January 3, 2010 at 2:55 am #171871
I just returned to Denver after spending a week in the greater Chicago area.
I spent an evening in Riverside, Olmsted’s residential development circa the late 1800’s. Being there reaffirmed to me that the Olmsted firms planning work certainly is a predecessor to contemporary land planning-much of which many of us would probably agree could be categorized as ‘sprawl.’ So, my comment regarding ‘land stewardship’ comes from the perception that that particular pattern of development , which has mainly been continued by LA’s is inneficient land use in many cases where ‘blanket’ planning has left endless tracts of pseudo-manufactured, short design-life housing. I also think that much of the site design LA’s have been involved with that I have seen probably contrbuted a significant effort to the benefit of the land in general and had a positive environmental impact. So, there is some bitter and sweet of course.
I agree that those (myself included in many instances) complaining about the state and scope of the profession should work to change it by our own practice. There really isn’t much I can say to that. I also agree that there is a disconnect between academia and professional practice.
My point is that LA’s have done just as much it seems historically to ensure less professional opportunity in the future than encourage growth through their own involvement. I know I’ll take a lot of heat for this, but I think the profession could use more big thinking AND more big doing. Some LA’s have achieved some ‘big’ notoriety across disciplines and in the public eye, but I’m disappointed to see them either relinquish credit or obscure their title as landscape architect in place of something like ‘planner’ or urban designer’ which is sort of ironic from a historical perspective. I can only imagine that some choose to do this because of the very issue we’re discussing.January 3, 2010 at 5:19 pm #171870Andrew Garulay, RLAParticipant
I’m going to use your quote, Nick, but this is to make a general point rather than one directed specifically at you. I read enough of your posts and feel like I know where you are coming from. The quote just opens a discussion opportunity that I don’t want to let go.
” I’m disappointed to see them either relinquish credit or obscure their title as landscape architect in place of something like ‘planner’ or urban designer’ ”
Why is it disappointing? These firms or individuals are comfortable in what they DO rather than what they are called. This only matters to people who feel that they need others to establish a higher identity for landscape architecture which can then be claimed by anyone who is in the profession. I have not noticed too many high achieving LAs worry about it. The concern seems to be with students, professors, and people yet to achieve who somehow feel like they are getting screwed because they are not instantly recognized as being something special when they say “I’m a landscape architect”.
I’m not a highly accomplished LA, just a guy making a living for my family and hoping to have future bigger accomplishments. But, whether your average Joe thinks landscape architects mow lawns or identifies LAs as the people who designed Disney World, the San Francisco Zoo, Washington, D.C., and wonderful residences throughout the land, you or I or the next unknown LA, will not be instantly recognized as being capable of doing the same simply because we share the same occupation.
A lot of us have been brain washed by people who benefit from us going through the process (universities, licensing organizations, and professional organizations) to believe that the stamp puts us to the front of the line to get the design contract. It does get you in the door for the interview, but after that it is up to each of us to bring more to the table than the next guy no matter if he is an LA, an Architect, a planner, an engineer, or a contractor.
What we do need to understand and embrace is that by earning our LA degrees we have opened doors that are firmly closed to those who have not. No one else can expect to be hired by accomplished LAs. Experience is what defines you or me, not potential, and not the title of our profession. The only thing that we own with that degree is a better chance of “getting in” to gain experience that begins to define our own identities. Too many of us want to think that with the stamp should come the respect gained by every good thing done in landscape architecture and a clear severance from anything bad by deciding that the bad things do not belong to landscape architecture.
Our biggest concerns should be whatever the next best stepping stone to establishing our own individual professional identity is. It starts with your next employer. It never has and never will start or end with the identity of the profession as a whole.
These firms who chose not to celebrate “landscape architecture” are also following the sensible notion of owning an identity based on what they have done and what they are doing rather than carrying a flag for someone else.
The unfortunate thing is that the economic conditions have put everything at a near stand still. That is frustrating for those who have just spent four or five years racing through that tunnel of education and have come out of the other end to find an empty field with no paths and nothing on the horizon. It is also a more stagnant time for those of us who are still trying to advance to new levels as well.January 3, 2010 at 7:01 pm #171869
I appreciate that Andrew. I may do the same for the purpose of furthering another discussion on the cusp of reaching some concesus.
