Landscape Architecture magazine wants to know: How are you coping with the recession?

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums RESEARCH Landscape Architecture magazine wants to know: How are you coping with the recession?

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    Daniel Jost

    More and more landscape architects are being affected by the economic downturn. Last quarter, two thirds of landscape architecture firms reported below average billable hours. Some firms have laid off staff and few are hiring. At my old office in Las Vegas, what was once a 17-person firm has shrunk to two people.

    But some people are making the most of a bad situation. Landscape architects who were laid off are going back to school to sharpen their skills. Some people are starting their own firms. Others are marketing themselves in new ways and bringing their skills to fields they may not have explored otherwise.

    How are you coping with the current recession? How have you dealt with previous recessions? If you were laid off, were you able to turn that into something positive? Has your firm been successful in searching out new markets? Landscape Architecture magazine is looking for your stories to publish in a future article. Please email Daniel Jost at if you are interested in sharing your experiences.

    Dan Jost
    Landscape Architecture


    I am going back to school full time. I have been looking for a basic internship but no luck.

    Daniel Jost

    What are you going to study?


    Land Arch I was part time but with no job full time :p I am also taking more with digi graphics and permaculture.

    Jeff Waters

    Still hanging on to my job. We have let people go, taken salary cuts, and most recently, hour reductions. I have considered going back to school to study an alternate field if things get worse for me.

    Michelle Derviss

    I’ve been in business about 27 years and have weathered other recessions with ease. I have never lacked work.
    What we are experiencing is not a recession. It is a crash.
    Compare it with the Great Depression and you’ll see some staggering similarities in regards to market statistics.

    I have only 2 projects on my board right now and they are almost finished. I don’t have any new work coming in.
    The projects that were planned for this year ( Napa and Sonoma Valley Vineyard Estates ) have all been indefinitely put on hold.

    To make ends meet I contacted several of my high end residential clients and offered my services as a horticulturist/ gardener.
    I haven’t done any serious horticultural work in over 17 years but I’m out there again pruning roses and calibrating irrigations systems.

    In the past this would be the time of year that I would be hiring additional help and welcoming back regular free lance employees.
    But that is not going to happen, unless they want to share time with me shearing some Rhamnus alaternus.



    My former company had over 100 employees when I started there late summer 2008 including architects, interior designers, planners and landscape architects. They had lots of large large scale international community/resort design projects. Since then, nearly all projects have been cut due to backing by financial groups like the Lehman Brothers. They are now down to about 25 people and have closed some of their smaller offices nationally. It is so sad to see great companies on the verge of closing doors.

    To cope with the time, I took the LEED exam and am joining forces with some other people who were let go and we’re submitting a proposal for a local low income green housing development here in San Francisco. One of the girls is starting her own small business. We will see where it takes us!


    I’m optimistic. As an undergraduate planning to enter the job market this summer I worry about paying rent in the short term, though I hope as the economy slowly starts to creep back opportunities will be abound especially for those ready to hit the ground running. The buzz surrounding the recently released details concerning the economic stimulus has been the need for “shovel-ready” projects. I believe the same message should resonate with recently unemployed or new graduates in as far as being prepared to offer a range of marketable skills. I read once that the chinese symbol for “crisis” is composed of two characters meaning “danger” and the other “opportunity.”

    Kevin J. Gaughan

    Although I have been planning this since before the recession got into full swing, I will be coping with the recession by doing some traveling. My girlfriend and I have been saving up to go travel for 10 months through Central and South America starting this June. I am hoping to do some focused observation throughout my travels somehow related to the field, and also, hoping to meet up with members from the Land8 along the way to experience the role landscape architecture plays in different cultures. If all goes well…the economy should be on the rise by the time we return and I will be able to find a job of my liking…if not, maybe I will head back to school with a better understanding of what I want to study after my travels. Eitherway, I am excited about my upcoming experience!


    I’m in Seattle and have had a small office here for 15 years. Prior to that I worked 22 years for larger, multidisciplinary firms. In that 37 years, I have never seen the economy this bad for all design disciplines. In 1972 when I received by BS in Landscape Architecture, they were turning the lights out in Seattle due to a big Boeing layoff. I scrambled around and got a series of temporary jobs over the next several years. There have been ups and downs but this takes the cake.

    We have moved our office into a smaller, cheaper space, reduced overhead, and as a principal taken pay cuts to keep staff. We have a few things that will continue along for a while but things are getting slow. Every advertised RFP/RFQ has 20 to 25 submittals where in the past they may receive 5 or 6.

    Seems in past resessions, I have seen new firms spring up but I don’t see that happening, at least in Seattle. We are chasing everything we can and then some. My son works for an architecture/planning firm in LA that does (did) a lot of work in the middle east. In 2007 they had 90 people now they have less than 25. He has survived 5 layoffs but the writing seems to be on the wall. He is networking like crazy and has some opportunities. Thank God I paid off the house last year!



    Once optimistic, as the recession wears on and my graduation date approaches I’m becoming more concerned not only about the prospect of available jobs for entry and junior level employees, but also in how the economic state may affect the work environment and expectations of lower level staff in the shadow of a worker surplus, many of whom are willing to work for less and less. Mainly, I am concerned with how I will develop professionally over the next few years with potentially limited opportunities and exposure to project work.



    For what it’s worth coming from an entry level I commend you for taking extended measures to maintain your staff and stay afloat. I can only imagine the level of gratitude your employees must feel and dedication they will likely present if/when things turn around.

    Michael Watkin

    Pretty touch here in the Northeast. Nobody is hiring and don’t anticipate hiring in the future. I love the profession, but unfortunately the skills don’t transfer to other types of work, leaving one in a waiting mode or a total career change.

    Brian Hochstein

    I love landscape architecture. I have been fortunate to retain a solid job through the economy so far. I have had to learn new skills and have been working on a lot more civil based work. My plan for this fall is to diversify and get my masters in community development. I feel that it is the right time for me to expand my skill set and review what I love to do. Because I have my undergraduate degree in LA, I couldn’t justify getting a masters in the same discipline. I feel that if I can learn more about societal impact and relationships at the civic level I will continue to grow professionally and provide myself with numerous future options. I plan on going to school while continuing to work. It will be busy and hectic, but hopefully it will also be rewarding.

    Tom Fitzgerald

    Since work has slowed down a bit it has allowed me to take my licensure exams and study for LEED. I’ve been finding joy in having the spare time to brush up on my education, computer skills and begin practicing photography. We have felt the effects of the downturn in the economy but due to our diverse projects in the office I have found that we have been weathering it better than others.

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