Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects › Forums › GENERAL DISCUSSION › WHO ARE WE? SHOULD OUR TITLE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT BE CHANGED TO SOMETHING ELSE?
- This topic has 1 reply, 24 voices, and was last updated 14 years, 6 months ago by Andrew Spiering.
August 26, 2008 at 4:41 am #176951
That was a great article by the way..August 26, 2008 at 5:37 am #176950
Great article. The facts you presented were impressive – really only 200,000 registered Landscape Architects world-wide? However, I have to disagree (and please correct me if I am wrong) that the profession has only been around for a short while. Were not the hanging gardens of Babylon the first example of our profession? Or was it the garden of Eden? Maybe it was architects that were doing our job at first and WE branched out later on…? I agree that, “Landscape architects are uniquely suited to view a project from a variety of angles and should ideally function in a leadership role as a member of a multi-disciplinary team.” But architects and other disciplines hold onto this historic notion that they are just as capable at doing our job. It is great to submit drawings to a consultant only to have them send you a Cad file back with their revisions! Or instructions to throw some “bushes” in there “to green things up a bit.” It is disrespectful to say the least and gives us insight into some educational opportunities. I do think we are capable leaders. And it sounds like we all agree that there is a need to assume that role. Today.
Jay Everett said:I agree that the title is confusing and that it is a problem that has been with us from the start.
Olmstead struggled with the awkwardness of the title, at one point refering to the practice as “sylvan art.” Biographer Witold Rybczynski writes of Olmsted’s response to Vaux’s attempt to get him to move back to New York and partner with him in 1865:
“The art is not gardening nor is it architecture,” he wrote. It was certainly not “landscape architecture.” “If you are bound to establish this new art,” he wrote Vaux, “you don’t want an old name for it.”*
the author adds: *twenty-five years earlier, John Claudius Loudon had published a book titled “The landscape gardening and landscape architecture of the late Humphry Repton. According to landscape historian John Dixon Hunt, this is the first documented use of the term landscape architecture.
I also agree that we have been using the title for too long to change it now (way too much trouble). I think the real underlying issue is the relatively low profile of the profession as a separate and distinct vocation. I have written about this before.
My opinion is that the profession is simply too small in size relative to engineering or architecture and I think the only way to solve our frustration is to grow in numbers and work to elevate the profile of the profession.
If our generation of would focus on recruitment and public awareness then maybe the next generation of landscape architects would have the resources to invest more time and money into scientific research and methods of practice. Unless we can quantify our contribution and definitively document what we “feel” we contribute to society, we will continue to be a service industry on the margins.
The question should not be “who are we?” the question should be “how do we shed our reputation as a luxury item?”August 26, 2008 at 5:44 am #176949
Oh, and good topic Brandon!August 26, 2008 at 6:34 pm #176948Jay EverettParticipant
Excellent wisdom from a veteran. Thanks Michael. I think that is good advice regarding personal philosophy, motivation, and identity. I think our concerns that we are speaking about are more external, which from your point of view may be somewhat foolish to ponder, so please forgive my persistence.
Andrew, good points. I acknowledge that man has been manipulating space and interacting with nature to create designed environments for thousands of years, but the point I was attempting to make is that people have only recently (since somewhere around the early to mid-1800s) began calling themselves “Landscape Architects.”
1) No other design profession works at the variety of scales that we do. However, there are other professions: Planners, Engineers, Architects, etc. that can perform the same tasks, (although we would argue that we do them better in many instances) so as a result of having an unequaled breadth and depth as a profession we consequently have quite a bit of contested ground because of overlap with other disciplines.
2) We are the smallest design profession (in number of practitioners). I was unable to locate my source for the global numbers, but in the mean time here are the 2006 numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor:
Civil Engineers: 256,000
Landscape Architects: 26,000
So, in my mind the challenge is: How does the smallest design/development profession which is spread thin over the contested grounds of land development/redevelopment hold their own when we have the smallest amount of tangible evidence and research which documents what we bring to the table in practical terms? Its easy to see why you NEED an engineer or an architect. For us the argument is a bit more challenging. Here is a clear example:
This is a recent memo that was released from the Kentucky Board of Engineers and Land Surveyors:
Here is the key quote:
“We have been made aware that Landscape Architects are performing engineering design services in certain geographic areas of Kentucky. In order to bring such practices to an end, we ask you to be cognizant of our requirements in your Request for Proposals, contracts, regulations, and review of projects…
…In simple terms, the Landscape Architect can plan the location and arrangement of such items, but the PE would actually design…
…Any Landscape Architect or other individual who performs such design work is practicing engineering without a license and will be prosecuted in Franklin Circuit Court.”
