Professional Services

We design places that range from small and intimate to large and far-flung. Our company is titled “environmental design” because we deal with whole environments – not just the superficial elements. With each project, we strive to respect the character of the ecosystems that make up the properties we design. An example of this is a horse farm we were site-planning in which we felt the need to preserve existing wetlands rather than turn them into additional pastureland. After explaining our position to the client, they agreed, and the resulting lands retained their natural beauty as well as fulfilled the client’s needs.

We respect the natural systems of the land and recommend sensitive preservation and enhancement of those systems. On horse farms, for example, terracing helps maintain the soil and prevent erosion. So, when we find land that has been graded down and the terraces removed, we restore them. This allows for proper drainage. Where practical, we propose numerous collection points for storm water rather than one large hole that spoils the visual character of the site.

These are examples of how we work. Our team works well in terms of varied disciplines because we listen to both clients and each other before deciding on a response. This allows us to give sufficient thought to the project before presenting our solutions, so that the purposes and needs of the project are met.


Environmental Analysis
Feasibility Studies
Wetlands Mitigation


Master Planning
Site Planning and Low Impact Development Plans
Community and Neighborhood Planning
Campus Planning
Commercial and Institutional Design
Zoning and Rezoning Submittals
Urban and Rural Space Planning

Landscape Architecture:

Parks and Recreation
Streetscape Design
Tree Ordinance conformance Plans
Bio-retention for Stormwater
Plan Illustration
Garden Design
Horse Farm Planning
Pedestrian and Bicycle Path plans

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Design Philosophy

The profession and practice of Landscape Architecture is a blend of science and art – providing solutions that help people use and enjoy the created world more fully. Every environmental design solution involves the composition of scenery and the arrangement of it in a place.

Every composition introduces something unique, either to the place or to the situation. There is not one unique solution to every place or situation, but every place is unique in its own way. Every design for a landscape should respond to what is special about that place. Just as every child is created uniquely to himself or herself, so should every place be a reflection of its own characteristics and geography.

At Owens Environmental Design, we believe that good environmental design provides varied enjoyments of a place – different experiences that are built on the varied elements of the place – and should create an overall experience that expresses an interesting but subtle whole. Every part of a landscape should contribute to what it becomes in the design process – what is above, below and on the land make up the design elements.

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About Owens Environmental Design

Many years ago, the renowned English actor, Sir Charles Laughton, was preparing to speak to an audience at the University of North Carolina. As he was gathering his thoughts prior to the talk, he stepped into a courtyard garden that was filled with jonquils in full bloom. Responding to the beauty of that time and place, all of his emotions became focused in such a way that he was overwhelmed with tears. Such is the effect that the assembling beauty of nature can have on our hearts.

With our work, we are called to remember that what we do can speak to the heart at different times in different ways. The design of each place has a purpose specific to that place. But for each person in each place, the experience will be unique.

Owens Environmental Design was originally formed in 1991 as Richard E. Owens Associates, to serve private and public client groups through an environmental approach to Landscape Architecture. Our work reflects the inspirational union of art and science that defines the profession today.
We invite you to explore our portfolio and then contact us. We would love to assist with your next project.

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About Richard Owens, ASLA

During his early years, Richard Owens was influenced and inspired by art, science and nature – passions that led to his being called to the profession of Landscape Architecture. Many generations of his family have been engaged in the professional pursuit of agriculture – leading Richard to a reverence and respect for the land. During childhood, he enjoyed the study of fine art and drawing images of places and structures with school friends.

In the afternoons, after-school, he spent time running with his dog into the endless woods behind the family home in Dahlonega, Georgia. During high school, he was captivated by the scenery of the Tennessee River Gorge north of Chattanooga, and the barge traffic that sliced through the river.

His passion for urban places was stirred by time spent in the cities of both Europe and the United States. Prior to establishing Owens Environmental Design, Richard worked with other leading design offices in Atlanta and contributed to exciting projects that included a Master Plan for Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta; the Galleria in Atlanta; the Headquarters for the Georgia Farm Bureau in Macon; and the  Carter Presidential Center in Atlanta.

Richard’s personal passions outside the office include hiking, canoeing, golf, local youth sports programs, church youth missions as well as teaching and speaking before groups in his church and the community.

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Richard Owens Making Home for Chestatee River Diving Bell

A recent project that was an interesting challenge for us was to design a plaza for the Dahlonega Diving Bell. Dating back to the post-Civil War era, the iron bell was lowered into the Chestatee River so that prospectors could scour the river bottom for gold.

Working on the same principle that a glass thrust upside down into a bucket will trap the air inside, the 17-foot bell would be hauled out by boat and lowered. Men would crawl through the hatch at the top of the bell into a small airlock. Securing the top hatch, the prospectors opened the bottom hatch that allowed them to walk on the riverbed and, it was hoped, pick up nuggets.

The bell was originally used along the Mississippi River. It was shipped to Dahlonega by an entrepreneur with the euphonious name of Philologus Loud.

“But it wasn’t in the river long – it sank in the 1870s. They say his son sabotaged the boat to end what he thought was a wasteful use of the family fortune,” Owens said.

Such bells were not uncommon in the U.S. port cities such as New Orleans and Savannah, but as the country moved into the 20th century, they became outmoded. The last ones disappeared in the scrap metal drives of World War II. Owens said the Dahlonega bell may be the only one left.

Owens’ charge from the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission was to design a suitable outdoor space in Dahlonega’s Hancock Park near City Hall. It will sit under a canopy that has gables that allow visitors to see the whole bell as they walk up to it.

“I wanted the design to reflect the bell’s design and use,” Owens said. “Plantings around the bell will reflect native plants of the river. The plaza itself resembles the bed of the river.”

When he begins to design, Owens said he knows where he is headed when he starts. But at some point, the design begins to tell him what it needs.

“It’s like writing characters in a book,” he said. “At some point, they take charge of their actions and tell the author. And when we get it right, we bring joy and beauty into people’s lives.”

Taken from an interview with Hatcher Hurd of the North Fulton Herald

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