I think it’s important for the average Joe landscape architect to be recognized as being within the same community as the ‘big time planner’ landscape architect because it helps validate a profession which many feel is being marginalized. I suspect just as little is being taught in architecture programs on inter-disciplinary involvement and support as it is in many la programs. It’s clear that many recent graduates or students like myself have little knowledge or experience in working with other professionals and how they can complement typical la services. In other words, the same people asking you if you mow lawns at cocktail parties may not have changed much in their thinking about other disciplines after 5 years of university education in design, whether it be architecture, planning, engineering, graphic design, interiors, industrial, etc. In my view, all of these people are potential clients, referrals, or collaborators.
I understand there is no way really to mandate the use of a particular title in the context of this discussion, but in my opinion it could be an indicator of the state and well-being of the profession as a whole when achieved la’s use alternative titles and questions regarding the validity of the profession and what the future holds becomes a reocurring theme.
I also agree that we are professionally and personally defined by our acions or experiences, but I also think we are defined whether we like it or not by our potential. Society relies very highly in my opiion on both potential and product. Skills are allocated for particular projects based on prior experience, but looking at the bigger picture I see a lot of people in la and other fields with potential to contribute better ideas and skill sets to the design problems. Unfortunately, and somewhat ironically based on past discussions here and elsewhere, certain individuals may be barred in a sense from contributing to projects based on a variety of constraints, many of which could be professional mores or traditions which I believe are outdated. In other words, a particular land(scape) architect could be equally valued in the discussion on a buildings interior design or the building of a new highway as much as an engineer, architect, graphic designer, interior designer, etc. In my opinion, we haven’t achieved this yet.
Some may say it is invalid to think that we all should claim rights to others achievements simply for being part of the same group, but I don’t see it so much as ‘elevating the profession’ as ‘keeping up’ with the rest. I also think this ‘group’ should be inclusive in the sense that landscape archs/designers are included, but first I think there should be some sort of reconcilliation between the more obvious disconnect between the ‘urban planner la’ and the ‘landscaper la’ whether it be some sort of licensing requirement, a title change, a separation in practice and title, or simply better public education in terms of the varying roles of the profession.
In a sense, I think the heart of the issue again lies in the lack of ownership we take in our own work and achievements, whether it be the design of a great residential garden or the planning of an entire city block. The question remains, is it all still land(scape) architecture or do we settle on being content with the nebulousity and call ourselves whatever we did at work yesterday? If that’s the case I could tell the client I am an urban planner/site/environmental graphics designer with a background in landscaping. Ha, yet I can’t by regulation of my professional organization call myself a ‘Landscape Architect’ and I really dont think I could at this point anyway with any degree of honesty, not only because I haven’t sat for and passed the licensing exam, but because what is tested for in that exam is probably very different from what I am doing and see myself doing in the future.January 3, 2010 at 7:16 pm #171868
Diana/Austin et al-
I think you make a good point, but I think the core of the issure here lies more engrained in the question of how ‘we’ make inroads to the type of work we all think we can do better than the next consultant when the stereotype says we are something very different?
I think many land8er’s wwould agree that la’s have the potential (theres that word again) to do better work based on our experiences in school or elsewhere, but find it difficult for the average la/designer to gain access to these types of projects in a system based on prior experience and assumptions based on meaning supposedly encased in a title.
Frankly, I think architects practice in a much, much broader field than la’s do. They have moral and professional license in a sense to practice and design within nearly the entire realm of la as well as graphic art, industrial design, interiors, planning, etc., and I have often witnessed archs drive site design. Rarely in my experience is it the case that la’s are afforeded the rights to practice design in the same capacity as evidenced in school studios. Given, I personally haven’t had the opportunity at this point to practice design in at firms like peter walker, schwartz, hargreaves, et al where I ‘hear’ there may be more opportunity in this sense.
I am essentially in agreement with both you and the others saying that the title doesn’t matter in regard to experience. I agree with both sides, but challenge that we may be skirting the true issue.January 3, 2010 at 7:21 pm #171867
If you dont have time or patience to read my essay above, in summation below is what I’m getting at:
I am essentially in agreement with both you and the others saying that the title doesn’t matter in regard to experience. I agree with both sides, but challenge that we may be skirting the true issue.
Also, not particularly well written, but I think my last paragraph below gets closer to the heart of the concern for many early in their career with an eye on the future:
In a sense, I think the heart of the issue again lies in the lack of ownership we take in our own work and achievements, whether it be the design of a great residential garden or the planning of an entire city block. The question remains, is it all still land(scape) architecture or do we settle on being content with the nebulousity and call ourselves whatever we did at work yesterday? If that’s the case I could tell the client I am an urban planner/site/environmental graphics designer with a background in landscaping. Ha, yet I can’t by regulation of my professional organization call myself a ‘Landscape Architect’ and I really dont think I could at this point anyway with any degree of honesty, not only because I haven’t sat for and passed the licensing exam, but because what is tested for in that exam is probably very different from what I am doing and see myself doing in the future.
