Gina '99 and August Benzien '96 named CAPLA 'Alumni of the Year'

Feb. 20, 2024
Gina and August Benzien
2024 Alumni of the Year Award Recipients
February 22, 2024
Gina and August Benzien taking a selfie photo together.

The College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture is proud to acknowledge August and Gina Benzien as the 2023-2024 Alumni of the Year. 

The Benziens are among 15 alumni chosen from across the University of Arizona who will be honored during the Alumni of the Year Awards Ceremony on February 22. 

August Benzien's journey weaves the rebellious world of skateboarding into a distinguished career in landscape architecture and footwear design. Fate — and his attraction to skateboard-friendly Tucson — led him to the University of Arizona. However, a serious knee injury just before high school graduation shifted his focus to academics. Exploring landscape architecture led to a commitment to the discipline during his second year. His journey aligned with like-minded creatives, including Gina Garcia, now his wife.

Graduating in 1996, August's success in landscape architecture was punctuated by a unique opportunity — to be an amateur rider on an East Coast skate tour. This venture marked his entry into the skateboarding industry, where his innovative mindset, cultivated in landscape architecture, birthed the iconic DuFFs Gambler skate shoe.

August's transition to footwear design expanded his influence, as he contributed to renowned brands. He is now the Nike Sportswear senior creative director for men’s footwear design. His landscape architecture background remains a versatile toolkit for communicating design intent and bridging disciplines.

Gina's landscape design journey stems from Nogales, Arizona. Memories of gardening with her grandmother and mother laid the foundation for a love of landscape architecture. Discovering the field at the University of Arizona, Gina navigated challenges in a male-dominated space, graduating in 1999 with a bachelor’s in landscape architecture.

Her Tejido Group involvement provided early exposure to large-scale projects. Gina's professional career, starting at Wheat Scharf and Associates, evolved in 2004 with her founding of Benzien Design, which focuses on intimate spaces and client relationships. Specializing in residential design across Arizona, San Diego, and the Pacific Northwest, she developed a signature style characterized by a modern organic ambiance. This style often incorporates clean-lined hardscaping and structures, complemented by a mix of soft and accent plantings, creating movement, energy, and flow. She takes pride in assisting clients in seamlessly integrating indoor and outdoor spaces, placing unique vignettes at every turn for an enticing experience. 

She earned acclaim, notably for the “Fairy Garden” in Escondido, California that earned 'Garden of the Year' award from San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles in 2011.

August and Gina share a passion for design and a commitment to giving back through the Benzien Family Travel Scholarship, which supports the next generation of designers.

They reside with their three children in Portland, Oregon, where they embrace family life and a shared passion for design. Their journey is enriched by diversity and a commitment to landscape architecture.


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