Solange Serquis, landscape architectFriday, November 25, 2016
A design for life
For The Herald
Born: Buenos Aires
Education: Planning and
Job: Landscape architect
at Serquis + Associates
Last read: Books
Last watched: Beginning
Can’t live without:
Finishing up her degree, Solange Serquis was offered an internship that took her to the United States. Moving there with her husband, she and her family — that now includes three children — have lived in New Mexico for the past 16 years and she recently represented her adopted country at an international landscaping exhibition.
Solange says: “I was finishing my degree and was invited to apply for an internship abroad. I put together a portfolio and had an interview; that was in December, 2000. I spent Christmas and New Year in Argentina and then moved to the US several months later when I was 29.
“At the time I was scared about my professional prospects in Argentina and while my career was amazing, I didn’t know how to start a business there. I read up a lot on it in publications from Europe and the US, and it seemed it was being ignored in Argentina; therefore I’d always thought I might move elsewhere for work. That internship was to work for 18 months in Albuquerque, New Mexico.”
Even before Solange finished her internship, she and husband Andrés already felt at home in New Mexico. Able to change her visa into his working visa, they then moved to Santa Fe.
“We fell in love with it and decided this was our place. We loved the environment, the landscape and the people. It was a change as it’s more cosmopolitan though smaller than Albuquerque. We felt more at home here. It’s a welcoming place to open your own business.”
In the early days, there were several cultural differences for the landscape architect.
“I noticed the smell of food immediately. It’s very spicy, New Mexican, and I had a hard time getting used to it. Plus another cultural difference was timing: people invite you out for an hour and it really it is just for an hour! There is a certain formality in many ways here that we Latin Americans don’t have — a birthday party is from 8pm to 10pm and nothing more!”
After 16 years in the US, Solange has made the most of working and living in New Mexico, representing her adopted country at an international level. She says: “Last year my studio went to Japan as we were selected to represent the US at an international show — we were the only ones from the US. The Latin Americans at the show asked me why I didn’t represent Argentina and I said I’d worked in the US for 16 years; my work is about the desert landscape.”
While she moved there with husband Andrés, Solange is now a mother of three who were all born in New Mexico.
“Our kids are aged 13, 11 and three, and have been raised in Santa Fe. They have a beautiful mix of Argentina and the US in them, which I think is ideal; in fact, I wish I had it. The eldest is Latin in soul but American by choice while my second one teaches us about the American culture! Growing up with the diversity of two worlds is very positive.
“When my 13-year-old was two we visited Buenos Aires and he wondered where his blue Santa Fe sky was! We get 365 days of blue sky a year. The neighbourhood we live in is very open and Santa Fe itself is low density. It’s residential, pretty, populated by older people, and we are the cute big family for everybody else! There’s a real connection with nature all the time thanks to the desert combined with the Rocky Mountains. We have the best of everything — you can go skiing, there’s semi-arid desert and summers are good as we are about 1,800 metres above sea level.”
The great outdoors
Although she admits to working a lot, in her spare time Solange takes advantage of New Mexico’s great outdoors with her family.
She adds: “I work a lot as I run my own business but the good thing is I can mix it with my kids; I might need photos of a project and they end up in the images. We also go hiking or camping and try to have a connection with nature and ensure our kids enjoy it. We’ve learned to work and live together all of the time.”
As for friends, she now has a mixture of friends from different corners of the world.
“In the beginning we started befriending Argentines plus my sister lived in Los Alamos where there was a big community. But once the kids started school, we started to integrate soon enough. My friends are from Poland, the UK, the Netherlands. We also have a big community of Mexican friends too, though they are more ‘American’ than the rest of the Latino community, which makes sense. It’s a good mix.”
With regards to travel, the family used to try and cross the border but have started to tour around the US.
She says: “Travelling around the US is very welcoming, safe and fun. Our biggest road trip was driving to San Francisco, over the Rockies, though Colorado and Utah to get to California. The best part was not knowing what we would find; Utah’s landscape was amazing, for example. The kids enjoyed the big city and museums in San Francisco. But after a week we’re done in the big city — we get cranky and miss the open space and sky! There’s no noise, no traffic or trains where we live. We enjoy the isolation.”
Besides her friends and family, the landscape architect misses certain Argentine behaviours.
“ I used to miss food in the beginning. I still miss kissing people and still have a hard time with the American greeting, floating hugs, things like that. People are more polite and won’t share reality, or what they are thinking. We are more communicative in Argentina and that’s something I’m still learning every day here.”