5 Landscape Architecture Things

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums EDUCATION 5 Landscape Architecture Things

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    Edward Flaherty

    …I wish they had taught me at university. Maybe you can suggest others?

    1.All the places where underground utilities are accessed through the landscape surface with requirements and flexibility for placement.

    2.The line items most likely to be big profit items for contractors in unit price landscape construction contracts.

    3.How to write measurement and payment clauses for landscape construction contracts.

    4.Financial positioning and leveraging variables for landscape development in the domains of real estate and architecture.

    5.Advancement pros, cons and how-tos for landscape architecture careers in private sector versus government.


    Maybe..….you “should” have learned these “issues” at some point during your career…not NOW, towards the end of a 40 plus year LA career???

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I wish they had more emphasis on:

    1. the diversity of opportunities there are to apply the knowledge, skills, and abilities one acquires with the education.

    2. that strengths in some areas can overcome weakness in others.

    3. that less is sometimes more. (rather than giving the impression that more deliverables, more management, higher end graphics, …. always give an advantage)

    Edward Flaherty

    I’d like to add the following as context to my original post.

    In the 50+ years I have been happily involved in landscape architecture education and landscape architecture practice across the USA and around the world, I have seen that our profession is very heavily design oriented–if I may share my opinion–even lopsided with design often pushed to impractical excess.

    Impractical? Not buildable technically. Not maintainable for longer than a year. Not affordable for the available budget.

    In the last decades I have seen this design excess expand–if I may again share my opinion–such that any design idea is ‘automatically’ good and not questioned regarding practicality.

    The five items listed in my first post are items fairly simple to summarily teach and go a long way toward giving any design defensible gravitas.

    Leslie B Wagle

    “…any design idea is ‘automatically’ good and not questioned regarding practicality.”

    Is what you cite more a characteristic of high budget top visibility (sort of corporate image etc.) type work versus mid-range type? Or committees doing the approvals and waving something on to the next stage of details, not seasoned real estate and construction-savy type clients?

    This may not be the place to attach a related concern of my own but here goes: the growing assumption that since we now have great 3D and rendering software…that a great-looking rendering proves the viability of a design. I’ve seen some that almost hurt when I try and imagine walking through them (huge expanses of unrelieved pavement in very hot environments etc.) and almost feel sorry for users, therefore the clients who get amazed by the visualizations and have trouble grasping how they will play out in reality. That in turn pulls designers themselves in the direction of “effects” over practicality.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    “…any design idea is ‘automatically’ good and not questioned regarding practicality.”

    My best professor used to say “so what” when someone presented a stunning visual plan with the intent on getting one to explain “why”. He was the last “old school” professor at the university that I went to. I got the most out of him because he “beat into me” the need to have a reason for everything. I found that was missing from some of the other professors who were happy to marvel and drape praise over something that looked exciting.

    It did not stifle creativity or kill imaginative aesthetics because those do not fight a REASON to do something. One of the main structures of the design process that he espoused was that everything is an ACTIVITY (sleeping, meditating, parking, walking, viewing the ocean, …), that a certain EXPERIENCE should be sought for each ACTIVITY (these could be different for the same activity depending on the users), and that certain physical REQUIREMENTS are necessary to achieve the desired Experience for that ACTIVITY.

    I was very concerned, as an older student, that this way of thinking was being overtaken by a desire to make students happy by letting them do what anything to make impressive looking projects. I began to feel like projects that looked good for marketing the program was getting in the way of preparing students to do well in the profession.

    Less than half of the students from my class went into the profession. Only three of us remain in it.


    IMO….”NO, any design idea is NOT automatically good and not questioned regarding practicality”.

    My thinking here is that our Landscape Architecture Professors and the many Landscape Architects (senior to us) throughout out design careers…help us determine “good design from poor design”…there is a difference! Of course “good design” has its’ grey areas, because, there are very talented Landscape Architects and many who are still learning.
    IMO, there is nothing “automatic” about any type of design.

    Yes, every design must have a “purpose”, but, I have always had a philosophy that every design project must be “both creative, well designed as well as have strong graphic presentation”, that you can’t have one without the other”.

    I have seen some well designed projects where the drawings were just very poorly drawn. And, I have seen exceptional presentation projects, 2D and 3D, where the graphic presentations were terrible! That’s where I think too many LAs drop the ball.

    Once you have created a well designed project…then, it needs to become a strong black and white or color presentation.

    Tim Daugherty

    Hi Edward. I’m increasingly convinced that University Degrees, including Landscape Architecture, don’t need to become trade schools. Yes, there is some aspects of professional craftsmanship and design knowledge involved in our education, but how deep into the technical weeds do we really need to get? Can’t a lot of these things be taught in internships and entry level positions?


    Lets be real. Employers require degrees because they’re lazy. It’s a fast way to weed people out. I know tons of people that graduate with no billable skills. If they learned anything practical it was from internships. Working for free would be much efficient than paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for a worthless degree


    OK, yeah, let’s “get real”. Earning a degree in Landscape Architecture is only intended to give students the basics that you NEED before you get out into the real World. I agree, you really LEARN by working @ an LA Firm (when you surround yourself with very talented and experienced Landscape Architects)…that’s what I did for the first (15) of my LA Career…and it paid off, big time too. With all the experience I picked up during those 15 years…I was able to establish my own Freelance LA Practice.

