ASLA needs to market us!

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    Claudia Chalfa

    I think the ASLA should approach a marketing company and hire them to devise a marketing strategy for our profession. Individual firms and LA’s could also contribute towards the expense of this: I personally would be willing to send in a little bit of money towards such a venture, and I am just a student about to graduate, with no job as of yet. A tv commercial, among other things, could help educate the public about what we do and why we are such a vital component of the economy and the country’s future.

    Does anyone else agree?

    Jay Smith

    I agree with you that the public needs to be educated. My only concern is that with a new awareness and understanding would come a new and large generation of Landscape Architect graduates competing for jobs in what is already a small market. If this type of marketing could result in a larger and more abundant role for L.A.’s, resulting in the creation of more jobs to be filled, then I’m all for it.

    Claudia Chalfa

    I was thinking of a campaign for educating the public about what we do – hopefully it would increase demand for us in areas other than residential design, which is unfortunately what most people think is all that we do. If such a campaign worked, we might need more graduates…I still think this profession is one that will continue to grow, after this recession ends.


    I think this “awareness” may happen on it’s own, though I think Landscape Architecture profession may be in need of a overhaul with regard to the type of work we pursue and project roles. Ultimately, this probably hinges on the type and quality of education and the direction of those at the forefront of the profession currently. In my opinion, many programs teach to the tenets of modernism, which I believe, generally may have degraded the value of landscape architectural work to something along the line of “emergent public art,” but I realize this is a huge blanket statement.

    i think the solution to better public awareness, salary, appreciatiion, whatever is in our ability as professionals to better overlap with related professions and take lead roles on high profile projects. First, though, I think many of us could step back and take a deeper look at what it is we offer.

    A few primetime placements may not necessarily hurt, but I’m not sure that’s the kind of audience we’re looking to attract.

    Robert Haught

    Another way the ASLA could help is to lobby states to enforce the practice acts. Almost every zoning code i see see says” plans are to be sealed by a landscape architect or engineer of record” . In most communities a engineer and/or architect can sign landscape plans.

    I realize that most practice acts had to be “watered down” to get enacted, but the ASLA could start trying to strengthen these rules and thus create a greater need for landscape architects.

    Robert Haught

    i agree with that, but as soon as development picks back they will not hire LA’s if they can just use the PE of record.

    Tim Marten

    That is a strong proposition but if we step back and look at the perspective and context, many of these acts were fought tooth and nail in some states by architects and engineers. I think the political stamina and lobbying that it would take to sustain a campaign to strengthen practice acts or upgrade title acts would and could benefit us all in the long run isn’t as easy as we would first judge.

    Chelsea Schneider

    I would expand the scope of outreach to include allied professions. I work in an engineering firm and even my day-to-day colleages are surprised that I can and do design and stamp grading plans. It’s usually not malice, just ignorance.

    Adam E. Anderson

    Why do we need the ASLA to handle this? Shouldn’t we be the voice and champions of our own profession? I agree that ASLA should play a part in promoting the profession. But the fact is that the role of Landscape Architecture is generally misunderstood, not only by the public, but by developers and even architects.

    It seems Landscape Architects often have difficulties defining a role. If you ask twenty different LA’s what it means to be one their likely all going to tell you a different perspective. I don’t think is necessarily a negative, I think it’s inherent with Landscape Architecture, we are a spectrum of disciplines, and that is hard to define.

    Our work is also at times less imposing. One might be admiring a piece of architecture, all the while standing in a landscape. The space feels comfortable, but the architecture is photographed and remembered.

    How do resolve this? We would need to teach the public how to listen and understand the landscape. What it means to be “in the landscape”, how it effects the world around us, psychologically, ecologically. And this is the area that is lacking. We’ve seen Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry documentaries, where are the Hargrave’s and Dan Kiley’s? Architects such as Zaha Hadid immerse themselves in all facets of design including fashion, graphic and industrial design, while in my opinion LA’s generally limit their reach, and thus exposure to pop culture which architecture is clearly apart.

    Is there a sexy defect factor? I don’t mean to diss the ASLA, but I recently saw a video they had up on their site discussing residential landscape architecture, and the corkiness of the video was embarrassing and sent a wrong message IMHO.

