john kohl and puppy

Student Q+A: John Kohl (MLA ‘21)

May 13, 2021

Hometown: Greeley, Colorado
Undergraduate School and Major: B.F.A. in Visual Design, Colorado Mesa University
Program: Masters of Landscape Architecture, 2021

In our Student Q+A’s we profile the students of the University of Colorado Denver’s College of Architecture & Planning (CAP). We sat down with John Kohl, one of CAP’s 2021 Outstanding Graduates, to learn more about his background, what attracted him to CAP, his breakthrough moments during his education, and his plans post-graduation.

Tell us a little bit about why you chose CAP and what your experience has been like?

I fell in love with design during my undergraduate degree. Design focuses on storytelling and problem solving, which resonates with me on a very personal level.

After graduating from undergrad and working professionally for a few years, I wanted to take that same passion and develop it further. Landscape architecture does just that as we plan for a green future and face the truths and missteps of our built environment.

aerial shot  of sidewalk and buildings

Did you have any breakthrough moments during your education experience? If so, what were they and when did they happen?

My breakthrough was realizing that the principles of design are universal. If you understand hierarchy, clarity of communication, and intentionality, then you can tackle most problems. The program at CAP helps provide students with tools to answer questions that come up in the course of our investigations. They help point you in interesting directions and encourage you to design the path less traveled. It’s an assisted inquiry or a guided collaboration.

Two things stood out about John during his time in our program. First, John continually invested his time in helping other students succeed in the program, in both formal and informal settings. While students helping each other succeed is part of the culture of our program, John stood out for the amount of time and effort he put into helping his classmates. Second, John deeply examined his own work and not only explored topics in landscape architecture but also his own ways of working. He has been consistently willing to experiment with his creative method and starts every project with an open mind – Jody Beck, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture

How have you grown since coming to CAP?

Our studio environments encourage collaboration on a scale that I hadn’t really worked with before. I became a better listener and was surrounded by amazing peers who are every bit as important to my growth as the faculty was.

What does life after CAP look like for you?

I was offered a job before the start of my last semester and I’ve been going to school and working simultaneously. I’m grateful for my graduate experience, but I feel ready for the next step.

Sample of John Kohl's Massing sketch

What opportunities at CAP are there for students to connect their designs to real-world issues?

Every opportunity is here. Oftentimes, we are introduced to real-world stakeholders who like seeing our “pie-in-the-sky” concepts. Not every opportunity is equal, but the connections are. I’ve seen classmates begin international investigations and others are approached with design problems, growing in ways that become unique to their graduate experience.

John Kohl is a quiet leader and “teacher”, offering support and encouragement, technical advice, and design commentary both within his MLA cohort and as a TA for classes. Working with John is easy – he is a team player, confident and organized. His capability and graphic talent and skill elevate the work of his peers. He also seeks to learn from others and is open to critique as he queries the value, predicates, and impact of his design ideas to enhance our communities and environment through his work as a landscape architect. – Ann E. Komara, Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture

Do you plan to continue to be a part of the CAP community? If so, how?

I am always happy to lend a hand down the road and I am the type of person who has a difficult time saying no! I would also love to come back as a professional and share my experiences to further inspire future students.

Anything we missed that we should have asked that you’d like the CAP community to know?

I study alongside nine incredible women who have stacked up against their own accolades, and I want people to know that if I’m outstanding, it’s because of my group of peers who helped push me forward along the way.

Interview conducted and condensed by Agency PR