In essence, I think there is a schism, whether actual or percieved, between the recent generations of landscape arch’s/designers and the former generations which also coincides with a movement toward greater inter-disciplinary and cross-disciplinary involvement. In other words, LA’s are already taking on a greater scope of common services and arguably have been for some time- everything from signage and graphics to urban planning, park design, exhibits, ecological restoration, transportation, infrastructure, site and landscape, gardens, and environmental art on large and tiny scales. The concern is that the title is not evolving with and as flexible as (again, whether actual or percieved) the actual practice.
I think the argument and heated debate here stems from the fact that so many of us just in this discussion practice design on such varying and levels and only see as Andrew and others put it in a sense what we have in front of us.January 3, 2010 at 8:35 pm #171866Andrew Garulay, RLAParticipant
I see where you are coming from and agree. I think where we may disagree is that I don’t see the status quo of “landscape architecture” as having any major problems. It has worked in the past and works currently.
I don’t like the effort to be overly inclusive in the description of what all landscape architecture is for reasons that I continually repeat like a broken record sometimes, but the overall health of the profession is as healthy as it could be in the current economy. It expanded hugely in the last ten to fifteen years while many seem to think that it slipped. I don’t know where that is coming from (not from you).
I think the system works as it is. It is a tough business. It is not an exclusive business. I think that is the part that a lot of people have trouble with. There really is no practical reason that others should be excluded from site design. I am always amazed by those who think that civil engineers should be excluded when clearly they have a much deeper technical technical skill set than landscape architects. Some would argue that they are gear heads and have no sense of aesthetics, but reality is that no one sucks out those human qualities from the brains of people who get degrees in CE and most people develop higher senses of these things through practice (LAs included). We could certainly argue that Architects do not get a very deep education in site design and I would venture to say that I have not been impressed with a lot of detailed site design by too many architects (conceptual site design is alright). So where do you draw the line with either one of them? I don’t really think that you can and I really don’t think that it should be done.
The area that could strengthen landscape architecture is actually adding engineering skills and opening up some design opportunities that now are limited to engineers, in my opinion. But, at the same time it cuts out a big segment of the current profession if you up the engineering requirements for licensure (God knows there is enough bitching about how hard it is to pass that part of the exam now). There are plenty of valid LAs who should not be excluded because they are not drainage engineers. In order to exclude others, we have to have a quantifiable ability that others do not have. This is clearly not the case currently. Right now the argument is only that we should be better at it because we are not building designers, not techy engineers, and we have a some qualitative unmeasurable broader understanding that is unattainable by anyone else. That does not cut it in my opinion.
The profession can only as strong as development is. That is its biggest limitation. It is competitive within itself and with other professions that cross over into it. Lots of folks and firms have prospered both financially and in enjoyment within this profession even though it is not as simple as just loving what you do. It is a tough business and always has been.
My biggest fear is that anti-development minded people have been moving into the profession and influencing the perception of what landscapearchitecture is all about. A lot of those are also very upset that no one is giving them a job or doing more to get them a job.January 3, 2010 at 8:35 pm #171865Jennifer de GraafParticipant
I’ve had this argument with my own parents more times than I would like and they still don’t understand. I also feel that I need to work to overcome the “what is wrong with my tree?” scenario given that I have extensive plant knowledge and have worked for the last several years on high end residential projects in the several-hundred-thousand-dollar-plus range. I believe, however foolishly, that those who don’t get it may never get there (I refer you to my PARENTS as stunning examples of this).
Re-naming the profession might never help, the word “architect” has also spurred many discussions about how I am not an architect, but a LANDSCAPE architect. Thanks for the job listings for architects, mom, I am sure they’d be wonderful companies for an architect to work for.
I use the term landscape architect often but now I use LEED too, and I say “LEED accredited landscape architect” – by the time they hear landscape architect, my audience isn’t stalled on the work “landscape”, nor “architect”. I think some of the problem is a listening/filtering thing and if you can get someone to listen, not just hear those 2 magic words, you’re 1/4 the way there. Sometimes I throw in “Licensed” to help that along. Of course, I have sat for and passed CA landscape architecture licensing and LEED exams. In CA, you can’t be a “landscape architect” without having earned licensure through the exam and experience processes.