    And, as far as the cost of a University Degree…I served America for (4) years of my LIFE in the U.S. Navy, partially, so I could earn G.I. College Education Assistance. I graduated with ZERO debts (and I received zero financial assistance from parents either). Too many students these days are wanting or expecting a FREE College education…IMO, taxpayers do not owe any student a FREE University education; Anything worth having is worth working for.

    And, yes, there are LA Graduates who earn a degree, who IMO, never should have. I’ve seen some LA Graduate’s Portfolios that are pretty bad…don’t see much “potential”. I even had one of my LA Professors tell me in “private”…that he believed that about 50% of my fellow LA Graduates…just will never become “successful Landscape Architects”. And, now, I think he was probably right. And, I recall that my Junior LA Class had a total of 60 students…but, my Senior Class had only 30 Students (that’s because, 30 of those LA students couldn’t cut it)…the changed their majors. Not everyone is cut out to be a Landscape Architect, no matter how badly they want it.

    I have no regrets of having put in 15 years designing for 2 different LA Firms…so that I could LEARN the how to design in the real World. You can’t expect to spend just 4 or 5 years and become a competent, talented and creative LA….it takes many years…you have to be willing to put in the hard work! Which, really, is true with every profession. I don’t think it’s “employers” who are lazy, it’s students and employees if anyone is.

    I could have easily have retired 5 years ago…but, I have chosen to continue designing…..even now @ Age 70. And, until it stops being fun, I’ll just keep designing.

    J. Robert (Bob) Wainner

    J. Nielsen

    There is a lot to unpack here and the only way to is to start at the beginning. For context, understand that I have come into this field after retiring from a career in the Military. So while I just graduated from an accredited design school, I am not some kid living in my parents basement. More on that later as it regards to the GI Bill.

    This The list that started this off is in part covered by some of the Professional Practice, perhaps not the level of detail that you you might hope, but the introduction is there. While it is an introduction I believe that the emphasis is a little too far over the heads of most students. As an example, The last assignment for my Pro Practice class was drafting a proposal to a city for a park, acting as a principal. As all you well know, a proposal is a fairly complicated document, and not something that is going to be handed to an entry level designer. It is one thing to understand the concept, but another thing entirely to spend half a term building.

    Other things that were pointed out, at my school, the emphasis on the diversity of scale seemed to be a emphasized. This idea lends itself to be adapted to the diversity in the field, which was talked about repeatedly. The capstone projects were expected to demonstrate a students ability to work at a variety of scales on the same project, while also encouraging students to work at the overall scale that interested them. In my case, I had a 2 acre historic cemetery that was rather detail heavy and site focused, but nested well into the local context. Another student took on the waterfront in Green Bay, WI that was more at the planning scale and required less site details because of the immense scope.

    While a university education is not supposed to be trade school, a professional degree program unfortunately is. much of the time spent in a 5 year program is learning the skills required to be able to work in an office, with much of the emphasis on digital media and being able to articulate ideas and concepts visually, verbally and written. On top of the practical application of graphics and presentation, landscape theory is also pushed. so at the end of it all, there is a lot of information crammed into a short five years. While I have been given a lot of information, I am not sure what to do with all of it, yet. I understand that information will eventually become knowledge as I practice and this is true for any field.

    Practicality versus Creative Development – My first couple studios I was found to have a propencity to wards seeing the problems on a site and offering a realistic solution. This school’s curve is to have the students create ridiculous concepts early to foster creativity and refine that over time towards more practical solutions by the time of the capstone. One of my instructors commented on it and this stuck. She noted that while my approach solution was completely doable that I would be doing this kind of soul-crushing work for the rest of my career and that it was OK to “Go nuts” in design school and create things that have no possibility of ever being built. I did the opposite of the curve in that I went from practical to ridiculous, and in doing so was able at the end to present a ridiculous idea in a practical manner. So much so that my solution is being implemented on the site that I studied.

    Lastly, I have to call out some inaccuracies of what has been stated. Robert, there have been a lot of changes in the GI Bill in century that has past since you were in school. In today’s reality, the GI Bill covers three years of university education, with the idea that MOS training and 4 years of service waives the freshman year. An accredited Architecture School professional degree takes 5 years to complete and is on a prescribed schedule, meaning that there is no real “freshman” year. Three years is covered, but not the last two. Most Veterans cannot afford the extra two years, therefore choosing not to pursue the field. The only reason I was able to complete my program was because I qualified for vocational rehabilitation, without which I could not have afforded to return to school despite the fact that I draw a decent retirement and disability income from my service. This is why you are seeing fewer Veterans in the design fields.

    Sorry for the book, but there was lot to unpack here.

    J. Nielsen

    This go pushed to page three.


    Alexandru Gheorghe

    Wouldn’t it be more usefull to share you extensive experience than just picking on what others say?

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