December 27, 2010 at 12:20 am #166155Kirsten SpitznerParticipant
Hello fellow Landscape Architecture friends!
I have been reading through many posts and am very impressed by the quality of material posted here on this site by everyone. I really hope I can find some help here.
I will be submitting my application to the University of Illinois this coming November for admittance into their BLA program. I am currently enrolled at Parkland College’s Horticulture, Landscape Design and Construction program which is located in Champaign IL, one of the two towns the UI is located in. After much thought I have decided that a two year degree will not get me where I want to go with my career and I am very positive I want to pursue a BLA. I see many posts where people are rather negative about going into the profession, but I am sure this is what I want to do. I’ve had experience with community garden clubs, extra college programs such as Illinois’ H.O.P.E. program and the national PLANET competition. I also worked for a year at our college’s greenhouse and land lab. These are steering me sharply away from retail center work, residential small scale design and installation work, etc.
What I am wanting advice on from everyone, would be in your opinion, what would make me stand out as a potential student? I really want to have an excellent application. As I understand, the university doesn’t take many students every year and I would really like to be one of those who is admitted. What would a good portfolio look like for someone coming into a program? What would be expected? I am 32, and have some life experience which I am hoping helps, but I know that isn’t everything.
I’ve already had an autocad class that I did well in, and I’ve kept my projects from that class which included my final project- an eight layer scale plan of a landscaped property with some construction detail (although very basic), utilities, plantings, views from house, etc. I’ve also had drawing classes, as well as several plant ID classes and my experience working for the greenhouse and land lab at the college. I’m really looking to do bigger scale projects when I get out of school altogether, such as designing parks, healing gardens, and more ecologically friendly mixed residential/retail areas.
Again, any tips on building a great portfolio or just how to get my foot in the door at the university would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you very much,
Kirsten SpitznerDecember 27, 2010 at 1:36 am #166161Thomas J. JohnsonParticipant
Stop by the department and speak to the professors. Tell them exactly what you wrote above. Ask them what they are looking for. Show them the work you have compiled and ask them how it could be approved upon. If they know who you are and that you’re passionate and driven they will be more likely to admit you to the program.
I didn’t get into Colorado State when I first submitted my application. I didn’t have any art/drawing experience to speak of but I knew in my heart it’s what I was meant to do. So I polished-up my portfolio over the summer and went to class on the first day, waiting outside until class got out. I approached the professor after class, told him I didn’t get in but that I’d been working on my skills and that I really wanted to be a part of his program. He graciously gave me a shot and for that I’m forever grateful. It was a wonderful, challenging experience and it made my life much richer. I learned how to think, not just about Landscape Architecture but about any design challenge.
So that would be my advice. Stop by, introduce yourself. If you don’t get in, don’t take no for an answer, if it’s what you really want to do.
Also, be very aware that things are not good in the profession right now and most likely will not be for a long time. Don’t rack up a bunch of student loans because there’s a good chance you won’t get a job right out of school. Compounded interest is no fun. Being a dreamer is a good quality in a Landscape Architect but if you’re just going into school now, you also need to conduct a serious reality check. Understand what you’re getting into. You won’t be designing parks, healing gardens or mixed-use developments after school. You’ll be drafting somebody else’s plans (it’s a good way to learn), on a computer, at a desk, for 10-12+ hours a day, making just enough money to pay for food, an apartment and your student loans. You won’t be designing anything to speak of for a long, long time (no, you won’t have free time to do side projects)… that is the reality of the profession for 99% of people, a lot of work for little pay. Is that where you want to be at 36? 40? 50? If not, get into something else… I don’t mean to be a drag but that is reality. You will work hard and you’ll be broke.December 27, 2010 at 6:13 pm #166160
Every school is a little different. The school I went to went mostly on GPA since you applied after a year of school. So that does not help you much.
I agree with Thomas that you should just ask the professors what they are looking for. I know that what you had stated above would be great to hear if I were admitting students.
As for a portfolio they are not looking for an established landscape designer they are looking for someone that can learn what they are going to be teaching. I was told by my professor in school that they are looking for creative individuals that can understand the technical side of the profession. It is a mix of Art and Science and as a professional working at a residential design firm and in a commercial design office you will need to grasp both. So provide examples that show you can learn these concepts. Writing is another thing that people tend to forget about that is important.December 27, 2010 at 7:05 pm #166159Noah MabryParticipant
First of all I’d ignore some of the negitivity you may have encountered here. With the recent economic situation a lot of us have had extra time to complain about not having work/getting laid off/not finding a job. If you really want to pursue a BLA go for it! It is extremely challanging and rewarding if it’s where your passions lie.
I’d agree with whats been said so far about the portfolio. Set up an appointment to visit the school. Usually there are staff dedicated to showing you around and answering general questions and this would be a great opportunity to discuss what your portfolio should show with the faculty. Usually they are much less worried with seeing landscape designs or cad drawings, and would rather see that you have some sense of artistic composition and ability to think. I don’t know about UI’s program, but at Ohio State we had to take an intro studio along with the architecture students before being admitted to the program, and most of our portfolio was based on that.
One other thought is that if you already have a bachelors degree in anything at all, you may want to consider going for an MLA. Or if you are close enough to finish off some sort of BA do that then look into an MLA. I only say this because a lot of us that got our BLA are finding that we’ll probably need an MLA to do what we really want, and this would be extremely advantageous for you once it’s time to look for employment.December 28, 2010 at 8:34 pm #166158December 29, 2010 at 2:50 pm #166157Kirsten SpitznerParticipant
Thank you very much Colter, I am planning on contacting their department as soon as classes start back up this spring semester to make sure I’m taking the right classes. I’ve been assuming that Quantitative reasoning is calculus, and I’m wanting to get everything I can out of the way before I start in at the UI.December 29, 2010 at 3:51 pm #166156Noah MabryParticipant
I understand your point and agree. It’s just that it seems like right now a lot of firms that are posting for entry level jobs are giving a lot of preference to MLAs. I’ve also heard directly and indirectly from employers that anything above cad/graphics robo work is reserved for advanced degree holders.
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