When faced with the truly under-informed, I explain that I have designed (or worked on) public parks, trail systems, corporate headquarters, site planning master plans, and hospital campuses as well as estates. The word “residential” can be a problem.
good luck fighting the good fight!January 4, 2010 at 1:59 am #171864OruchimaruParticipant
I believe that it all simmers down to Landscape Architect’s having bigger balls to be quite blunt. We do not showcase our work enough, enter enough competitions, and hide our work on dismal websites. We need to display and showcase our work with as much pride as possible, study all other design fields, and let the world know what we do. If this were to be accomplished Landscape Architects could call themselves what ever they wanted and people would understand. It is my personal opinion that it is not the name but our portrayal of self that is lacking.January 4, 2010 at 5:02 am #171863
I agree in theory Damian with the basis of your argument, but I’m a little taken-a-back by the term ‘navel-gazing.’ I know what you mean, but to me this conjurs up the assumption that there are simply a lot of bored people out there with nothing better to do than talk semantics. But I hesitate to make a snap judgement in assuming I can know what you’re thinking.
I think you make a very good point which could use more discussion with regard to name-changing and branding as PR or for damage control. I could probably argue that LA as a profession could use some degree of damage control, but I may be off-base.
I think there are a lot of younger, less-experienced, as well as older, more experienced professionals here doing a lot to push the boundaries of the profession through their own work, whether it be better site design, better technical knowledge, graphics, art, or becoming involved in new types and scales of practice from garden design to urban planning.
In reading andrew’s last post carefully, I think there’s a fundamental difference in how each of us think about the issue, which is that one group thinks the status quo is just fine while the other feels that their everyday practice is atypical of the description the title ‘landscape architect’ lends and is more simply confused about what it is they are or are becoming professionally.
I think this feeling of ‘nebulousity’ is somewhat disconcerting, especially for those just starting out and trying to get their arms around their trade while planning for what lately seems like a most uncertain future.
I find myself in the latter group for the most part and if nothing else these discussions give some degree of comfort in knowing that there are others with the same questions and concerns.January 4, 2010 at 4:32 pm #171862ann gilkeyParticipant
Matisse once said, “I don’t paint things. I paint the differences between things”. That’s the best cocktail answer I’ve come up with. Yes, it leaves the hearer perplexed, but at least they find me thoughtful and witty instead of wordy and irrelevant. Landscape Architects don’t only design stuff, they make stuff work. I believe LA’s must become relevant to the cocktail attendee. You must be able to answer their petty landscape question before they will perceive you worthy of deeper inquiry. In essence, we must know more about the nitty-gritty stuff and take that core of information to the people. From there, we change the attitudes and therefore the perception. So go ahead, ask me about that brown spot in your lawn. I 1st tell you about the correct pesticide, then I tell you about the organic alternitive. Later I show you how to set up to harvest rainwater and next year I am recalled when the downtown revitalization committee needs bidders. At least that’s my approach.January 4, 2010 at 4:33 pm #171861ann gilkeyParticipant
amen.January 4, 2010 at 4:50 pm #171860Tanya GoertzenParticipant
Chad, your explanation is simple, clear and short, all very important qualities when talking to someone who doesn’t understand, and the time before their eyes glaze over is limited. Even better, it’s completely devoid of any ego, driven only by the love of what you do. This is inspiring to hear, thank you for sharing!January 4, 2010 at 5:12 pm #171859Roger BisbeParticipant
I would just like to add to Andrew’s comments with regard to the profession in general being very diverse. Isn’t it so that today most titles by themselves can represent a broad spectrum of specialties and disciplines. And, to me, this is OK. It allows practitioners an opportunity to differentiate themselves within the general profession, and it allows consumers to appreciate the benefits of particular expertise. This falls in the realm of “positioning” with regard to marketing. It is your niche and identity which states clearly what you do and do well. Today, more than ever, this is critical.January 4, 2010 at 5:21 pm #171858Jim ChappellParticipant
I would take your thought more seriously if you knew how to spell Olmsted’s name and I thought you knew anything about the history of the profession.January 4, 2010 at 10:23 pm #171857Vance W. HallParticipant
That is really funny.
I typically do resort design work, but love doing the occasional home. It allows me to directly see the faces of the beneficiaries of my work. Often times in weeks and not months or years like the majority of my projects. Resorts are made of an accumulation of intimate spaces. If I cannot create one how can I link dozens with style?
I feel if you can’t answer the questions that come your way from the general public you may need to hit the books. Step your game up. I love and will always love what I do as an artisan of the land. We just have to realize that sometimes we must live off an artist’s wages and do work that does not always inspire us.
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