On Thursday, May 12, Brett Kessler Kiss visited campus to discuss her work with the student body.
Kiss is a Union graduate who is now a very successful landscape architect. She graduated in 2004 with a double major in psychology and visual arts.
After leaving Union, Brett went on to a career in finance to challenge herself but she never stopped making art. Kiss ultimately pursued her passion and decided to return to school, enrolling in the University of Pennsylvania’s graduate landscape architecture program. Now, Kiss is able to put her creativity and skills to use by working for the company, !melk.
Kiss’ previous experiences has served her career well. With a background in trading, Kiss’ previous finance experiences helped her with her current job.
She says that trading is a lot about trends, patterns, movement and reactions, which all relate to the people aspect of landscape architecture. In addition, her time at grad school introduced her to the world of animation, a major turning point for Kiss.
From this came the realization that being able to move through a space is drastically different than just looking at one, because in animation you have the ability to represent things that haven’t even been created yet. These “aha” moments in her art preferences eventually led Kiss to !melk.
!melk is a landscape architecture and urban design company that pushes the boundaries on what exactly constitutes landscape architecture.
There are often common misconceptions about landscape architecture. For example, while many people believe gardens are the basis of this type of landscaping, they are simply just a feature of this architecture. Ultimately, landscape architecture is all about the simulation of nature from conception to construction.
What Kiss likes most about companies like !melk is that it is a non-hierarchical environment; the team of 12 work together to work towards an outcome comprised of everybody’s input and involvement. While !melk also believes in sustainability for each of their installations, it is at heart predominately about design.
As a company, !melk tries to make their installations very place specific and unique. Each design starts with a lot of research and there are multiple processes before completion. The company gives their client(s) multiple configurations and possibilities for a design to emphasize each installation’s design as well as functionality.
For Kiss, she never had her mind set on returning to art. However, her career in art is something she truly is passionate about. Art transcends all of her previous educational and employment experiences.
Since it is applied art, being a landscape architect is a great balance for her. Kiss says that you should never quit something if you enjoy it and at least keep it in your life as a hobby, as she did with art, since you never know where you’ll end up.
Most importantly, Kiss’ most valuable piece of advice is to never stay at any place you’re not happy at as it is never too late to change your path.
To lead by example, she went back to grad school at the age of 30! As a Union alumni with such a successful career right from the beginning, Kiss is an inspiration to all.