Take a look around you. If you are on Hilton Head reading this, just glance to your left and right. Mark Baker probably designed that.
See that development over there? Mark Baker probably did that too. Oh, you live in Hampton Lake? Mark Baker. Your daughter plays soccer at Florida State University’s intramural fields? Mark Baker. You get drinks on the weekend at any of the Marriots here on island? Mark Baker. He is one of the most sought-after land developers in the southeast. And South America. And the Caribbean. And, boy, is he good at it.
“I grew up in South Georgia where we were always outback boating and camping and canoeing and hiking on the Sewanee River and the Okefenokee Swamp. It was a really wonderful sort of outdoor experience. I studied art all through high school. And went to the University of Georgia to study landscape architecture and just fell in love with the career, which really gave me the opportunity to connect my love of art with my love of the outdoors. It’s really architecture of the land,” he said.
He speaks of his fondness for the outdoors and how that shapes the way he works today. When you appreciate your surroundings, it is easy to enhance them.
All it takes is a visit to his firm’s website to get a broader understand of what it is that they do. Wood+Partners specializes in not just creating structures that go on the land, but also enrich the land. Using the earth as a canvas, Baker and his firm cultivate the best that can come from a partnership between man and nature. Understanding that they serve as a liaison between the two, they work to achieve harmony with a functional outcome.
After being recruited onto the island to work as a residential landscape architect in 1977, Baker saw potential in the land. “You can imagine what Hilton Head was like back then. It didn’t have nearly as much development as it does today, and it had a lot of maritime forests. I was really attracted to the natural environment, much like I was in South Georgia. It had the same kind of feel,” he said.
This innate attraction to the scenery makes Baker a perfect candidate to tend the land. He understands what it is capable of. Ranging from public to private sectors, Baker’s high-profile projects have brought vibrancy and life to this area for the past twenty-plus years. He and his wife, Betsy, grew a family here on the island, raising their children on the same grounds he’s responsible for building up. So you know he’s going to do the best he can to ensure that his kids get the best possible life on this eleven-mile stretch.
“I’m going forward and trying to stay connected to our community, advocating for good things, helping the island continue to grow and prosper,” he said. Baker recently came on board as the chairman of a local non-profit. Experience Green works towards educating communities on the importance of sustainability and how working together towards a common goal benefits everyone, from the land that yields the crops to the people who eat its fruits.
Baker gets it. He understands that without nature, we cannot nurture. His work with Wood+Partners, as well as Experience Green, provide places of community gathering, education and enlightenment, as well as economic growth. All these things combined make this land and our community a more united place.
Photo by Arno Dimmling