April 23, 2012 at 10:02 pm #157732
My eyes are watering and I can’t breathe, so I’m taking a moment out to post this to recover from laughing so hard at this article in the Hartford Business Journal regarding how outstandingly well Landscape Architecture is doing, or so says the President-Elect of ASLA, Thomas Tavella. Since he will hold the highest position in our profession, I’m questioning the grasp of reality of this individual and his suitability for the position. I can understand and forgive a little exaggeration to play up the industry’s strengths and promote one small aspect of the business, but to outright LIE about the state of the profession and not know, more like blatently ignore, the tearing asunder of our industry by the sour economy really casts doubt on what the industry and ASLA dues payers can expect as far as leadership and priorities.
From the article:
By all rights, landscape architecture should be struggling.
As construction and related industries such as architecture and engineering suffer through reduced workloads that could last until 2014, landscape architecture should be down with the rest of them.
But the industry is holding its own, thanks to sustainability, says Thomas Tavella, landscape architect for Manchester design firm Fuss & O’Neill and newly-designated president of the industry’s national organization.
Talk about rose colored glasses. Read the article posted below…it gets even better.
At least the author had the sense to talk with another LA who actually understands what is going on with the profession. The stark contradiction makes our president-elect look like a totally out of touch PR shill, not unlike the “our product is safe” people who seem to show up after an e-coli outbreak. Tavella also seems to think that the downturn has been partially caused by multidiscipline design firms taking LAs onboard to do in-house design, thus eliminating the need for third party consultants. That would be a shift in employment, Mr.Tavella, not a downturn involuntarily kicking 30% of its participants out like a bag of moldy tangerines. And that isn’t happening nearly as much as he seems to think it is.
Hopefully, this article does not forebode another term of ineffective leadership by all but ignoring the dire economic issues in Landscape Architecture, as is the tradition of ASLA. “Hey, I’ve got a job, the profession MUST be fine!” Perhaps it can be chocked up to the “fine standards” of journalism that are held in THAT industry as of late…I hope that is the case. If not, perhaps MR. Tavella should step aside and let someone who knows what is going on take the helm in his stead.April 24, 2012 at 2:24 am #157757earthworkerParticipant
So apparently when the ‘leaders’ of the ASLA stick their heads in the sand, all you see are a bunch of asses. You have got to be freakin kidding me. I always knew ASLA was a self congratulatory organization but I had no idea they were outright frauds. ASLA is ridiculous and this joker of a ‘president’ has only proved it even further. Please, if you are serious about this profession, DON’T join this group of nitwits. ASLA preys on students and academia to support their pie in the sky, rose-colored vision of the profession. Any professional society that only requires a hefty check for one to become a ‘full’ member is only in it for the money. If this is the view point of the president and the ASLA over all then we have lost all credibility as professionals. PLEASE SOMEONE TACKLE THESE IDIOTS.April 24, 2012 at 2:46 am #157756Andrew Garulay, RLAParticipant
Express your approval or disapproval the old fashioned way – by choosing to be a member or not.April 24, 2012 at 11:32 am #157755mark fosterParticipant
Doesn’t really surprise me…..I voted with my feet (and wallet) a long time ago.April 24, 2012 at 2:30 pm #157754
So, instead of looking at the ASLA as a group to promote the career path you are in, that you think needs some new guidance, as a resource, you look at it as evil and run away? Why not become active in your chapter or on the national level? It isn’t hard, within a few years of graduating I sat on two different national commitees, and now am working with the New York chapter, helping increase activity both within the profession and with figuring out how to increase outreach to the general public.
There are times when voting with your wallet is comepletely appropriate- when you have no power to change things you dislike from the inside. With ASLA, you have ALL the power if you just take the time to go do it. Instead of “voting with your wallet”, walking away is just that.
Walking away.April 24, 2012 at 3:34 pm #157753earthworkerParticipant
So we should continue to pony up money and volunteer our time (and pray that it will lead to a job) for an organization whose leader is completely ignorant of the state of the profession? This Tavella is nothing more than a magazine seller.April 24, 2012 at 3:59 pm #157752Tosh KParticipant
So… some folks want ASLA’s national president to announce to the business world that firms are bare-boned, the professionals incapable of finding solutions to the contemporary issues that the readers of these articles are looking for? Quite frankly work seems to be picking up, and many firms have retooled to compete with A/E, architecture, planning and engineering firms that have been capable of doing much of the work LAs traditionally have done. The role of leadership is to lead, inspire and enhance the standing of a profession. Is that wrong?April 24, 2012 at 5:09 pm #157751
If you don’t value things ASLA has done, like title/licensure acts in most states, then fine, don’t be a member. Personally, I like supporting the group that has the power to lobby for me, and telling them about issues that matter to me as a professional. In NYC recently the city Dept of Building has stopped accepting some LA stamps for things like decks. ASLA is meeting this month with DOB and Parks leaders to get the ball rolling on a fix. If you don’t think outreach and stewardship like that is valuable, that’s your call.
