Crickets in the Lounge?

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    Are all of us so busy now that we don’t have time to start or join in on discussions here on Land8? I’m hoping that would explain why there’s less activity here as opposed to less activity because there’s less people in the field. I’ve noticed a recent increase in jobs being advertised on the ASLA Joblink after four or five years of slow hiring. I like to tell myself that most of the people who were questioning their decision to pursue a career in landscape architecture in 2009 have traded in delivering pizza for sitting in front of a computer cranking out CAD drawings at some LA firm. But I know deep down that a lot of you are gone and will never come back to the profession.


    This post is to reach out to you folks that have still remained in the field and are busy grinding out a living. My business isn’t setting any records, but at least it feels like it’s starting to run on all 8 cylinders. It would be great to hear from some of you who we haven’t heard from in a while. How’s life treating you?

    Ben Yahr

    I’ll bite.  There are three reasons I personally haven’t been very active in the lounge lately:

    Work has been busy.  This is a good thing.  Stateside we’ve had numerous projects funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.  Low water levels are unfortunately wreaking havoc on shipping and recreation.  Likewise with flooding.  Despite the best efforts of austerity freaks, increased revenue has allowed local and state governments to invest in long overdue infrastructure maintenance.  Water quality and stormwater management have become an essential part of every project rather than an add on.  Overseas, investment in tourism is rebounding, though very slowly.  Robust economies in Asia and South America are providing numerous opportunities that are tough to harness in here North America.

    The second reason I haven’t been active in the ‘Lounge is an annoyance at some of the frequent posters that feel the need to post and repeat their (same) opinions in every single discussion- stifling participation and out of the box thinking.  By far the worst comments take the form of “WE already discussed that” when responding to a question from a new member of the forum.

    Finally, a perceived sense of job security from an increasing workload has allowed me to have a life outside of the office, and focus energy on things other than work.  I’ve been honing my skills as a homebrewer, tending backyard chickens, participating in community resource conservation groups, planning for a third round of “landscaping”, and remodeling my kitchen.  It’s torn down to the studs, and I’ve been enjoying the chance to learn residential wiring and electrical skills.

    So yeah, life is treating me well!

    Tanya Olson

    Henry! How was trout fishing in America? That boring?

    I’ve been wondering too and have been lurking the discussions, but it takes a lot of time to write a well-thought-out response and yes, work is busy. Lots going on this year – beats the pants off of last year. Today is a snow day (!!! April 22nd?!) and just got a huge CD set out the door, so a minute to breathe between projects….

    Also, I’m kind of turned off by some of the “discussions” that are really advertisements for personal or business blogs. Feels spammy. You guys are all way nicer than I could possibly be in these instances, so I don’t comment at all.  I know, I know, thats the way the web works and one’s site gets more traffic and higher on search engines that way, but still. Must be ok with Andrew S., though, so there you go. 

    Plus its not as interesting without the usual suspects arguing about landscape architecture philosophy and whether we’re all idiots or brilliant for pursuing this career. 

    Dave McCorquodale

    I’ve read the forum for a while but generally don’t say much.  I’d echo the comments from above by saying that I don’t look as often for reasons not unlike those above.  While things in Houston never really slowed down during the market downturn, I hope things are looking better for those that have seen a pretty rough go of it.  When I moved here in 2005 not long after school I was looking for the typical firm employment, but with a strong emphasis on environmentally conscious projects.  After 4 months of looking I needed anything and that opportunity was a support role at a high-end residential design-build firm.  Ironically the classes I paid least attention in and was the least passionate about during school were residential and nursery-stock oriented planting design.  

    Last April after sticking with them for 7 years in salary position, and after recently passing the LARE (1st go round so felt pretty fortunate), I went to a commission-only design/sales role (we have 3 incl. me) and things have been great.  The trade-off of being entirely responsible for what I do and when and how I work has been worth a lot more than a perceived sense of security of actual employment.  So now that I allocate my own time I’ve been able to refocus on collaborating on the types of projects that get me inspired and spend the time I need to doing what pays the bills.  By completely rewiring the way I thought and getting out of my own box I adapted the title Landscape Architect to mean something personal in the expertise I provide to various projects and get a sense of fulfillment out of what I do.

