Reasons We Exist

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This topic contains 2 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Leslie B Wagle 1 month, 3 weeks ago.

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    Leslie B Wagle

    We don’t often see an explanation or essay to help people understand LA, so I saw and thought I’d share this one:
    Value of LAs

    I think the writer gave more weight to the “don’t you care about the world and people” aspect than bottom line emphasis on how we can spare owners and contractors some bad floundering around costs. But since many just don’t know how to insert that elements of “quality,” I think the writer was trying to worm his way into desire. Unfortunately a lot of those desires get compromised away in the grit and mud of stretched-tight budgets and time crunches, and the client or agency doesn’t push back to protect and fight for preservation of the original “vision” even if introduced early in the process. We bemoan this endlessly but don’t seem to have an answser for, so maybe the vision emphasis is the way to go rather than arguing cut and fill balance, improved details selection, etc. Any comments?


    Jamie Chen

    I’ve read other articles that discuss how you can defend aesthetics, so long as you back it up with performative data. An area that manages stormwater in compliance to a code while also serving as a recreational amenity is double loading value onto a site. Code dictates that the developer must include it anyway; why not have it look good instead of letting a civil engineer have at it without oversight, producing a great big rectangle basin of blandness? That’s the purpose of having a landscape architect on a team early.

    Or an article from a green roofing industry magazine; having a landscape architect early to put green roofs on the table well before installers are in as subs means that the structural loads are taken into account by the engineers and the roof slopes are modified by the architects. It’s all about saving time by eliminating change orders and time is money.

    Insisting that daring, different, striking projects can be rented/sold at a premium per the developers’ target demographic because of our design vision is viable in this way. You must insist that you are a value add, not an afterthought.

    I also believe that you have to produce drawings that contractors can quickly bid off of with accuracy in the beginning so you are not the source of deadline breaking change orders. I’ve worked in design build where I did take offs for the estimating department of the construction division as we regularly sub-ed for general contractors and as a result we saw a lot of different plans from a lot of different firms.

    Some firms were specifying obsolete irrigation parts from catalogs over five years old. Substitution research took up time and effort for speculative bidding that we ultimately did not win. This is a lose-lose for everybody concerned. Some firms produced drawings with no proper line weight or grayscale rendering management such that the irrigation plans were a spaghetti mess of lines. I could not make heads or tails of what was a lateral or a hardscape score line. Some firms were so disconnected from the plant stock of major local nurseries such that it was simply impossible to bid because no plants of a new, fancy Monrovia sort were in production enough for a large tract development, for example. And yet others specified invasive species! That is not in the spirit of good environmental stewardship!

    Readable drawings and keeping up to date with industry innovations are paramount. You have to be the indispensable expert that is the problem solver, not the problem maker. And in some construction packages, sadly, it is clear that some firms are the weak link.

    I think addressing that would be a good start.


    Leslie B Wagle

    Well in a nutshell our problem has always been getting into the process early enough to even demonstrate the enhancement of aesthetics. But I think you are stressing that to even be at the influence table requires good technical skills or why would anybody invite us at all? And I kind of worry about what students are coming to expect. I hesitate to answer the young writers who give opinions on future trends. It hardly makes sense to me. I feel like saying, sure, we LA’s are going to be seated at some urban Davos-like convening of the world-mind to plot the course of the built environment…when really all most of us can do is to keep underlying values in the picture as we meet real project conditions and constraints. That “inner circle” idea may exist for members of major firms on well budgeted projects, but won’t be the role of the typical small practice. We must be able to cover the technical side without failing on that last half of what you wrote.

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