July 6, 2010 at 7:07 pm #168822
Recently, I was told that I’m too vocal and opinionated when talking with our architect clients. I understand that the bulk of our work comes from architects, and as our clients, we should keep them happy, but where do we draw the line? The principal of the small firm I’m working for likes to take a backseat on a lot of issues and have the attitude that they (the architects) will eventually come to the conclusion that what they (the architects) are proposing is wrong. I, on the other hand, like to vocalize my thoughts and opinions and challenge architects’ attitudes towards landscape design. I believe in fighting for my landscape and I believe that in general, most LAs are too docile when it comes to dealing with architects. Has anyone else been in a similar situation that I am currently in? How can we elevate our status amongst the A/E profession so that our opinions would be heard and would matter? Does anyone have ideas on how Landscape Architects and Architects can effectively communicate and work through creative differences? Is our profession, in general, doomed to always be at the mercy of architects?July 6, 2010 at 10:01 pm #168891Jay SmithParticipant
This has been my experience with the LA profession as well. Will it change? Maybe in a generation or two, but not overnight. Not to sound pessimistic, but after 8 years in the field it really wears on you.July 6, 2010 at 10:16 pm #168890
I’ve only been in the field for a little over 2 1/2 yrs and it’s starting to wear on me. I tell myself that maybe it’s because I work for a small practice, therefore, we’re not in the position to negotiate. I would like to hear the experience of people from larger practices.July 7, 2010 at 12:28 am #168889Jason T. RadiceParticipant
I’ve only worked in architetcs and developers offices. The developer was great…the one with the money is the boss. Within the architects offices, you still have old school egos who think you plany pansies all day, and then you have some who appreciate the skills ans what a lifesaver you can be. I can’t tell you how many times and to how many people I tried to prove our worth beyond being just a consultant to come in at the end to make their building look pretty. I used to lay out the site from the get go; give them a footprint area; deal with the civils with their engineering, and their mistakes; coordinate the building with the site with regards to codes (this was a HUGE area where we can be helpful, 90% had serious issues); brought the architecture into the landscape/hardscape; and dealt with third party LAs to get them up to speed when they were brought on board.
Architects really cannot be trusted to deal with the site, they just do not understand it. And with how complicated buildings are getting, most just leave it to engineers. I think we should advertise ourselves as SITE architects, rather than simply landscape. Its been an uphill battle all the way.July 7, 2010 at 12:59 am #168888Andrew Garulay, RLAParticipant
When you are an employee, you follow your boss’s direction. You can try to convince him to take a different approach, but when you are meeting with people on his behalf, you should follow what you know to be what he wants.July 7, 2010 at 2:48 am #168887
I agree, but my employer also hired me for my ability to think critically about design. I’m not going to just sit around and hope the architects will figure it out when I know what they are proposing is obviously flawed. Anyways, the little story I told in the beginning was only to set the stage for a larger discussion on why so many LAs get no respect and how we can elevate our profession.July 7, 2010 at 2:49 am #168886
Site architects…i like that…July 7, 2010 at 2:54 am #168885
I have less ‘office’ experience than you perhaps even though with my residential design experience while in school and prior to school I probably have more like a decade of ‘professional experience,’ but what I can offer is this; I interned at two large (40+) offices while in school and now work at a two person operation (my boss and I).
In my opinion, it is MUCH more challenging working in the small office. It can feel like the boss is peeking over your shoulder every minute, you hear about financial woes and feel it, and I think the work tends to be much more conservative (especially now) because you really can’t afford to lose a client.
All things considered, I can only hope my experience in a small office is good for me as a professional and I think it will be. Sure, the design work is conservative and safe for the most part, but I’m getting my hands on things I wouldn’t work on for years in a larger firm.
I’ve been able to design a new logo, letterhead, cut sheets, respond to RFP’s/RFQ’s, complete compile and file annexation and master plan applications, bring projects through CD and even some CA, design subdivisions, all sorts of site plans, work closely with consultants, and design a few pretty cool projects.
