Working out of the box for landscape architects

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE Working out of the box for landscape architects

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    jenny janis

    I’ve been intrigued by Archinect’s series on architects who’ve developed their career into an aspect of design that isn’t directly architecture but which is somehow related…I’m wondering what angles landscape architects have taken to redefine their careers. I think this is especially important during a rough employment time when many of us are having to figure out what might be a Plan B. Any thoughts?



    Alan Ray, RLA

    I’m opening a coffee shop…..everyones addicted to coffee.

    My studio will be in the back of the shop.

    Terry DeWan, FASLA

    Intriguing idea….

    One of my favorite lessons from SUNY came from Herb Schaal (now with AECOM in Fort Collins), who emphasized that we are trained designers! It shouldn’t matter what the object is, be it landscapes, or weathervanes, or teacups… since we understand the design process. How we apply our training is up to us as individuals. Here’s a few examples of people that I know to follow Jenny’s thread:

    Several years ago Alan Spear (Cornell) left the profession and founded Coffee By Design in Portland, Maine. See their website for the full story:

    One of my former employees, Bibi Gaston (UVa), left the profession and returned to school to pursue a divinity degree (another form of stewardship, perhaps?). In the meantime, she’s written a successful book about the life and times of her paternal grandmother. Read about her professional work at her website:

    Another former employee, Albert Nickerson (RISD), pursued his passion for flowers and started I Love Flowers, a successful floral design company. Read more about him and ILF at: http://www.ILOVEFLOWERSMAINE.COM/index.shtml

    Jennifer Steen Booher (UVa), up in Bar Harbor, ME, started Quercus Design, where she collects, arranges, and photographs the minutae of the Maine coast. See her remarkable work at:


    During the downturn back in 2009 and 2010 I traveled the country surveying stores to determine if we could locate Redbox machines at particular locations.  Specifically, concerned with the location being ADA compliant.  A rudimentary site plan and survey questionnaire was generated for every location.  Sometimes it could be grueling work, hot, dirty, sketchy areas, tons and tons of travel.  I was living in hotels and airports.  The fun part, I was able to see lots of this country that I don’t think I would have ever gotten to see in my life time.  The side benefits as well…enough hotel points to spend an entire week in Paris for FREE!!!!  Now I am back in the office, designing sites and landscapes like a mad man.  Funny I sometimes wish I had a Redbox trip to go on….just for a change of pace!  This work was not a career changer but it filled a gap.   Even today when I am so busy preparing site plans and landscape designs for clients I have also taken on a role within our firm to assist our architecture teams with some retail store design.  The biggest reason I am doing this is that I am the only person in our firm that knows Microstation, (clients software of choice).  Bottom line, I cannot see myself making a huge change in my career path. I will adjust and go with the flow as necessary.  I think in this economy that is the main thing, one needs to stay flexible and fluid and show that you provide value even if it is working outside of your box.

    Eric Ouderkirk

    Good question … For my two cents, it seems that we often forget as a profession la is at the intersection of art and science. With one foot in each world we should be able to slide back and forth, finding work we enjoy (sometimes more than others) in a number of careers.

    Jon Quackenbush

    Will you roast your own beans?  If not, I fully endorse Strongtree Organic Coffee Roasters in Hudson, Ny.  Guarantee it will be the best espresso you’ve ever tried. 


    Alan Ray, RLA

    Roasting beans may happen sometime later, there are two excellent roaters here in Cashville…Bongo Java and Drew’s Brews are suppliers to the best shops in this area…if I could afford Strongtrees I may try them…could be an edge for competition w/ other shops…..

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