Engineering AND Architecture

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    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I should mention that one of the CE/LS firms that I worked for was owned by a Licensed Surveyor who also had a MLA from Harvard GSD, but never got licensed simply because he did not have any compelling need to.

    He is a perfect example of crossover both in education and profession. His first degree was in forestry. He may be the reason why I feel so strongly that these professions can blend to the advantage of the firm.

    I don’t have the dual education (BLA only), but 12 years of doing civil site plans full time in two different firms and barely touching a planting plan in those offices. I also worked for a couple of design/build LAs full time  in between and then continued to work for one of them part time for several years. It was not dual degrees, but it was dual experience. That dual experience is what now has me on a few design teams doing raze & replace ocean front residential projects that are completely designed (landscape included) for permitting prior to the razing of the existing houses. I’m there because of my civil site plan knowledge so that I can influence the CE’s plan for the better outcome of the final landscape. Sometimes it is through discussion, but sometimes I actually make changes in the design development that change the CE’s draft plan. The same holds true for the architect’s plan – changing walkout basements, or foundation wall windows, … sometimes having the floor plan flipped.

    It took a long time to bring the two backgrounds together. I could not do it as an employee to the extent that I have now that I’m self employed.

    Tosh K

    … The PE is a PE and NOT in any specific field.  Professional ethics (and your liability insurance, marketability) assumes you will practice in an area of your expertise.  I find it a bit over-confident to believe one individual can be a great PLA and PE; even with your SE/Arch analogy, most greatly engineered projects are a result of teams (Arup, Sverdrup, Nordenson, Desimone, Buro Happold), and very rarely individuals (Otto, Nervi).  At the level of upper tier projects, you want experts on a team, which inevitably means a larger team and not a master builder.

    I’ve worked in planning/engineering offices doing both engineering and landscape design, but overall found the work being done in design offices to be more my cup of tea.  I can see the engineering challenges and understand when they need something and when they prefer something, allowing me to make a case for changes to get a better design through.  Ditto on having an architectural education – knowing building codes can be helpful in anticipating changes. 

    It’s not easy beating out the notion of a single solution or favoring efficiency (it took about 4 yrs of studios for me to come to terms with it) when making the switch, but I don’t think it’s too difficult.  Ultimately it’s about understanding mindsets.  I would also add that you should I either go all in and get the education and not dabble (larger engineering firms used to help pay for degrees on a pro-rated basis depending on how long you worked there…)

    When talking about environmental restoration work I think of DIRT Studio, Andropogon, Turenscape – all of these firms have a strong understanding of the technical side, but also a willingness and desire to work with the best in env eng to be able to have the best end product possible.  On the flip side, there are an ever increasing number of civil based firms that are buying up la offices to expand their scope of work.

    I’m a BA history/BS CivE – MArch/MLA; licensed in LA, with a EIT.


    I never meant to imply that I would be the person doing all of the work. I meant to say I would have the background and skillset to be part of each stage of the project. That means I could work with a team and give input on the environmental chemistry as well as the master planning. Does that make sense?
    I want to be on the more technical side of landscape architecture, hence my interest in restoration. I like the idea of conducting environmental analysis and other assessments that my engineering degree trained me for and using that to guide my designs.
    I totally agree that there are two different mindsets. I’m definitely one more than the other, but I still appreciate the landscape architect’s ability to dive into the history of the land, its characteristics, how it’s viewed by humans and how it is part of a community. And how they then synthesie that to make something meaningful and useful.
    Thank you for the suggestion of firms to look into. I definitely recognize DIRT studio’s work!
    I intend to hold my EIT as I enter a MLA program. I ultimately see myself working as an RLA but who knows.
    I recently read an interview of a landscape ecologist who has an MLA and loved reading about his work and how he got to where he was today. Maybe I’ll head down that road. Either way I intend to use my science knowledge with landscape architecture. I’ve been told that the field is craving that emphasis and I’m more than happy to explore that. I’ll be the LA who will strive to be out in the field as much as I am designing.
    I recently learned about the Bioengineering Group in Salem, MA. There’s an example of a firm I would love to work for.

    Tosh K

    You may want to go work in one of the environmental consultants before committing to an MLA – in most cases it’s an expensive proposition (both in time and $).  If you can work your way into one of the higher end ones you will have the most exposure to the type of work you seemed to be interested in.  Also, judging from your comments, it would be helpful for you to see how the fields work together in a professional environment.

Viewing 4 posts - 16 through 19 (of 19 total)
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