Article: College and Business Will Never Be the Same

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE Article: College and Business Will Never Be the Same

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    This is what I’ve been preaching for the past year…evidence that I’m not crazy.


    College and Business Will Never Be the Same


    Oops…had the wrong link…

    Thomas J. Johnson

    I need all of the third-party, authoritative evidence I can get my hands on to prove I’m not crazy… Thanks for the link!

    Do you mean to say there is a way for me to cash-in on all of my Land8loung-ing? Can I become a future leader of short, witty, remarks?


    Someone mentioned on this blog that the business model of the A/E firms with “grab some work”, have upper management above and project managers and CAD jockeys below, somehow needs to be changed. This is a model I certainly have experienced many times. The problem is can it ever be changed? Why is it ALWAYS the PE at the top? Does municipal government trust in them more? Project driven work has always been non sustainable, whereas the CAD drafters and LAs are out the door when the work thins. Can it ever change? Cant we MAKE it change? I agree that our identity needs to reach out more to the layman. The so called ”green movement” is supposed to ramp up our identity. Has it? I remember a green movement in the 70s with a crying Indian on the side of a highway? I still dont feel a “shift” work wise. Does anybody?

    These are random thoughts…

    Jason T. Radice

    so now it will take 7 years to get a 4 year degree? Schools are already having hard time cramming required material into the 4 year model (which, like arch needs to go 3+2) Even with 5 years, it is not enough time (IMHO) to get a throrough education.


    That’s what I was thinking.


    I guess we could give up construction and planting design courses. Maybe even those time consuming design studios. Who needs to learn design anyway? It’s all done on computers now.


    I just don’t think it’s possible for universities to provide a student with everything they’ll need as a professional in 4 or 5 years.


    I think it’s really important for A/E students to be exposed and be trained on how the real world works.  I’ve been on several projects where the project manager thinks as long as the drawings are out on time and the project is under budget, he/she did a good job.  Project management isn’t as simple as that and neither is running a business.  Your typical project manager probably learned the ropes from the guy before him and that guy learned the ropes from another guy before him…I see a lot of management styles that are outdated and lack some of the progressive thinking that B-schools are teaching to their students.  Unless you have the drive to go to B-school or happens to be a naturally enlighten leader or happens to work for one, you will not be exposed to those ideas or how to run a business/how to manage a project/how to be a leader.  The vicious cycle will continue.


    Design is great and knowing the process and having all these layers of thinking is wonderful, but so much happens beyond the design.  Students get sucked into what I like to call “design fantasy-land” where everything is about the design and the process and….yada…yada…yada…and that’s wonderful and all, but schools should better prepare their students for what is out there.  Tell them straight up: “You will have to work with other people”, “You will have to deal with budgets”, “It’s not always about the landscape”, “You will have to work with people you don’t like”…the list goes on.  Design schools should do a better job at balancing theory with practice.    

    Jason T. Radice

    I think it needs to be treated kinda like med school. With the 3 +2 structure, the first 3 years are your exploratory studios and your “core” courses , the latter two are dedicated to specialties within the profession. Specialty advanced stusios and seminars that reflect those courses. Not all LAs need to know everything and be “diverse”. Our profession is too broad for that, one needs to specialize. Schools need to acknowlege that as well. Even the ASLA and CLARB need to understand that. This is especially true of grad schools for those with an LA undergrad. I know I’ve been on this rant before, but  I keep hearing it from other students and even those high up in the profession. The current education structure DOES NOT advance nor serve the profession as it should. Its well past time for an overhaul. I’m still thinking on pushing this issue forward and would like to hear any feed back. I’m trying to get a survey together that I will post here.


    If the drawings are completed on time, the project comes in under budget, the client paid the final invoice and a interesting/beautiful place was created, I say excellent job PM. Isn’t that enough to ask for?


    All I care about is creating beautiful landscapes, having employees that love their job and making a profit. Nothing else matters to me.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I have not worked in a big firm, but I have to wonder whether a lot of this feeling that you need more education from the get go is from the big firm experience. Perhaps it is that there is more pigeon holing or it is too convenient to delegate tasks to others with experience than to train or work with someone on something they have not done before.

    I am in “small ball” landscape architecture and a cross disciplined environment, so as usual, I have a different take. I am on Cape Cod where there is a great deal of regulation that basically forces “small ball” design firms. A big factor in that is a regional regulatory commission that has jurisdiction over any project of “regional impact”. One threshold is any building or combination of buildings on one site totalling over 10,000 SF of floor space. The price of a project goes up exponentially when it falls in their jurisdiction. One result is that anyone who can avoid crossing that threshold does so. Consequently, there is almost no work in the design disciplines for larger projects, so they all play “small ball”. If you want to live here and in these professions, you will be working in a small office covering a wide scope of services,or commuting a long way, or you won’t be working.

    I did not go to a prestigious school of landscape architecture or follow up with a MLA and, although skeptical at first, I found that I was very well prepared to go to work for someone. I certainly was not prepared to open up a landscape architecture office and declare myself principal. My belief going into it was that a BLA was going to do just that – make me a viable employee that could move forward through experience. My understanding was that a BLA is supposed to be the starting point and an internship was the next step to being functional. That would hopefully be followed by growth from experience and an option of an MLA if one chose to do that.

    Now it seems that more people want to get everything out of education alone and they want to cover every specialization as well. I think that is OK as an option by going on to grad school, but I don’t think the traditional route has to be or should be abandoned.

    I’ve lead a kind of double career in some ways. I’ve either worked full time in civil engineering offices while working part time for higher end design/build contractors (or in combination with freelancing more recently) or full time in design/build and subbing work for civils ever since I got my degree. A lot of the civil work was in larger commercial projects at one firm and a lot of conservation consultation/design in another. Both had me doing a little bit of everything since the size of the firms do not allow for full time work for specialists. Almost all of it was on the job training much more than being specifically trained in school. Big firms can put people in limited roles, small firms can not. Most of the work is not rocket science once you have that broad based education, but you need guidance and support as you do things that you have not done before.In smaller firms, no one is going to turn you loose on something without knowing that you already have the ability based on work that you’ve done in that office or they will check your work, guide you through it, and not need to do so much the next time something similar comes up. Basically, you get exposed to most of everything that goes on in the office in a relatively short amount of time and trained to do everything that you can handle effectively.

    Not everyone can afford a big ticket school or several years of any school. I definitely could not. Many people get jobs, have careers, and become principals with only a BLA. It would really bother me if it became a profession reserved only to children of the wealthy.

    Terry Smith

    This in my opinion is whay someone with a Bachelors in Landscape Architecture should strongly consider other dsiciplines like business (MBA) when pursuing an advanced degree. This is especially true when one considers the cost of education, and the fact that if you are a full time student, you are two to three years removed from accruing experience in ‘the real world’.

    mark foster

    Great points all.  I am in the “college is long enough, learn the rest in the world” crowd.  However, that doesn’t mean we can’t look at improvements to formal ed. 

    Jason’s 3+2 is intriguing.  I will say for myself, I would not have been able to make a decision about the next 2 after 3 in college, but…..interesting idea.  I remember taking the LARE fresh out of college and traveling to Missippi State Univ.  to take it (a long, long time ago).   They split the program choices between LA, and some form of design build degree part way through the program.  Maybe there are templates already out there which would be applicable to splits within LA?

    Great point Mandy.  I agree, not enough time in front of real clients/situations.  Drawings should never be considered the final product, but one product of many types of services.  Competent (sp) construction oversight is a huge issue with a lot of firms.

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