Of course this provoked a response from the Kentucky Board of Examiners and Registration of Landscape Architects:
I think perhaps the nuances of our profession have contributed to our slow growth but I don’t think we are facing an identity crisis. I think we just have a visibility problem and I believe the solution lies in devoting more time and resources to outreach, education, research, and recruitment.August 26, 2008 at 10:39 pm #176947Ashley CramerParticipant
It seems our misleading title is a tale as old as time. I think many a classroom forums have held this exact same discussion board-I know I first debated this topic in 1998 at UGA in design studio 1. The syntax flow of landscape architect looses its grandeur with the first word being landscape as we all know. “oh you do landscape- can you cut my yard’ or ‘what nursery do you work for?’
are we environmental designers? land architects?etc. Do we worry about what a title suggests,or should we be more concerned with educating the general public of who we are through a greater awareness of the field itself?August 27, 2008 at 4:48 am #176946m magnanParticipant
In my opinion, the issue is not the use of the term “landscape architect” — it is the very definition of “landscape” itself. Focus your efforts on changing the public mindset of the word landscape beyond the natural, the picturesque, or the antidote to urbanity (all referring to an otherwordliness) — and the public becomes much more understanding of what landscape architects actually do. Perhaps then people will stop asking you for advice on their petunias (which i hypothesize is directly correlated to your use of pencil crayons).
So, what does the word ‘landscape’ mean to you?August 27, 2008 at 5:25 am #176945AnonymousInactive
I was recently struck by Diane Ackerman’s description of her landscape architect in her book Cultivating Delight: A Natural History of My Garden: “I sometimes think of her as a kind of spatial poet, part of whose job is to reconcile the needs of plants and people.” While the title “spatial poet” may not be a suitably improved name, I do find the description insightful, and an gentle reminder to balance the art and function of landscape architecture. I think that it also offers an eloquent metaphor for illustrating how landscape architecture transcends mere “landscaping.” Landscaping implies something that happens as an afterthought, for example, to give curb appeal to a house on the market; whereas landscape architecture suggests something intentional, with considerations of continuity and a heritage for the future. Thinking of it as “spatial poetry” helps me understand how landscape architecture has the potential to shape the experience of our surroundings – and particularly how plants bejewel, soften, and enrich them in a way that hard architectural materials cannot accomplishAugust 27, 2008 at 5:47 am #176944
Still, as I stated before, it is with the actual definition of the word, “landscape” where the foundational basis for our profession as perceived in the public eye falls short. For those lesser informed, potential clients included, I feel expectations are limited at the initial handshake. I agree, with a resounding “yes!” that little can be achieved to better illustrate and convey to the public the importance and validity of landscape architecture through a simple change of title. I also agree with what I believe Michael was alluding to with regard to attaining understanding and value in ourselves as landscape architects first in order to convey a genuine sense of value in the talents and skills we can offer. Also agreed; cramming “this thing we do” in a tiny glass bottle isn’t comfortable or necessarily the right approach. For instance, last week I worked on an environmental graphics project, designing signage, yesterday I was working on a planting plan for a small residence, and tomorrow I’ll be illustrating a plan for a 700 acre mixed use development. That said, I understand the futility in changing a title to (re)define such a broad profession.
I think the point of the topic is getting lost in the melee. What is the unique and valuable function of the Landscape Architect in our world? Distilling the argument to the fundamental query, is what we do truly defined by the two words “Landscape Architect?” Would changing the title ultimately have a quantifiable impact on business (fees, types and scopes of work, daily practice and standards)?August 27, 2008 at 7:15 am #176943Ruthie WanjikuParticipant
i would love to drop the “landscape”,it always gives the wrong first impression..in that most people tend to assume all landscape architects do is landscape design. So i always have to explain that we do more than that ,maybe we should go for land architect exterior architect.August 27, 2008 at 4:50 pm #176942
This thread may be getting too far along for new replies to absorb the prior discussion in its entirety. I think there are many side-issues and sub-topics we could extrapolate from the preceding discussion. The unanimous response I see in this entire thread is that there, in fact, IS an identity crisis (or at least “issue”) amongst LA’s that could, perhaps, benefit from some form of resolution, be it a title “revision” or better public relations and education.August 27, 2008 at 6:43 pm #176941
Here is an interesting blog post by one of our very own, Jason King.August 28, 2008 at 12:07 am #176940
I follow what you’re saying. I have in the past been known to be a hair on the pessimistic side, and have worked hard recently to overcome that side of myslef and, as you said, project a better, more positive and constructive presence. I agree wholeheartedly with this philosophy if even still the mechanics of it elude me.
