • President, Lifescapes International

Out of the Ordinary

I don’t do normal. I like to do special,” says Julie Brinkerhoff-Jacobs, president of Lifescapes International.

She attributes the success of her company to its four executive principals—herself (president), Dan Trust (COO), Roger Voettiner (planting design/horticulture) and Andrew Kreft (director of design).

“I do not lead alone,” she says. “We are the leadership team.”

Her father, Don Brinkerhoff, founded Lifescapes, which gained fame for the spectacular Mirage volcano, the “mountain” at Wynn and the lush tropical median on the Las Vegas Strip. He died last year at 90.

“My parents worked at home long before they had an office,” she recalls. “He had my brother and I doing hand drawings, taught us to color and stay inside the lines as kids. If someone had told me it would lead to me being in his firm, I would have laughed!”

At Disneyland, “he took us to job sites and showed us what was coming. All we cared about was Disneyland, but he was giving me an education.

“My parents insisted on creating very beautiful gardens long before we did casinos. Beauty is good business. That is our company’s underlying theme. Immersing people in something special.”

Their first casino project wasn’t until the 1980s, when Sol Kerzner so sang their praises that Steve Wynn used them for his first project on the Strip, The Mirage.

“Steve was really our first significant client in Las Vegas,” recalls Brinkerhoff-Jacobs. “It took three years before anyone took us seriously. It started with Steve’s passion for beautiful gardens.”

The Mirage is a tropical desert paradise, she says. “Our job was to find plant material that could survive Las Vegas heat in the summer and winter cold. That took a lot of trial and error. That was a very important element to our success.”

Their relationship with Wynn “got our ticket punched in the world of hospitality and entertainment.” It continued to the most recent Wynn design, the Encore Boston Harbor.

She adds, “It’s a very thorough design ability and understanding of proper plants capable of surviving in any location. We are very thorough. That’s one reason Steve hired us. Our plans are unique.”

It’s not just the design, “but the tools you deliver to the landscape contractor so everyone understands what’s expected of them.”

Today’s trends are toward drought-tolerant, like Lifescapes’ Red Rock casino project, which used drought-tolerant desert materials.

“Red Rock, which won best landscaped design of the year, was full of drought-tolerant elements, very different from the Strip,” she says. “It is created to be very comfortable. It feels verdant but respects the jurisdiction of Summerlin.”

She says what makes her job fun is collaborating with the owners.

“The nice part of working with great clients is that once they feel comfortable with you, they don’t have to hire landscape architects,” she explains. “We’ve worked all over the world. We always assume ignorance until we make ourselves knowledgeable about that part of the world.

“We’ve been around for 60 years. We’ve had an incredible career. We do very thorough plans—we meet with the client, to find out what the client wants.”