The global economic downturn has had an undeniably profound effect on the profession of landscape architecture. From the USA to Europe, Asia to Australia, we have all been affected, albeit to varying degrees of disaster. Whilst some countries are still floundering in the aftermath, the UK is currently experiencing a somewhat unexpected predicament: a surging market and not enough landscape architects to meet the demand!
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So, how exactly did this happen and what does it mean for landscape architects like you and me?
One man in the know is Carl Thomas, founding director of UK-based Locri Recruitment. With prior experience as a landscape architect and over eighteen years advising and recruiting landscape architects and urban designers across the UK, Europe, the Gulf region and Asia, Carl has an unrivalled view of our profession. I met with him to find out more.
Hi Carl, thanks for joining me today to answer a few questions for Land8. Perhaps you could begin by giving us a brief outline of how the financial crisis affected landscape architects in the UK?
CARL: Landscape architects have had a very tough time over the last five years. Salaries plummeted and stagnated; working weeks were cut; workloads fell through the floor; many practices were close to folding and a whole generation of young designers were left adrift. It’s been a truly shocking time to be a landscape architect in the UK.
How has this changed more recently and what’s the situation like now?
CARL: In early 2013 confidence started to grow, and there were tentative signs of consolidating confidence. By early 2014 confidence was once again established and many practices were busy building and developing their teams again. It is now summer 2014 and we are at near capacity. The UK is showing signs of a shortage of landscape architects.
What do you think the reasons are for this mismatch in workforce supply and demand?
CARL: The strong employer platform developed ten to fifteen years ago remains in place, especially in London. There are still a high number of UK and international studios with strong bases in London (Martha Schwartz, Gillespies, Vogt, Gensler etc). This employer platform has been further developed by some very good new start-ups (Outerspace, Ares, Turkington Martin etc). There is a huge international workload in London; this city services a range of clients in mainland Europe, the Gulf and Africa. In addition to this there’s been strong regional growth in the UK built around the residential and renewable energy sectors. And finally, during the recession some people left the profession and the number of UK graduates fell year-on-year, leaving a void in entry-level landscape architects.
So the tables have turned! It sounds like the UK market is now an employees market?
Absolutely! It’s a good time to be a landscape architect in the UK. Salaries are rising, workloads are excellent and there is a strong confidence that this will continue for the foreseeable future.
What advice would you give to landscape architects in the face of these new market conditions?
Now is definitely the time to capitalise on this market position. How you capitalise on these conditions depends on what your primary motives are:
If you’re looking for a salary increase you should review your recent salary increases, review your increasing levels of responsibility and talk to friends and ex-colleagues at other practices about their pay structures and salaries. Get a clear idea of what you think your salary should be and then put a strong case for an improvement to your current employer.
If you’re looking for a new position, make sure you understand your motive for making a move. Try to be clear in your mind about what you are looking to do next. Then do your research; talk to as many people as possible, talk to an experienced and trusted recruiter, make sure you get a full picture of the studio and workload. And yes, negotiate hard on salary.
Maybe it’s a lifestyle change you’re after. Long – often unpaid – working hours have become the norm at many studios. But not everyone wants to work long hours and you shouldn’t presume that this is the norm everywhere. Many companies are responsible employers and only expect overtime occasionally, and some consultancies pay overtime or offer time in lieu. Again, use your network or a trusted recruiter to fully understand a studio’s working culture.
In summary, you should try to make sure your employer is a good fit for you. If you are a good fit, they will want to work hard to keep you, give you good levels of responsibility and remunerate you accordingly.
Do you have any advice for those considering a move to the UK?
Your ability to move to the UK is affected by your visa status. If you have a visa then the process is quite simple; look at job boards, recruitment sites and the Landscape Institute job board.
If you need a visa then typically you will only be supported by the larger international studios, so focus your search on these. The process is a little time consuming but it usually has a positive outcome, especially for more senior positions. Most jobs that suit an international folio are based in London, but do your research; there are many other areas with a good concentration of international designers – Bristol, Bath, Birmingham and the West Midlands, Manchester and the North West and also Scotland.
If you would like to discuss any of the points in this article further, you can contact Carl at email@example.com
Locri also offers a free CV / portfolio clinic.
Lead image via The View from the ShardPublished in