IS anybody Happy?

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    Rick Spalenka

    You can learn more about this project at this web site: and my web site

    Greg Miller

    I have been out of school since 82 and have worked many different landscape related jobs. All were enjoyable. Some paid far more than others. I would do it over again since I love the field and what it taught me about life. We are lucky. At times, I thought about going in a completely different direction or letting my registration expire but haven’t yet except for a little renovation which still used design experience to strengthen the project. None of my 3 brothers went to college and all earn more than me but that’s OK. I have 4 great years of intense education that made me a more open minded person than I would have been. Life is good.

    Jay Smith

    What do your 3 brothers do for a living?

    Bob Luther

    WOW!… That is a lot of dislikes and very few upside benifits. Not to be snippy or snarky but you should just teach. What would/do you teach? It seems like you like/love all the whimsy of the profession with none of the tangible aspects of Landscape Architecture. I know you love the history aspect of Landscape Architecture because we have had a few debates about that. Since you have been the only one to answer is such a manner I will ask you a question that might be a fun new topic “Describe and design your ideal job within the profession of Landscape Architecture?”

    p.s. thanks for the honest and reveling answer 🙂

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    ….. the DOT seems to put you about as close as possible to the things that you hate and about as far as possible from the things you like. Why are you not in a part of the profession that matches up better with your likes or at least does not match up so cosely to your dislikes?

    Greg Miller

    I recommend the book A New Earth for anyone unhappy, depressed, bitter…….we are very lucky to be in a profession many regret not going into as they learn who we are and what we do only to realize it is too late for them. I am moving toward selling my house due to lack of funds but still feel glad I do this instead of work as a car salesman or a factory worker like my brothers do. They hate their jobs and I can understand when compared to what I do. But, they are secure financially.

    Trace One

    I recommend Rebecca Traister, Salon, “Screw Happiness”, and Barbara Ehrenreich, “Smile, you’ve got cancer.” I think our society overrates happiness, the smiley face, as indicated by how you immediately connect unhappiness with depression and bitterness (totally different, not connected necessarily!!!). Are you happy with the Gulf oil spill? Do your children appreciate being homeless, Greg? C’mon guys, have some depth to your personalities, or is that relegated to New Yorkers..Glad we will have five New Yorkers on the Supreme Court.. For me happiness is like soup – so many ingredients make a good broth..
    this is about being happy with Landscape Architecture.. I think it is a big tent and the aspects of it I dislike are a huge part of available jobs, because of a particular system our society has built up around development of the land. Unhappiness with this system could lead one to change it!!!
    I think I should l move to France and start smoking cigarettes..
    Our profession could benefit from more cynicism, expressed in constructive and goal oriented fashion..Perhaps that is what the architects have over us – the abilitly to deal and incorporate the dark side..we are all about pretty flowers and greenies between the buildings, right?

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    … and how does “society” change landscape architecture other than what they want to buy??? …… by all of those regulatory boards that you hate.

    Those are the two big realities of landscape architecture – you can only do what other people want you to do and you have to do it within the bounds of regulations. You better like one of those or both of those or you won’t enjoy what you do.

    I’ve learned to appreciate both of them because one pushes me to get the most out of the site (including aesthetically) and the other takes the pressure of of me having to tell my client what values he should have other than his own. That’s all more fun for problem solving and practicing the art of persuasion. A lot of what many LAs get out of their work is a sense of satisfation from problem solving no matter what type of project that it is.

    Trace One

    wow..Long super-smart reply of mine didn’t get saved, too many edits..Oh well, I will remember the brilliance! (just kidding..)
    Andrew, you are contradicting yourself..On the one hand, you say the only way we can change things is through purchase, and on the other hand you describe the pleasure of problem solving in LA (persuading to your perspective, i.e., changing things.). I don’t think you really mean that the only way we can change things is through purchases..

