Born in Starkville, Mississippi, Walter Bone moved around a lot as a child. His father’s job took the family to faraway places like Southern California and Mexico City, where Walter discovered a curiosity and passion for different cultures. So, once he received his degree in landscape architecture from Mississippi State in 1988, he was ready to see the world.
Walter’s 30-year career has spanned two continents, where he’s designed everything from over-the-top theme parks and casinos to an entire city.
But Walter says his strong foundation aided his progression to bigger, more intricate projects.
“My first job was residential and small commercial, digging ditches, installing trees and installing lighting in Virginia Beach,” he recalls. “Spending six weeks out with the crews was a great learning experience. When doing much larger projects later, that experience was invaluable.”
Walter says he developed a strong interest in landscape design paired with construction early on.
“You draw something on paper and can visualize it, but on site, you become part of the process and can ensure the design integrity is maintained throughout the project,” he says.
(Left) Concept Plans for Six Flags in Dubai; (Right) Concept sketch for Hansel & Gretal
In 2007, Walter moved abroad, where he spent seven years in Hong Kong and in the nearby luxury gambling mecca of Macao. He managed the landscaping design and construction at Hong Kong Ocean Park—including a three story shark tank exhibit, “The Galaxy Macao” featuring the world’s largest rooftop wave pool—and the Sands Cotai Central, considered one of the most luxurious casinos in the world.
Sand Cotai Central Pool Area
“When working on the landscape, the arrival experience is so important,” says Walter. “You want a design based on the five senses … the sounds of birds chirping, the feel of a gentle breeze, the smells and tastes, colors, textures and contrasts. All these things help make fantasy a reality. People get lost in the design and become part of it.”
Sands Cotai Central
In 2013, Walter left Southeast Asia for an opportunity to work in the Middle East, where projects were booming in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Oman. He worked on a variety of theme parks and water parks for Dubai Parks and Resorts, including Legoland Dubai, Six Flags and Bollywood Parks, based on India’s film industry. He was also the lead landscape architect for The World of the Hunger Games inside the Lionsgate Zone at Motiongate Dubai.
The World of the Hunger Games in Dubai
In Dubai, he worked on Desert Rose, an ambitious $8 billion smart satellite city including homes, businesses, schools and parks. Walter was charged with designing
the 700-hectare agricultural belt and 1,000-hectare public parks as well as open spaces.
He then made his way back to North America, where in Toronto he became the lead landscape architect for the new Universal Studios Epic Universe theme park in Orlando. The project has recently broken ground in Orlando, and Walter is proud to have been a part of the early stages.
“No matter if you’re dealing with a large theme park or a small residential project, you want the guest or the homeowner to be immersed into the design,” says Walter.
"You want to take them to a different world"
In 2019, Walter got a call from home that brought him back to reality. His father had become ill, so he moved back to the south to be by his side. His father passed away that August.
“I’d been overseas for more than 12 years and only back once a year,” says Walter. “I knew it was time to be closer to home and to family.”
Walter’s current role is senior landscape architect at Jacksonville, Florida-based Haskell, where he is leading the LA efforts for both design and design-build projects across the United States. He’s also become an avid artist, working on watercolor ink and watercolor sketching on the side—a hobby he picked up while living in Dubai.
“Loving what you do does not feel like work but fulfills certain levels of personal satisfaction and achievement,” says Walter. “I have been fortunate to have been involved and worked closely with so many disciplines throughout my career.”