Public vs. private// No use for license

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE Public vs. private// No use for license

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    Deborah Christman

    I took a portfolio workshop class last week that deteriorated into being told that because the U.S. is so litigious that we should not really do public work. It is too restrictive and boring. We were also told that getting a license stifles your creativity because of these same restrictions. Your thinking becomes constrained.

    Needless to say, the teacher was a rather opinionated, self absorbed person who does not have a license. I personally got into my program to try to give back to the public by working on public areas…parks, schools, museums, plazas…

    However, I know very little about what it is really like out there in the landscape architecture world.

    What do all of you think about his comments?

    Maggie Hallidy

    Speaking from experience about working previously on residential design without a license I will say it was great for my pocket book. Looking back on it I feel that I should never have authorized myself to do some of the work I did (all prior to my degree). I believe that having a license will not only help you get work but it will create an environment were there is a heightend degree of responsibility and follow through in our industry. Being that the public doesn’t fully understand the scope of landscape architecture ( we do much more than residential design) it will also help define us as professionals.
    Now not having much experience in public work I would imagine that in order to work for the state or city you most likely have to be licensed insured and bonded. The liability factor of dealing with the public sector is probably much higher for reasons including their limited budget.
    I am definately an advocate of our profession becoming licensed. Here in Colorado they just passed a law requiring everyone to get licensed. I will say that there is much controversy over the concept because of the cost factor and people that have been practicing that can’t prove their 2 years of working in a firm. Regardless of the controversy I believe ultimately when the inevitable hack makes a detail not to scale of some concrete expansions that make everything fail they won’t be pointing at someone that isn’t licensed!!

    Deborah Christman

    Thanks, Maggie. I concur with you. I have seen too many “good enough” jobs completed that are not so much the fault of the contractor but the result of less than precise drawings. Not that unlicensed people can’t do them, but I agree that being a landscape architect demands a social responsibility to the public realm.

    I wonder if it takes special talent, insight, or just plain perseverance to maintain a creative mind while working only in the public realm and its strict parameters. OR are people who do this work on a daily basis more creative because they must design and build public places despite the restrictions and the bureaucracy?

    Deborah Christman

    Thank you for your insight. The class was to teach us how to put together a strong first portfolio for interviews. We didn’t so much of that. I can definitely understand how working with the variety of groups to bring a project to fruition can be creative and satisfying. And finding ways to do good work within those restrictions might be the most satisfying.

    I am looking forward to my planning class next semester.

    He didn’t name any projects he has worked on.

    Jeff Thomas

    I agree that creativity is not central to the design process that takes pen to paper in order to develop spacial solutions to a project site. I would even go as far to say that from a project development standpoint you will by far have greater freedom for creativity if you position yourself into a place where you can use that pen and paper to create a more denominational solution to project funding. All the best designed sites in the world don’t break ground without funding. I have designed plenty of wonderful projects that through value engineering, budget cut, loss of financial backer, and economic recession, have been constructed as a shell of the original design intent. This has happen so often that I often wonder if my creative talents would be better put to use working for some development group. At the least it would put me in a position to have some control over how a project is constructed and what is cut from the budget.

    James M. McCord

    I agree, ask for your money back. First of all, many states require the license just to perform design for compensation. Second, many states will not allow you to design hardscapes without a license. Third, you can get sued regardless of a license, however a license can make being certified as an expert witness easier so your testimony holds more weight than the “average joe”. Fourth, as a LA (or designer) we are problem solvers. Designing around constraints while preserving you design intent takes extreme creativity. Also, public projects affects more lives than just a single reidence–which you may limited to by not being licensed. Having a license just opens the opprtunity as not to limit yourself except of that of your capabilities. Just do not design something beyond your competency, and you will minimize your risk. Good luck with your decision, and get a refund.

    nick lowe

    All i know is that a license is worth a signifcant pay raise and that without a license you are limited to designing only 3 acre sites legally, plus licensure is just yet another qualification that sets you apart from the rest of the work force. In larger firms licensure helps you to move up within the company, project manager, principle etc.


    Some true some not. I look at the restrictions as challenges. And life and business are all about risk. If you are totally afraid of lawsuits-you should not even drive your car! I have found that working towards getting my license has introduced me to some great people and companies.

    I spent 12 years working in the Nursery and related industries before going back to school for my BS-LA I have met some Landscape Designers who are very talented, exciting people to work with-but the best DO NOT disrespect LAs. They are mature enough to see the personal and professional choices people make and the advantages of each.

    Take some time to visit both-Most companies and professionals are VERY open to students use this time to your advantage.
    When you get out in the work world you will be viewed either as a potential employee or potential competitor-

    RIght now you have got the best opportunity!!!! Go for it
    That particular teacher sounds very bitter-don’t let it rub off on you!

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