    I think, in terms of happiness, one could more precisely ask,”Does the ability to influence outcome influence happiness.”
    Yes and no, of course…
    There is FATE. And there is human effort..I think our ‘power of positive thinking society’ is dismissing the role of FATE.Thus you get unrestricted capitalism, limitation on abortion (blame the woman..)…

    But I don’t know why you take away from yourself the responsiblity of influencing your clients taste and judgement..I think you are just saying that, because you talk about the pleasure of pursuasion..If you are not imposing your own judgement, you have nothing to pursuade.
    Story from previous post – Edwina Von Gal would not take clients (when I knew her) who had a bottom line, a budget, because she would airly say, “I may be out there MYSELF placing a stone..” hee hee..We should all be blessed with such opportunities..


    ‘cynicism, expressed in constructive and goal oriented fashion..’

    You mean ‘ambition’ then? If so, I would agree, not more cynicism. What do they say about talent? ‘Liquified trouble.’

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    No contradiction at all. We influence, but we do so within the project that either happens or does not happen because someone else needs or wants it done.

    Every chef needs to work with ingredients and a kitchen. In our line of work, we work in someone else’s kitchen and with their menu almost all of the time. We might add some spices and techniques, but it is within their menu. Making the project entirely what we wish it to be is not within our power, but influencing it toward what we wish it to be is what we all do on a daily basis, hopefully.

    I still am amazed that anytime someone points out that we don’t have full control, someone twists it to make it seem like it means no control. I influence using my values and power of persuasion every day, but if I’m working on a strip mall at the beginning, it is still a strip mall in the end whether I like it or not. Hopefully, it has better circulation, drainage, and a safer more aesthetic appeal than it might have without me. … but it is not going to be a public meditation garden if the owner wants retail- pure and simple.

    Trace One

    Andrew, I don’t think I ‘twisted ‘ anything. You take pleasure in transforming a strip mall to a strip mall with bioswales – that is control, and influence, and professional judgement…
    You may not have the control of Edwina Von Gal.
    But how does that degree of conrol that you have influence your happiness, is the happiness question..
    It is never black or white..Just ivories, in perfect harmony..hee hee..
    No..I digress.
    It is never black or white…Are you willing to work on a stirp mall and influence it for the better..Are you willing to deal with the a maniacal planning Board, and the CEQR regs, the Visual impact analysis, and to make it the best ever..and is that where happiness and job satisfaction lies?
    I personally have always been one to fight the status quo rather than make the best of it..A character flaw, or an inspiration? That answer can depend on FATE..

    malcolm Gladwell wrote an interesting piece on luck and success. Bill Gates was in one of the few primary schools IN THE WORLD that had computers..luck and fate, and his personality or genes to take advantage of..
    So for me, I geuss, the question of, are you happy, is so nuanced, in reply, that the question becomes moot..
    How about for you, Andrew…Is there an absolute answer, for you? I would think you would see more facets to happiness..while working on your strip malls..

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I don’t do many strip malls, but they do occur.

    In the last week I have worked on a cluster subdivision (with a species of concern in Massachusetts – Eastern Box Turtle), four residential landscapes (including one in an Area of Critical Environmental Concern), an ocean front division of a residential property in Hyannisport, an affordable housing subdivision, a set of steps to access a pond with an endangered species of flower growing in it (Plymouth Gentian), a raze & replace of an ocean front home on a dune and in endangered species habitat (piping plover), a car wash for an auto dealer, the conversion of a warehouse and parking lot to a two unit retail building and the addition of “green space” (an improved strip mall), the landscape of a liquor store, additions to another ocean front house, and a site with a proposed an eight stall horse barn with a family quarters for the groomsman that I can think of at the moment. Let’s see what this week will bring.

    Some of it is boring, some of it is easy, some is challenging, some allows for a lot of “influencing”, some I have to more or less tow the line, some involves a lot of pursuading others in the office, some allows for a lot of pursuading clients, some allows for pursuasion of regulators, some has little aesthetic appeal, some has a lot of aesthetic appeal, some is chaotic and involves deadlines, some is more carefree, …… overall, I’m happy to be working full time, have a sense of satisfaction in what I do (happy with that), and can’t complain too much of my income, but I am ambitious enough to strive for things that suit me better. Happy, but never completely satisfied.

    That is what is happening, so it is what I work on. If I wanted to work exclusively on parks that used native plantings to rectify social inequities in this area, I don’t think I’d be working too much. I certainly would not have a paycheck. Both of those circumstances would lead me to be unhappy.

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