I think I’d be drawing sections all day if I were working for a big firm. At least I keep telling mysel f that.July 7, 2010 at 3:01 am #168884
I think we should advertise ourselves as SITE architects, rather than simply landscape. Its been an uphill battle all the way.
I actually agree with you on that, but we should probably try to avoid getting back into that discussion : )July 7, 2010 at 3:22 am #168883
I can’t believe how similar your experience is to mine. I work at a very small firm where I literally do everything. I “led” a small school project within the first year I was with my firm. Since then, I’ve been a critical designer for every project that comes through the door, so It’s obvious that my boss appreciates my abilities as a designer, but our approach to problem solving and how we deal with clients differ greatly. My boss is definitely much more conservative.
I agree, if I wasn’t working at such a small firm, I wouldn’t be exposed to so many aspects of this profession. At the same time, I think I’m becoming a lot more jaded a lot faster than someone who wasn’t exposed to so much. Double edge sword?July 7, 2010 at 3:36 am #168882
By the way, thank you very much for your insight, it makes me feel less alone…July 7, 2010 at 5:11 pm #168881
In my office as well, my boss is more on the passive side and refuses to push certain issues because my boss doesn’t want to anger or offend our architect clients, so we end up doing whatever they want us to do. It makes me a little angry seeing how docile my boss can be towards certain situations. I really like Jason’s idea of advertising ourselves as SITE architects, maybe then we’ll get a little more respect.July 7, 2010 at 5:42 pm #168880Rob HalpernParticipant
For what it’s worth:
1. Your boss has to concern herself with keeping the company alive. It’s understandable that in your chair risk taking seems more acceptable
2. As others have written here, getting the respect of team leaders and other professionals is something one earns from their track record. After 2 1/2 years of practice you will be seen as lacking in experience (Hell, you do lack experience.) , no matter how much responsibility has been loaded on you.
Architects and L.A.s that i collaborate with listen to me because they respect my expertise and because I have learned enough about their work to support their vision of the project. And I respect their expertise (most of the time. There have been a very few that irked me!) As a result, sometimes an architect challenged me and i did better work for it; sometimes a graphic artist brought a landscape idea I would not have thought of. Sometimes I got them to re-locate a door because I had a clearer vision of the site than the architect did. A team is not a fight between opposing interests, its a collaboration. If there are opposing visions after the SD phase then someone isn’t “getting it.”
When I was starting out, I walked a line straddling learning all I could from my boss and the other design team members… and adding my own best ideas. I would make my case strongly if I disagreed with a design decision and then I would support whoever has the authority to make the call. Doesn’t mean I loved every decision, but I learned a lot.
I know that your position is irritating. Been there. Hated it. At the time I thought it was my “I’m a Professional!!! Period.” But I was younger then. Now I see that that was my “Late Learning Period.”July 7, 2010 at 6:28 pm #168879
Rob, I understand my 2.5 yrs of experience doesn’t amount to much and I’m painfully aware of all the things I don’t know, but what I do know, I know well.
My ideas are often immediately discounted because of my lack of experience and I often give 200% of myself to a project because I am so aware of that fact.
I’ve worked with architects who loved my design and it is my boss who in turn shoots it down. I’ve worked with architects who are very unyielding and refuses to believe what we are telling them until the civil comes along and basically tells them the same thing and it is only then do they come to terms with the fact that their design is flawed.
My boss has 25+ years of experience and still lacks the conviction to change the minds of architects. So does experience = respect….in the case of my boss…i don’t know….July 7, 2010 at 6:41 pm #168878
I think when we’re talking about design we tend to get caught up in taking ourselves and our titles a little too seriously. I think we forget that ideas still have validity whether they come from an intern or partner. You said this yourself, Rob.
What becomes truly frustrating, as I think Mandy is alluding, is when an idea is killed based solely on non-substantive criticism, ie ‘lack of experience,’ or fear of proposing something unusal.
Another question might be; Why is it that LA’s seem to have so much difficulty advocating for their own work?
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