I’m just saying that while part of ASLA’s mission is positive PR, it isn’t the whole mission. And both ignoring the other parts, and devaluing that part, is shortsighted. Would you feel very confident about hiring someone whose professional president just said in an interview that the profession as a whole is struggling to find work, or would you think that you really could just do it yourself, since no one else sees their value?
Of course he put a hyper-positive spin on the state of the profession, don’t be fooled into assuming that is what he actually thinks.April 24, 2012 at 10:38 pm #157750
This is not saying that ASLA does not do some good work; it is the organization that fought for and defends licensure that makes our profession an actual profession. And by all means, get involved with ASLA if you feel the need to support the only organization that supports us. I am actively involved, at both the state and national level. Such is what makes the tone of the article so galling. The continued public delusional facade that our profession is ‘going strong’ is irresponsible, at best, especially from one of its top representatives; even more so when the statements are debunked a few lines later by another LA. Where is the acceptance and discussion about the economy within ASLA or its publications? It is and has been a HUGE part of the publications of our allied professions for YEARS. And yet, silence, and sometimes, like in this article, denial of reality. Even the “statistics” of the quarterly surveys is very subjective at times. If the president-elect cannot parse his words to be positive as well as be truthful, perhaps more PR training is necessary before they can speak for the organization.
A more accurate statement would have been:
“Like all other professions in the AEC industry, Landscape Architecture has been hit hard by the recession and continues to have struggles in the current economic climate of the building industry. However, as the industry recovers and projects pick up, we feel we are in a great position for growth as more projects are placing an emphasis on “sustainability,” something that is inherent in the profession of Landscape Architecture. We’ve been “green” for over a century. Landscape architecture is a vast profession, with many diverse specialties, and we are making great strides in the public’s awareness of our profession via our unified marketing campaign and recent high profile halo projects like the High Line and the 9/11 memorial at Ground Zero.”
Honest, to the point, and still positive. A bonus; it would not have been refuted a few lines later by the second LA in the article plainly quoting our massive unemployment number. We have not fared better than any other profession in the downturn, and the argument can be made we have fared worse.
Be proactive, be positive…but keep it real, keep it HONEST. You will be called on it. Such as with this article.April 25, 2012 at 4:21 am #157749
And where does doth procure one of thine single-horned beasts what does deficate billable hours?April 25, 2012 at 5:14 am #157748
Nah, I’ve been to the eastern shore of the Kingdom (eastern shore of Maryland…well, it used to be part of the Kingdom) Ain’t nothin’ but chickens over there.April 25, 2012 at 12:57 pm #157747Leslie B WagleParticipant
I suppose it was natural for the journalist to put the statements of the national organization person above the later comments by another LA or two. I notice that happens a lot in articles about science, medicine, etc. The most “eye catching” statements lead (ie. about some new research) and the more nuanced opinions follow. Being head of ASLA isn’t an enviable position to hold right now and naturally the person in the office shouldn’t say anything downbeat… but I liked Jason Radice’s example of how he could have noted the challenges with a positive long term outlook thrown in, so as not to overly dismay the struggling average LA.
I think what I found the most dubious was the statement “So when the push for more sustainable buildings came along in the last decade (LEED), landscape architects reaped the rewards,” which I haven’t seen or heard any trace of AT ALL. Maybe LEED adds a little punch to someone’s credentials but bringing in work is something else entirely.
I’m also always sorry to see the field portrayed as mainly of value in a trendy area (even if Mr. Tavella thinks that will grab readers’ attention or just because it has worked for Tavella’s own firm). I’m reminded of how LA’s have thought before that some new “awareness” would help us leap out or gain ground (notably land use planning) and for most, it didn’t really happen. I’d like to see a continued emphasis on how the eternal challenges of designing for people on the land in the broadest sense is our mission, an intersection of civil engineering, horticulture, human studies and architectural design nobody else quite covers….which will include changes in technologies as we go along….but not a dropping of that vision for another mission that others can do and will question why we should take over, hence a tendency to just leave us out completely. The message of what we cover is hard because it is a “blended” realm that overlaps with other fields, yet is unique in its synthesis of skills. That’s difficult to convey but needs to be done at every opportunity someone has a platform available.
Although journalists also don’t grasp nuances well and for all we know, the ASLA president tried to say more and it was filtered out. He seems like a dedicated sort; let’s hope he has more opportunities.April 25, 2012 at 4:14 pm #157746
LEED and Sustainable sites has almost 0 overlap with RLA testing. Sure LEED is important, but only important for someone who has already proven they are skilled in the things RLA testing tests. Plus, LEED, realistically, is much more architecture focused right now. If they pull a sustainable sites portion in more, that’ll change the story SLIGHTLY, but last I checked, neither tests things like Grading and Site Engineering, which are what is important to getting insurance.April 26, 2012 at 3:00 am #157745Tanya OlsonParticipant
Its like shooting fish in a barrel….April 26, 2012 at 10:44 am #157744Andrew Garulay, RLAParticipant
ASLA could benefit greatly if Leslie’s third paragraph was broadcast over the PA system of ASLA each morning. Too many people have lost site of what our profession is in favor of trying to gain something by pretending it is in the lead of whatever the latest trend is.
“designing for people on the land in the broadest sense is our mission”
It is that simple.
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