When I first entered college, my studies were divided between Business and the Biological Sciences until I finally settled on getting a B.S. degree in Botany. However, during my last two years, I took several drafting and architectural classes—this encouraged me to pursue landscape architecture.
In 1986, I began working with a landscape architecture firm in S. California. This led to working with four different landscape architects, which I loved. Soon thereafter, I began working under different contractors to gain experience and to obtain my landscape contractor’s license in 1992.
My learnings and experience grew, as I expanded my work into other fields—manufacturing, engineering, food service management, as well as the U.S. Army. This is where I gained a lot of real-world insights into people skills, leadership, operations, and finance. In addition to this, I established and operated my own business performing contracting work.
It wasn’t until 1998 that my eyes were opened to the sole pursuit of landscape lighting as a career path. I was one of the first to do so in the Sacramento market. Initially, Avalon was a sole-proprietorship, but after a year it developed into a corporation. This lasted until 2005, when I bought-out my partner.
In 2014, I began to question where the business was going and what I truly wanted to achieve. I researched aspects of lighting outside of the norm—those things associated to psychology and human behavior. It was here that I began to see and understand the deeper benefits of how landscape lighting can impact people’s well-being. I’m speaking specifically about ‘emotion’ and ‘affect’—the feeling or experience one has when exposed to these conditions.
By 2019, I established and successfully launched the Experiential Landscape Lighting Initiative (ELLI)--the first landscape lighting design educational resource for advancing this discipline.
Since ELLI’s establishment, I have developed a means to evaluate and judge what is considered, ‘good’ design. This includes the development of an educational framework surrounded by the principles of composition, as found in art. It also encompasses psychology and human behavior. Each of these is critical in understanding how to advance the landscape lighting artform.
As far as the future goes, I have a goal of establishing a non-profit entity so that further advancement and growth can occur. Additionally, I wish to leave the next generation of landscape lighting professionals a strong framework for advancement within ‘design’. No other has done so, since Frank B. Nightingale (father of garden lighting).
- Mark A. Carlson—Principal/Landscape Lighting Designer
- Licensed CA Contractor: C-27 #648814
- Certified Outdoor Lighting Designer (COLD) #1101
- Certified Low Voltage Lighting Technician (CLVLT-'06-'12) #0631
- Historian/Collector of Frank B. Nightingale history
- Creator/Developer of the Experiential Landscape Lighting Initiative (ELLI)—(2019-present)
- Married with two sons
- Established Avalon Lighting, 1999
- Incorporated, 2000-2009
- Changed back to Sole-Proprietorship, 2009
- Designed and installed: 900+ projects
- Services provided nationally & internationally: CA, OR, NV, AZ, AB Canada, and Costa Rica
- Developed an educational resource for the profession (ELLI), 2019