Team Spotlight | Tom Runkle, Senior Landscape Architect & Project Manager
Abonmarche is lucky to have some of the industry’s most talented and experienced landscape architects. In celebration of Landscape Architecture Month, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Senior Landscape Architect and Project Manager Tom Runkle to talk about his journey and experiences in the field.
Tom told us his story of finding his calling in landscape architecture.
“As a teen, I had a natural inclination towards drawing and design. In high school, I took various drafting and architecture classes that only fueled my passion further. Upon graduating high school, I enrolled in college – intending to major in architecture. However, during my first year, I took an introductory class in landscape architecture and worked on a few studio projects that involved designing outdoor spaces.”
“That’s when it hit me – landscape architecture was a better fit for me. I was drawn to the idea of creating beautiful, functional outdoor spaces that could positively impact people’s lives. Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to pursue a career in landscape architecture and have never looked back.”
In his work at Abonmarche, Tom emphasizes his focus on working closely with clients to listen, and to understand their needs and their vision.
“Collaboration is essential to the success of any project, and it’s our job as landscape architects to educate our clients on what landscape architecture is and what is possible for their landscape. My approach is grounded in the balance of client needs, creative design solutions, budgets, and constructability based on the circumstances of each respective project.”
Tom’s recent work on community-driven built projects across West Michigan and Northern Indiana include the brand new New Buffalo Dune Walk in New Buffalo, Michigan; the St. Joseph Water Taxi Station 3 in Benton Harbor, Michigan; traffic safety improvements at Mishawaka High School; New Buffalo’s Waterfront Master Plan; and St. Joseph Sports Park in St. Joseph, Michigan.
As a company, we are proud to have landscape architects like Tom on our team, who are dedicated to creating beautiful, sustainable outdoor spaces that enhance people’s lives.
Contact Us today to learn more about our landscape architecture practice.
Team Spotlight | Janice Mueller, CADD Tech
Janice Mueller, a CADD Tech at Abonmarche, has been with our firm for more than 20 years, making her one of our resident experts on all things Abonmarche.
Early Bird or Night Owl: Early Bird
Coffee or Tea: Tea
East Coaster or Out West: Out West
Favorite Travel Spot: Havasu Falls, an area of waterfalls on the Havasupai Indiana Reservation located in the Grand Canyon, Arizona
Creative Outlet: Needlepoint of rock concert tickets. I’m working on one from a Rolling Stones concert that my husband I went to a few years back.
Favorite Stones song: Start Me Up
How did your career first take shape?
I earned my degree in Interior Design from Purdue University, and I spent a few years doing corporate and residential design in Fort Wayne.
How did you make the shift to CADD?
At the beginning of my career, there was no CADD; we were all drafting. I went back to school and earned a second degree in CADD at Southwest Michigan College (SMC), and my next-door neighbor, worked at Abonmarche, heard that I was studying CADD. Shortly after that, I started as a CADD Technician at Abonmarche, and I never left!
From your view, what is the most noticeable change in the industry?
The precision in technology is the biggest change I’ve seen throughout the years. When everyone was beginning to make the jump from drafting to CADD – that felt like such a huge shift. Before, you could never draw that precisely. The technology we now have at our fingertips is incredible.
What is your area of focus at Abonmarche?
I work with our surveying and land development teams, as well as with builders and contractors who build homes. I collaborate with a client to position each house on its lot correctly, taking into consideration a number of competing factors, such as zoning requirements, easements, drainage, municipal services and natural slope of the land for septic design. Many times, it’s in a subdivision that our own team has designed and developed which is really neat to be able to work on.
When people hand you the plans for a new home, it’s a really rewarding experience to be able to look at the land and the work that needs to be done to create that home, and help manifest that reality for them.
Abonmarche South Bend | A Living Lab
In August 2020, during the quiet summer months marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, our South Bend team moved into a brand new workspace in the city’s bustling downtown area. The new offices, designed by our Abonmarche team, serve as a precedent for our next chapter of growth.
Nestled in the west side of downtown South Bend, 315 West Jefferson is a brick building with a classic exterior and unlimited possibilities on the interior. Our team eagerly got to work doing something they do for clients every day – designing and creating inspiring, functional spaces. Ideation began within the architecture & design teams – but this time, the client was ourselves.
