Gary Clay, Ph.D., ASLA
Areas of Expertise
Visual Resources Management
Professor Clay’s academic career includes a BLA from Utah State University, an MLA from the University of Illinois, and a Ph.D. from the University of Arizona, School of Renewable Natural Resources. Prior to his arrival at Cal Poly in 1995, Professor Clay worked in private practice, both nationally and in Hong Kong, Singapore and Scotland. His work activities have included resort and theme park design, large-scale parks, recreational facilities and housing projects at various scales.
Professor Clay’s experiences abroad have profoundly impacted his interests in landscapes and landscape architectural design. Beyond his fascination with Asian art and culture, he has become a keen observer of how different people interact in diverse and often complex situations. Such experiences have influenced his approach toward teaching and research.
He has come to understand that the “end game” in design is not about getting things built, but rather watching people interact and experience the site. Clay described the process of design in landscape architecture as a four pronged issue: you satisfy your own professional ego, please a client, please or respect a site and ultimately please the user group. The idea is to help the students understand that good design is about making sure that “everyone has a voice and the ability to come to the table to share their likes and dislikes." Professor Clay stresses that there is a broad spectrum of users who need to be fully recognized by the profession in order to achieve high quality results in our designs.
Professor Clay teaches a variety of classes at Cal Poly, including Landscape Design and Construction, Visual Resource Management Methods, Site Analysis and Landscape Ecology. Dr. Clay describes his teaching approach as being a catalyst for student growth and exploration. According to Professor Clay, effective teaching is process driven, and forces students to learn about places, and to learn about themselves.
Over the last eight years, he has presented scholarly papers at 13 conferences and symposia across the United States and internationally. Dr. Clay has been a Commissioner on the San Luis Obispo Parks & Recreation Commission, and has served on numerous University and College committees.