Andrew Garulay, RLA

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    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    “…any design idea is ‘automatically’ good and not questioned regarding practicality.”

    My best professor used to say “so what” when someone presented a stunning visual plan with the intent on getting one to explain “why”. He was the last “old school” professor at the university that I went to. I got the most out of him because he “beat into me” the need to have a reason for everything. I found that was missing from some of the other professors who were happy to marvel and drape praise over something that looked exciting.

    It did not stifle creativity or kill imaginative aesthetics because those do not fight a REASON to do something. One of the main structures of the design process that he espoused was that everything is an ACTIVITY (sleeping, meditating, parking, walking, viewing the ocean, …), that a certain EXPERIENCE should be sought for each ACTIVITY (these could be different for the same activity depending on the users), and that certain physical REQUIREMENTS are necessary to achieve the desired Experience for that ACTIVITY.

    I was very concerned, as an older student, that this way of thinking was being overtaken by a desire to make students happy by letting them do what anything to make impressive looking projects. I began to feel like projects that looked good for marketing the program was getting in the way of preparing students to do well in the profession.

    Less than half of the students from my class went into the profession. Only three of us remain in it.


    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I wish they had more emphasis on:

    1. the diversity of opportunities there are to apply the knowledge, skills, and abilities one acquires with the education.

    2. that strengths in some areas can overcome weakness in others.

    3. that less is sometimes more. (rather than giving the impression that more deliverables, more management, higher end graphics, …. always give an advantage)


    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    High cost of living states are typically states that have a large wealthy population (in numbers, not percent of population)and “big business”. Those are places where more money is spent on things that landscape architects do. That in turn means more opportunity. That is why you see job advertisement in those areas.

    Also, high tax states are states that spend a lot of money – not saying that is a good thing, just that it is a fact. Some of that money is spent on big projects that require “landscape architecture”. Another reason you see job listings in those states.

    I’m not advocating for high cost of living states, but it is reality that this is why you see jobs in those areas and not in Appalachia.

    A lot of landscape architecture is driven by the local value of aesthetics. While everyone enjoys nice aesthetics, not everyone values aesthetics enough to pay for it. When we are talking about developers spending money on aesthetics it needs a return on investment. They don’t get that return in areas where it does not give them a marketing advantage and they will lose return on investment if others are gaining a competitive advantage through aesthetics in their market.

    Basically, landscape design is a “keep up with the Jonse’s” industry. If the Jonse’ s are looking good the Smith’s will follow. If the Jonse’s don’t have anything the Smith’s will be content to do the same.

    No matter what area of the profession you work, or what region you are in, you won’t get anywhere without the Jonse’s valuing what you do.


    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    The internship and license process, in my opinion, is a mechanism to gain experience and knowledge in areas that may otherwise not present themselves or avoided because of lack of confidence or competence. That is a good thing for anyone trying to be competitive in a free market world where you need to be offering something that someone else wants and/or needs.

    I don’t believe that anyone hires any LA just because they have a stamp. The stamp does not get anyone work. It is usually referral from a trusted source who can vouch for someone’s competence or it is from awareness of accomplishments based on reputation. If that is the case, and I believe it is, a person who is not qualified for a particular project is very unlikely to have the opportunity to work on it.

    The flip side to that is that it is a VERY diverse field with some areas of it not needing as much knowledge or as much experience in other areas encapsulated into the “profession”.

    We all tend to measure minimal competency by what is needed in our niche of landscape architecture, but the reality is that no one is fully experienced and competent in ALL areas of landscape architecture, so where should the line be drawn? I don’t think you have any reason to fear competition from someone under qualified to do some of the projects that you do or have done, nor should someone with a simpler project need to be limited to hire someone with more abilities than necessary because of a license requirement that exceeds what is necessary.

    I really don’t care if the licensing was dropped from every state. I used it as a mechanism to force me to delve in areas that I would not have much of which were very helpful in the areas that I do work in.

    Licensure is more like a club with some of those in it wanting to be recognized for what the profession represents rather than their own personal accomplishments.


