My eyes are watering and I can't breathe, so I'm taking a moment out to post this to recover from laughing so hard at this article in the Hartford Business Journal regarding how outstandingly well Landscape Architecture is doing, or so says the President-Elect of ASLA, Thomas Tavella. Since he will hold the highest position in our profession, I'm questioning the grasp of reality of this individual and his suitability for the position. I can understand and forgive a little exaggeration to play up the industry's strengths and promote one small aspect of the business, but to outright LIE about the state of the profession and not know, more like blatently ignore, the tearing asunder of our industry by the sour economy really casts doubt on what the industry and ASLA dues payers can expect as far as leadership and priorities. 


From the article:

By all rights, landscape architecture should be struggling.

As construction and related industries such as architecture and engineering suffer through reduced workloads that could last until 2014, landscape architecture should be down with the rest of them.

But the industry is holding its own, thanks to sustainability, says Thomas Tavella, landscape architect for Manchester design firm Fuss & O’Neill and newly-designated president of the industry’s national organization.


Talk about rose colored glasses. Read the article posted gets even better.

At least the author had the sense to talk with another LA who actually understands what is going on with the profession. The stark contradiction makes our president-elect look like a totally out of touch PR shill, not unlike the "our product is safe" people who seem to show up after an e-coli outbreak. Tavella also seems to think that the downturn has been partially caused by multidiscipline design firms taking LAs onboard to do in-house design, thus eliminating the need for third party consultants. That would be a shift in employment, Mr.Tavella, not a downturn involuntarily kicking 30% of its participants out like a bag of moldy tangerines. And that isn't happening nearly as much as he seems to think it is.


Hopefully, this article does not forebode another term of ineffective leadership by all but ignoring the dire economic issues in Landscape Architecture, as is the tradition of ASLA. "Hey, I've got a job, the profession MUST be fine!" Perhaps it can be chocked up to the "fine standards" of journalism that are held in THAT industry as of late...I hope that is the case. If not, perhaps MR. Tavella should step aside and let someone who knows what is going on take the helm in his stead.

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So apparently when the 'leaders' of the ASLA stick their heads in the sand, all you see are a bunch of asses.  You have got to be freakin kidding me.  I always knew ASLA was a self congratulatory organization but I had no idea they were outright frauds.  ASLA is ridiculous and this joker of a 'president' has only proved it even further.  Please, if you are serious about this profession, DON'T join this group of nitwits.  ASLA preys on students and academia to support their pie in the sky, rose-colored vision of the profession.  Any professional society that only requires a hefty check for one to become a 'full' member is only in it for the money.  If this is the view point of the president and the ASLA over all then we have lost all credibility as professionals.  PLEASE SOMEONE TACKLE THESE IDIOTS.

Express your approval or disapproval the old fashioned way - by choosing to be a member or not.

Doesn't really surprise me.....I voted with my feet (and wallet) a long time ago.

So, instead of looking at the ASLA as a group to promote the career path you are in, that you think needs some new guidance, as a resource, you look at it as evil and run away? Why not become active in your chapter or on the national level? It isn't hard, within a few years of graduating I sat on two different national commitees, and now am working with the New York chapter, helping increase activity both within the profession and with figuring out how to increase outreach to the general public.

There are times when voting with your wallet is comepletely appropriate- when you have no power to change things you dislike from the inside.  With ASLA, you have ALL the power if you just take the time to go do it.  Instead of "voting with your wallet", walking away is just that.


Walking away.

So we should continue to pony up money and volunteer our time (and pray that it will lead to a job) for an organization whose leader is completely ignorant of the state of the profession?  This Tavella is nothing more than a magazine seller. 

If you don't value things ASLA has done, like title/licensure acts in most states, then fine, don't be a member. Personally, I like supporting the group that has the power to lobby for me, and telling them about issues that matter to me as a professional.  In NYC recently the city Dept of Building has stopped accepting some LA stamps for things like decks. ASLA is meeting this month with DOB and Parks leaders to get the ball rolling on a fix.  If you don't think outreach and stewardship like that is valuable, that's your call. 

