BLA Grads: What Would You Have Done Differently?

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums EDUCATION BLA Grads: What Would You Have Done Differently?

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    David Farber
    Andrew Hill

    My biggest regret is not studying in more detail something that is a niche area that will make you different from all other grads. Whether you want to hear about the current economic times or not they will play some role in your time at school and when you graduate. Think about what is going to make you more marketable than all the other grads, all the people still trying to find work etc and go in that direction with something you truly are passionate about. I went to LA school so I could work as a golf course architect and in my junior year went to visit one of the world’s most reknown designers. I saw first had that he had maybe 9 people in his office located in CA and 70% of them were grads from Kansas State because LA’s had or have a minor there in golf course architecture. Here I am in the office of one of the best designers in world, and he has a staff of 9!!!! WOW. At that time I also spoke with an LA working for another designer and he was trying to get out of the golf course world as he wanted diversity in the types of projects he was working on. he was sick of designing golf hole after golf hole and was VERY talented. Where I am going with this, is figure out what you are passionate about and what will be in demand in 3 or 4 years that not a lot of folks will be able to market themselves as. Remember in the real world, Landscape Architectural elements are desired by all, BUT not a necessity. That means the budget gets cut often and the services limited. What can you do where this does not happen? I am associated with a very large international firm and I would say nuclear and solar power will gain more attention, the ecological role of a Landscape Architect will increase and also waterways. We also write a lot of grants and bring people money. That usually goes over well!! Good luck

    Soo Wai-Kin

    despite the fact that you have already found a BLA program, some of this information still applies, a lot of BLA programs have neglected if not abandoned the foundations of landscape architecture, ie part architect, part civil engineer, part horticulturist, in favor of emphasis on design process and conceptual thinking. Not that there is anything wrong with instilling an eye for basic design concepts and elements. It’s just that most BLA graduates come into the job market having a sense of entitlement to designing a project themselves off the get go. Lacking a foundation in horticulture, project management, grading and CAD, GIS, Adobe suite (or equivalent), and 3Dsoftware skills is akin to a physician who performs a surgical procedure without an analytical mind entrenched in risk management, patient-doctor relationship, and managing outcomes. My last foray with academia left me bitter as I faced the realities in the workforce lacking those skills I mentioned. Those skills are basic tools of the trade yet most BLA grads think a pretty rendering is a the final solution for a design.

    Most designers have niches to fill, ie. project management, conceptual designer, production and construction. If one can master all, you can pretty much be start your own firm and be successful. I hate to box a students growth as a designer into these broad categories but that is a fact in private firm.

    From a student’s standpoint, establish your foundation and damn well yell when the essential skills weren’t thought, and pursue your design acumen in all your projects. Given your background and the fact that Landscape architecture is such a niche field, you will find yourself in places you will never expect, ie working for a land trust modeling land conservation priorities… With a better foundation, you will make better choices for this next stage of your career…

    Tanya Olson

    My first question is – if you already have a degree why not go right into an MLA program? At least at my alma mater, people with other degrees put in a total of 3.5-4 years for a master’s…just food for thought.

    People on this post are (understandably in this economy) suggesting a pragmatic approach to your education – training in specific programs over design training with an eye toward marketability…. While I agree that it will probably be difficult to get a job without the computer basics you already have very strong practical experience, albeit from outside landscape architecture. From my viewpoint, you need design, conceptualization and critical thinking. The fanciest computer program in the world won’t help a person who can’t understand perspective drawing or who can’t find creative solutions for complex problems and express them graphically – and I mean creative as in meeting budgets, client, site, regulatory, physical needs of the site, etc.

    Yes, students come out of college ready to take on the world thinking they can design anything that is set in front of them while lacking the practical training to actually complete the project – that is the point of being an intern for several years before you can sit for licensure. I plan to take full advantage of that energy when I get around to hiring young landscape architects! You will not learn design in an office. You will not learn to find your own voice in an office. I think these things are critical to feeling satisfied with your career choice.

    That said, I sure wish I had more business training – maybe taken in my electives. I feel like I need an MBA to understand how to start my own business! Overall, though, my heavy-on-design-process training has served me very well. The rest of the stuff is better learned by doing anyway.

    Finally, you appear to be almost predisposed by your past experience to take on water quality and design issues – they involve everything you mention having experience in- non-profits, env. eng. and legal issues. I have no idea if you are interested in that, but maximizing your past experience to fill out your BLA might be equivalent to getting your MLA when it comes to getting a job…

    William Sinclair

    Hi April,

    I think Tanya’s points are very good; do you want to be a designer as well as a technician?

    In hindsight, I would want to learn and apply more knowledge of materials and construction costs into my designs as a BLA candidate… I’m not sure if I had time for that though… it would have been good to do more detailing of the concepts I was creating and be less focussed on beautiful sheets (not putting up complete garbage, but organized and less graphically intensive).

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