    I suspect there are quite a few more out there with a similar experience that they generally don’t say much, either. I do enjoy this community that can keep some of us connected to one another, so I hope it can pick back up



    I agree. Although I am new to the profession I have quite a library going that has helped me in many areas of my development. If I don’t know something I spend time finding an answer before I would ever ask here. 

    Beyond that I have found that if you do research first your questions become much better questions, if you still have any, because you know what to ask. 


    Yeah, I haven’t been posting much either because I’m busier, but I check in regularly. I know the forum never recovered fully from the format change a couple of years or so ago, but it has become quite dry lately.


    Where are the enthusiastic, gregarious and pissed-off professionals at?


    I know I’m long over due on that cold frosty, but we’ll make that happen.


    I’ve noticed the posters that consistently try to drive traffic to their individual business website via posting their link on almost every topic.


    I too miss the back and forth that used to happen. I get a little jealous when I visit architectural sites and they’re really going at it. I think that kind of activity is good for the profession. Unless you’re complete marshmallow, you shouldn’t be frightened off by healthy debate. Architects are like: “hell yeah’ and “screw you pal” and I guess LAs are like: “meh” and “well…ok”.


    I agree with Henry. I feel the sharing, as well as the sparring is good for all provided it’s done with passion and respect. In this tiny young profession, we need each other.


    Thanks for your post Dave.


    Funny you mention. I entered the profession with a chip on my shoulder. It was placed there by my professors and bosses right out the gate. I was taught that this thing of ours was more than just a job; we all needed to be part-time ambassadors for the profession. I learned that generally speaking architects, engineers, contractors and most of the public have little respect for what we do.


    All of my early mentors had a ‘take no shit’ brashness about them. They made allied professional respect them by knowing what they were talking about. These pros went into meetings with their chin straps buckled and left architects and civils with their eyes big as saucers whenever they tried to dictate site design. Now days a lot of LAs feel like they have to do whatever the client/architect says to do without any question, even if it doesn’t make any sense.


    I’ll admit that I don’t go to meetings looking for a fight anymore, but when someone on the design team drifts out of their lane, I’m always quick to help them get back into it.

    Rick Spalenka

    It’s been awhile since I posted or even lurked. Don’t see many of the regulars but do remember Craig. Two years ago I had too much time on my hands because of this lousy economy so I got involved in ASLA Central. Now that my chairmanship is up I’m back to this lousy economy. I too had come out of early retirement but I’m doing it in a geographic location that is difficult for LAs who are not long time locals or “family.” Most advice to me is “go back” to retirement and fish. Oh, I also have a large library and now I’m growing my Japanese, Korean, and Chinese garden design collection. I think I’m going to see if the fish are biting in Suzhou next Spring.

    Jamie Chen

    Things are improving at the little design/build firm I work with. 

    I’m learning a lot about the construction side of things; really getting into the what you need to install retaining walls. We’re currently putting in a koi pond and the logistics of it has been interesting to observe. The pipe/parts supplier sent us a waterfall starter that was much too big so that formed a delay. My boss is a micromanager who complains about how the job foreman won’t take initiative (BUT he also says that the foreman has no design taste at all, so he might as well arrange the waterfall boulders himself and he DOES). 

    I find it amusing, myself. My boss was on the crew himself years ago and middle age has slowly corralled him into the office for the greater good of the company and he chafes at it; he’d much rather be in the dirt than playing phone tag with potential customers. But nobody else can design & sell in the company like him. So that’s that! 

    I am observing logistical problems and blockages that happen entirely because the two principals (my boss and his partner) are simply… luddites. It takes no encouragement at all for them to see the merit of my CAD skills and my 75 WPM typing skills. But a centralized, cloud-based calendar/scheduling system to organize ongoing projects and appointments!? What is this witchcraft!? Nope, we’ll be sticking to stickies that disappear into our blackhole briefcases! (ha ha ha!) 

    I am having fun and the camaraderie is great in the firm. I just know that I must not stagnate myself when it comes to technology because… my two bosses. 

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