    Andrew Garulay, RLA


    Have you looked at any GIS software to run a query on slope analysis to visually show you slope percentages. It has been 20years since I used GIS, but it was very easy and fast to isolate slopes between certain percentages at that time. I’m sure it is as least as easy today. I would not be surprised if there is a CAD/GIS program that could display color coded slopes in real time. Something to check out.


    My plans are not intended as a work of art and are neither used to market either my design services or as a sales tool for contractors. They are intended as a very efficient (cost and time to produce) plan that can be easily read and built by an experienced landscape contractor without flipping through 15 sheets of plans with muddy hands. I play the game as the game is being played and with the limited skills that I have. There is a huge market for this that I would encourage others to pursue especially if they are having trouble finding work.

    Your method of hand drawing a work of art and your assertion that every landscape has to be outstanding is what academia and retired landscape architects keep preaching to upcoming landscape architects. Meanwhile those qualities are not being pursued nearly as much these days as they used to be in the real world – mostly because other methods now exist. Consequently, clients are more often seeking out others to accomplish their needs and the prototype landscape architect is in much less demand. The choice is to accept that smaller market with a lot of competitors (and there is nothing wrong with that), or to adjust to filling existing needs in a wider market.

    I think you do great work and have a great skill set. What you do is not what I do. What Neil does is different from what you or I do. I would never tell either one of you to do what I do because I actually do respect what other people do.

    It is foolish to complain that the profession is being displaced by others while discouraging adaptation to compete for the work. There is a place for hand saws and hammers and another bigger place for air-nailers and table saws. One can respect both. I’m done with the pissing contest.


    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    …. and somewhere along the way different professionals started sharing files.

    The LAs who still draw only by hand either have no idea or don’t care that everything has to be re-drawn in CAD if it is going to be precisely laid out in the field. Hand drawings are great, but you can’t snap survey points in them in ten minutes, load it in a data collector, and send a field crew out to precisely lay it out. Times have changed.

    I spent a lot of time in civil engineering offices re-drawing landscape architect’s hand drawings into CAD so that the work could be staked in the field. That all costs their clients money and wastes and delays projects. Those developers who figure it out find LAs who send a CAD file to the surveyor/engineer, or skip the LA altogether in the interest of time. Reality these days is that drawings get shared and in most cases an LA drawing can no longer be static and isolated.

    Expectations have changed because technology exists and with that is speed and efficiency. If some can turn things around faster than others it raises the expectations for everyone else. If you can’t meet those expectations and someone else can, you’re all done.

    And the next thread will be more about trying to solve the mystery of why other professionals are getting “our work”.

    You have to play the game as the game is being played.


    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I have begun to write on this thread several times and held back because it is a touchy subject, but it should be discussed.

    I see a lot of diversity in this profession. There is some type of discrimination in every aspect of our lives. It is also true that whenever any of us are not advancing as fast or feel like we are not getting treated the same as someone else we can sometimes jump to conclusions as to why that is. It may be sexism, racism, ageism, ….. but sometimes that conclusion can be incorrect and can get in the way of ourselves focusing on what we do have control of.

    Fighting discrimination is a good cause and something we should all be putting some effort into, but that is not your most compelling need in advancing your current position at this moment and it may or may not be the actual cause of what is holding you back. If you are mistakenly believing that you are discriminated against for something beyond your control it can be become a self manufactured obstacle to you doubling down on your efforts to do everything you can to advance yourself within your control.

    You will build resentment to your co-workers more and more if you spend a lot of energy looking for discrimination against you and it will affect your behavior and demeanor which will become more and more apparent to those whom you work with. That will in turn make them more negative toward you which will also make you more negative and it just gets worse.

    I’m a white male, so when things didn’t go so well for me in the many jobs that I have had in my life I could not feel like a victim of racial or gender discrimination. I had to come up with other self manufactured reasons, but I still sometimes managed to come up with them. However, as I learned more in life I figured out that people are people and they all have bias to or from one thing or another and there is nothing you can do about that on the individual level except prove them wrong for thinking it.

    Prove to them that they are mistaken if they believe you are not capable. Don’t focus on the individuals you are working with as whom you are working for. You are working for the entity of the firm. Do whatever you can to benefit the firm. Make other people’s (even jerks) work easier any time that you can and make yourself the best that you can be. Maybe it will work out there, but no matter what your career is going to be based on you being the best you can be. Do it for yourself.