    I started my blog Design Under Sky as an attempt to add exposure to uncovered elements of the profession. But for every one Design Under Sky their are fifty architecture blogs, not that we’re competing, but where are we at?


    Awareness and understanding would lead to more students and more LA’s. This isn’t a bad thing. It would inevitably lead to greater competition, which creates stronger education and production of greater LA’s. Public awareness and understanding leads to a vast increase in how our profession is utilized in preservation, ecological restoration, urbanism, planning, and spatial design. Nothing but good can come from it.

    Design Under Sky

    Claudia Chalfa

    I agree with you, Adam. And I agree with most of the comments here. I think the ASLA would be most suited at this time, as our professional organization, to promoting the profession. A marketing and advertising agency would probably be able to figure out who our best target audience is, and how to communicate the profession to them. I still think, however, that a tv commercial would be a simple way to get the message across to a large number of people, quickly. It could just give a brief cross-section of our profession and all the many different aspects of landscape, urban design, planning and other sub-categories we deal with. I am tired of constantly explaining to everyone what it is that we do. Maybe it would inspire more people to climb on board with better design of streets, neighborhoods, and cities too. I’d rather see a commercial about that than have Billy Mays yelling at me about some new cleaning product. And besides, corn syrup has a commercial, why can’t we?

    Claudia Chalfa

    By the way, I also have a blog.


    You raise a very good point, as you are the future of the profession. What have you done to market your self to the profession or your community? Does everyone that you come in contact with know what you do, and why it is so important that you succeed? I am convinced that the reason that there are so little opportunity out there is because we wait for it to come to us. Think outside the box, challenge a professional to hire you on commission, work part time, volunteer at a city. Do what Mia Ling did, win a competition make a name for your self. Do what I do, in situations like yours. If the ride does not come start walking.

    Claudia Chalfa

    My goal here is to educate the general public so that when a project comes into someone’s head…a new development, a new road, whatever…that our profession will join the list of people who are consulted to develop such projects. AT this time the first people to be consulted on any new project are the civil engineers and the architects. Our part in most processes is often an afterthought, because the mainstream public thinks that all we do is planting plans. I would like to see that fundamental misperception changed, so that we can become players in the game at a more fundamental, accessible level.

    I went to an information session last year offered at our University by a prominent civil engineering firm that hires landscape architects. I asked the engineer that was speaking about details pertaining to the landscape architecture division, and briefly explained what I was interested in doing. he said “Have you been able to take courses to teach you about that?”, because he misunderstood and apparently thought I was an engineer as well. My reply was “yes, in fact I will have a whole masters degree in it!”

    My point is, there is so much misinformation and misperception about our field even within the related professions…many architects, engineers and planners do not fully understand what we do. We suffer from an identity crisis. So I think it is time we went mainstream and helped everyone to understand at least part of the broad spectrum of our field.

    Corey J. Halstead

    I think you bring up a great point here, Claudia. I wonder who the target for this awareness campaign would be? Should the ASLA’s purpose be to educate the residential sector or professionals in collaborative industries like architecture and engineering? Perhaps both?

    Leslie B Wagle

    Just a little insert on something that caught my attention by accident: I flipped the t.v. remote a few days ago, and stumbled into the program “The Desert Speaks” on public t.v. Mostly that program has a laid-back host who goes out to various places in the southwest and S. American countries where he explores some part of nature with a local guide. This particular episode caught my attention because he instead focused on the tradition of plazas in cities of Spanish heritage.

    It was informative, but I was sensitive to the fact that his guide was an architect. Actually the historic sites probably were not designed by any architect, but the sense of the program was that this was a natural responsibility they had. Now, on looking up his fellow enthusiast, it turns out to be a faculty member of the school at Arizona State called “Architecture, Planning, and Landscape Architecture.” So…..even though they didn’t need to harp on it, if they had just introduced him that way, the words would have done a bit for us, just a tiny bit, to offset the strongly implied message that architects do it all. Well, maybe accidentally implied, but sad just the same.

    I don’t know how ASLA could overcome this any more than all of us together, as such things happen off stage and it’s already “too late” once they surface. Nobody (certainly including the faculty person) intended any harm, but we seem to have to overcome both invisibility where we want to be, and the green industry confusion as well. 

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