I'm just saying that while part of ASLA's mission is positive PR, it isn't the whole mission.  And both ignoring the other parts, and devaluing that part, is shortsighted.  Would you feel very confident about hiring someone whose professional president just said in an interview that the profession as a whole is struggling to find work, or would you think that you really could just do it yourself, since no one else sees their value?

Of course he put a hyper-positive spin on the state of the profession, don't be fooled into assuming that is what he actually thinks.

LEED and Sustainable sites has almost 0 overlap with RLA testing.  Sure LEED is important, but only important for someone who has already proven they are skilled in the things RLA testing tests.  Plus, LEED, realistically, is much more architecture focused right now.  If they pull a sustainable sites portion in more, that'll change the story SLIGHTLY, but last I checked, neither tests things like Grading and Site Engineering, which are what is important to getting insurance.

My profession walked away from me.  My state board outlawed licensure experience to take LARE if the the candidate works for a registered LA in design build--effectively restricting my rights as an employer.

Why would I support an organization that does not accept me as a full member?  

So... some folks want ASLA's national president to announce to the business world that firms are bare-boned, the professionals incapable of finding solutions to the contemporary issues that the readers of these articles are looking for?  Quite frankly work seems to be picking up, and many firms have retooled to compete with A/E, architecture, planning and engineering firms that have been capable of doing much of the work LAs traditionally have done.  The role of leadership is to lead, inspire and enhance the standing of a profession.  Is that wrong?

Yes - thats exactly what I would expect. You can't expect creative solutions if you are delusional about the problem - look at Greece, North Korea, the former USSR, the American housing bubble - it doesn't do anyone any good to lie.

The role of an effective leader is to identify obstacles and opportunities and help create an inspired roadmap toward overcoming / realization. Effective leaders meet people WHERE THEY ARE and walk them through a compelling vision for the future of the company, profession, etc. Their vision reflects understanding for the concerns of their members.

Instead what we are hearing is a false account or wishful thinking of where we are, no compelling vision that reflects the wants or needs of many in the profession. I think we are terribly disappointed with ASLA because it has so much potential to have meaningful impacts but instead seems obsessed with the superficial - RLA vs PLA for example - give me a break. Huge number of LAs are unemployed and they're spending your membership dollars arguing about titles! Title acts are fabulous but those battles are in large part won. Is that ALL they've got?!?

You're all over it. The timing of the PLA  thing really ticked me off.

This is not saying that ASLA does not do some good work; it is the organization that fought for and defends licensure that makes our profession an actual profession. And by all means, get involved with ASLA if you feel the need to support the only organization that supports us. I am actively involved, at both the state and national level. Such is what makes the tone of the article so galling. The continued public delusional facade that our profession is 'going strong' is irresponsible, at best, especially from one of its top representatives; even more so when the statements are debunked a few lines later by another LA. Where is the acceptance and discussion about the economy within ASLA or its publications? It is and has been a HUGE part of the publications of our allied professions for YEARS. And yet, silence, and sometimes, like in this article, denial of reality. Even the “statistics” of the quarterly surveys is very subjective at times. If the president-elect cannot parse his words to be positive as well as be truthful, perhaps more PR training is necessary before they can speak for the organization.


A more accurate statement would have been:


“Like all other professions in the AEC industry, Landscape Architecture has been hit hard by the recession and continues to have struggles in the current economic climate of the building industry. However, as the industry recovers and projects pick up, we feel we are in a great position for growth as more projects are placing an emphasis on “sustainability,” something that is inherent in the profession of Landscape Architecture. We’ve been “green” for over a century. Landscape architecture is a vast profession, with many diverse specialties, and we are making great strides in the public’s awareness of our profession via our unified marketing campaign and recent high profile halo projects like the High Line and the 9/11 memorial at Ground Zero.”


Honest, to the point, and still positive. A bonus; it would not have been refuted a few lines later by the second LA in the article plainly quoting our massive unemployment number. We have not fared better than any other profession in the downturn, and the argument can be made we have fared worse.     


Be proactive, be positive…but keep it real, keep it HONEST. You will be called on it. Such as with this article.


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