That said, what’s in a name? I think there is some merit to helping define the scope and goals of this profession if only to aid prospective students and professionals in understanding their own potential, but I digress..August 28, 2008 at 1:18 am #176939AnonymousInactive
How fascinating that this discussion has generated so many thoughtful and impassioned responses! Clearly those who ascribe themselves to the title “Landscape Architect” (myself included) feel as much of themselves is reflected in others’ interpretations of the title as they reflect on its true definition. In other words, we are defined by the name and the name is defined by who we are. In the first half of that statement, it explains the motivation for changing the title. For example, who among us has not felt frustrated when asked to help an ignorant neighbor find a solution to his wilting azaleas? Landscape is not a verb! But, that is when the second part of my earlier statement comes into play, I think. We, as students, professionals, professors, etc. define ‘Landscape Architect’ – and not only in the wonderful places we design and construct, but in our responses to our neighbors, parents, children, dinner guests, and on and on. Every time someone asks what we do, we have a choice to respond with a simple and grouchy reply, “Landscape Architect,” and wait for them to make their assumptions, or we can do our job and impart upon them our professional knowledge and expertise on this most basic of levels. The fact that our title is so easily misconstrued is perhaps an opportunity in disguise in that it affords us an additional responsibility – to educate.August 28, 2008 at 6:57 am #176938David GibbsParticipant
I think we ought to be proud of our title – Landscape Architect – it recalls Frederick Law Olmstead after all.
I am comfortable with the noun “Architect” meaning “master-builder” (my undergraduate (bachelor) degree; and with the adjective “Landscape” (my post-graduate (master) degree) – because it derived from a Dutch word meaning “to-make-land” (The Dutch continue to make land – pumping away water, building dykes and drainage canals – keeping the sea at bay, literally, creating land!)
putting the meaning fo the two terms together – you have a “master-builder-of-the-land” which i think describes us pretty well. We are primarily concerned with holistic “place-making” – at a variety of scales – using a variety of cultual and natural factors as design informants – (including urban, architectural and environmental factors). perhaps we just need to have a bit more self-confidence and put forward a better self-image. I used to get tired of having to explain what we do, but now I see it as an opportunity to promote the profession and to inspire potential landscape architects! – and people do indeed seem genuinely interested to learn about sustainable issues, resource efficiency, green architecture, environmental integrity, etc. Landscape Architects help to shape a better human living environment, especially within the public realm, having a social responsibility towards communities as well as an environmental responsibility of custodianship towards the earth. We need to facilitate an awareness of our role, the value we can bring to projects, and to engender a popular appreciation for a landscape architectural world view. I think the passion for our profession shines through.
In South Africa, with professinal registration, we may use the acromyn “PrLArch” after our signature (Professional Landscape Architect); and decribe ourselves as Landscape Architects / Environmental Planners.August 28, 2008 at 7:27 am #176937Joe VickersParticipant
Ahh…the great debate lives on! No better subject to make my first post about.
I have a love-hate relationship with “Landscape Architect”. I have grown to love it because it means something to me, it is a title I worked hard to attain, but sometimes I feel like that work is not recognized by anyone but me. I agree that we cling to the “Architect” part of the title because it is associated with some kind of technical skill and implies that we have a certain education level. There is no denying that “Landscape” is at the root of the problem and the reasons for that have been spelled out by many already. It sounds like there are some who still cling to the idea of “changing the world” and educating everyone will solve the problem. I would suggest that this great push to educate the general public and other professionals alike has been going on for decades and I would argue that it is a lost battle. We cannot change what the word “Landscape” means to most people or the images it brings up in their minds. What we do have control over is choosing a better title and thereby definition of what we do.
I think that if ASLA wanted to, they could help to bring change rather quickly and unanimously. It’s not like states are playing by the same rules now so what would it hurt to implement a national minimum standard by which all states must conform? It is illegal to call oneself a landscape designer, exterior designer, or anything to do with design or architect in many states, yet in others the actual title “Landscape Architect” is used by anyone who sees fit and it is rarely cracked down on. (Side Note: While separate, therein lies another problem that is connected to the title issue and deciding what it defines and means. No matter the title, until we as “licensed individuals” start to get serious about enforcing the laws about using the title/term it will never command attention or respect. It’s not like there is a proactive entity out there policing each state, we are the police and the onus is on us, like it or not)
I can’t count how many times I have said I was something else when asked what I do for living just to avoid the ensuing conversation about how I don’t own a maintenance crew or how I don’t know what’s wrong with their lawn. The perplexed look on people’s faces combined with the words, “but I thought you said you were a landscaper?” got old long ago. I have tried many times to come up with a better title and it’s difficult. I would definitely say anything with designer or consultant is moving in the opposite direction into even more ambiguity. Neither of those words are defining, everyone of my unemployed friends calls themselves a “consultant” of some sort. These words also don’t imply that one possesses technical skills of any kind. I must say I don’t hate “Land Architect” though. It does help to say you may do something more than planting plans for a living.
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