Business Spotlight: Passion for beauty a path to local business

MARTINEZ, Calif. – Born in Taiwan, Frank Kubler’s family moved to Iowa when he was a boy. Then he moved to San Francisco where he graduated from SF State University with honors in Art.

All of these settings impacted his awareness of the natural environment and made him a fan of John Muir’s writings. That combination took him to a business in Martinez, and the task of moderating the recent charette for the City of Martinez to brainstorm ideas for a new park.

Kluber & Associates, Inc., the local landscape architecture business is responsible for transforming Susana Street Park into an oasis of tranquility (except during Art in The Park).

“That is one of my favorite (of his projects) landscapes,” he said. “I didn’t plant a single plant or tree, and figured out a way to use the stones from the old high-backed benches as an artifact.” The rocks have become small arches to mark the entry and recall Martinez history.

Kubler enthusiastically says his favorite plants are trees. “You have to water them to get them established. They don’t take a lot of work…. That (Susana Street) park has an old cork oak tree and a number of spectacular trees. It is like an arboretum!”

Yet, landscape architecture was not a youthful calling for Kubler, nor was business. “It was one of those epiphanies. I always had an appreciation for the beauty, man-made and also of nature,” he mused. Kluber had other skills and could write, but he was just not content with the positions he found after graduation.

“My uncle was a landscape architect and I did some research on it,” Kubler remarked. “He seemed to like it.”

Kubler said realized the need for a masters degree to make it a serious career and applied to four colleges. All of them accepted him and he chose Harvard, where he earned a graduate degree in Landscape Architecture at the School of Design.

With a wife and two children to consider, Kubler said he made it a family decision. “They all agreed, and we packed up and moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts for three years,” he recalled.

Kubler says one of his favorite parks was designed by Fredrick Law Olmsted, the father of landscape architecture, to create a natural setting for New Yorkers in a city that was at that time incredibly industrialized, Central Park.

After three years, they moved back to California, he went to work with an architectural firm, then worked for two years in Sacramento when Senator Dianne Feinstein was able to get federal funding for restoration of the levees.

“I did a lot of projects when I worked for someone else on jobs for Contra Costa County, Dublin, Brentwood, and the engineering firm on levee repair work, and people got to know me and my work,” Kluber explained about the circuitous path he took to founding his own business on Main Street in 1995.

Kluber & Associates, now at 819 marina Vista, where he designs landscapes, does consulting and is still inspired by John Muir.

“We went on a vacation to visit the botanical gardens in Vancouver, British Colombia, in Canada. They had a bronze plaque commemorating John Muir’s love of the beauty that abounds in nature,” he remembers. “it said something like ‘You tug on anything in nature and you will find in nature that it is connected to anything else in the world.’”

Kluber also teaches Introduction to Landscape Architecture at Diablo Valley College. A class is starting Aug. 26, on Mon. and Wed. evenings (DVC Hort-180-8274).

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