In its previous life, 315 West Jefferson was a typical office building most recently used by a family and children’s services organization. After initially considering a sprawling ground-level expanse, Abonmarche instead opted to take on half of the building’s floorplate across two levels, creating a more dimensional, tight-knit work experience.
Construction teams gutted the building all the way down to the super structure, clearing the way for a clean slate for our architectural and design teams to work with.
Inclusivity by Design
One of the primary design goals of the space was to build inclusivity into the floorplate – to reflect the relationships and working styles here at Abonmarche.
“Our work processes are more horizontal than vertical, and so we needed our space to reflect that way of working,” says Arvin Delacruz, Architect, AIA, NCARB, at Abonmarche.
One way of achieving this was to provide equal access to natural light and exterior views.
“Anyone in this building can lift their head and see a view to the outdoors,” Delacruz says. “This was really important to our leadership because it communicates to our staff that Abonmarche as a company is paying attention to its staff’s physical and mental wellbeing. Research shows that employees who have access to natural daylighting and views are more productive, more relaxed, and healthier.”
Project manager offices are located on the interior, to prioritize more communal access to natural daylighting on the perimeter. With just three private offices located on the perimeter, collaborative gathering areas and open plan workstations are full of natural light.
In addition to gathering spaces equipped with the newest collaborative technologies, many workstations are height-adjustable, enabling our staff to change positions and build movement into their day.
Flexibility + Cohesion
The Abonmarche design team devoted much of its focus to making the two levels feel unified, yet distinct.
“We designed our new space to be cohesive, but at the same time offer unique experiences on both floors – so that people want to travel between them, whether for formal meetings, informal brainstorming sessions or charettes, or visiting with coworkers in other locations,” says Delacruz. “The more movement and cross-pollination our teams have, the better our results are. Creating those ‘destination’ spaces and opportunities for spontaneous collaboration are critical to fostering agility in our work processes.”
At the building’s core, a grand staircase connects the two levels. At the top of the stair, two partner offices are lined with glass windows.
“Our leadership is, and has always been, really accessible to our entire staff. It’s a piece of our culture that we’re incredibly proud of, and we wanted to mirror that quality in our new space by making those leadership workspaces super visible.”
“It was important to our leadership that the design also communicate the idea that we support mobility within the company – whether moving upward, laterally, or scaling back to a part-time role requiring less permanent space.”
Private offices and open plan workstations are future-proofed to accommodate change and growth in the coming years.
Curated for Individual Choice
Our design team outfitted the new workspace with a curated mix of open and enclosed meeting spaces. Each of these spaces offers something unique to staff, whether it be high-top counter workspace, casual low-back swivel chairs, or privacy phone booths for phone calls or focus work.
Individual workspaces and meeting space options are complemented by a materials library, beverage station on the ground level, full open concept kitchen on the second level, and a multipurpose gathering space intended for training sessions, office-wide meetings, and parties.
315 West Jefferson was designed to be a future model for revamping other Abonmarche offices, and also as a showcase space.
“We designed our space to serve as a living lab that lets us experiment with new concepts and vignettes,” says Delacruz. “We wanted to be able to play around with how people use workspaces in our space, in order to test drive strategies for our clients.”
Our new South Bend workspace is a vital piece of our future – of where we’re going, and what is important to us. As we enter 2021 and an increasingly post-pandemic work climate, we are excited to share this new space with our clients and other members of the communities we serve.
Abonmarche “Superheroes” Win 2018 Bed Race Supporting Benton Harbor Support Programs
A team of Abonmarche Superheroes took 1st Place in the Great Bed Race. The team – consisting of Sam Jablonowski (Captain), Mike Morphey, Lucas Grosse, Dan Bomzer, Garrick Garcia, and Jason Thies – went undefeated in their races to take home the trophy. They also walked away with the award for the team with the most spirit!
Proceeds from the Great Bed Race support the Benton Harbor Sunrise Rotary programs and Slumberland 40 Winks Foundation that enrich the lives of families. Besides participation in the event, Abonmarche raised $585.00 through bake sales and raffles, donated to the 40 Winks foundation to provide beds to children in need in our community.