    Discrimination is a societal issue that is bigger than one office and has to fought in that bigger arena.

    Having been within the inner workings of a number of companies and part of the management I have been privy to the inner thoughts of some of those running a company. There are a lot of reasons why different people are treated differently including biases held by individuals nearer to the top. Some apply stereotypes to certain types of people when they come in, but my observation is that those stereotypes fade as the familiarity of individuals increase. If that is the case in your circumstance, you need to be careful that you don’t feed any stereotype.
    One of the biggest concerns that I observed working closely with landscape business owners regarding women in the work place was that they believed that some women were too quick to blame gender discrimination on anything that did not go in their favor.

    I think that you will find that if there are any biases toward you for your age and/or gender it will all erode as you work hard and strive to be the best you can be. Good luck. If it does not work out, take your best efforts somewhere else. Just don’t break yourself by not being the best you can be under any circumstance.


    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I think we agree on most of it. The area where we differ is that I don’t like the licensing becoming too powerful. I think it is OK where it is simply because it is such a diverse field that after two years you should be competent enough to do what someone who would hire someone with two years experience needs you to do. AND, it is highly unlikely that someone who needs more competence is going to blindly hire someone without a track record. That goes back to my belief that no one hires anyone for their stamp, so having the stamp is not a free ticket to work on something that you are not capable of. You would need that longer richer experience ….. in other words after two years of internship and a license the market is going to sort things out.


    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    It is a two sided coin. Some LA firms exploit internships with short pay and have a revolving door by replacing their “seasoned” interns with new interns rather than paying them more. More internship time equals more potential exploitation. The other side of the coin is that you have license candidates with more “experience”.

    But, what is that experience? Is it two years of being a CAD monkey or is it more substantial than that? … who knows?

    As for inexperienced people going out on their own. I don’t really care. Hanging a shingle does not automatically get you or me work. Having a license does not either. Not having a license does not exclude too many people from doing “LA” work either (only in some states in certain circumstances. The free market determines that.

    Bob, you seem like a guy that is to the right of me on most things politically (and I’m definitely to the right despite my address), so I’m somewhat surprised that you don’t feel that the free market should function when it comes to Landscape Architecture.

    I believe that if someone believes that a less experienced person is “good enough” to do the work that they need – have at it. Buyer beware, but why should they pay for more competence if they don’t value it? Those that do value competence hire people based on referral, reputation, and portfolio in that order. The license won’t trump that (can we still use that term?). That should be quite obvious with all the lamenting threads about other professionals and non-professionals doing “our work”.

    The license and the hoops you go through to get it are things that incentivize getting experience doing things you might not get an opportunity to do otherwise or to gain experience in things you might otherwise avoid. I think it is a good mechanism to become known to others who may refer you later, to start to build a reputation through others being familiar with you through the firm you work with, and it starts a portfolio and a trail of built work that you at least had something to do with. One very big benefit that may or may not happen in that process is exposure to see who is working with whom, how business is being done locally, and where future opportunities lie.

    The biggest myth in my opinion is that the stamp in your hand is a key opens all doors. Few others care about your stamp. They do care about your reputation and built work and that may be a result of you chasing that stamp. It does tend to put you on the right track.

    The other thing is that if you can get the experience and reputation for designing on the land following a different path, …. well you still got there and your getting work that the person with two years experience as a CAD jockey and a stamp has no shot at getting. And what the heck is wrong with that?

    Welcome to America


    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    My whole point is that even if Landscape Architecture firms are failing (not sure of that, just hearing the statistics) there is good design going on. You can’t tell me that there is nothing being built that is well designed these days. And you can’t tell me that everything designed by Landscape Architecture firms in the past was all good design. I don’t see a that there is an overall degradation of design today over yesterday. That is just not true. There are people doing good and I suspect many of them have degrees in Landscape Architecture whether or not they took the licensure route or not. The whole point being that a degree in Landscape Architecture with a good rigorous studio training should position people to have lots of opportunities to design on the land no matter what profession the firm that is doing it falls under.

    Landscape Architecture as a religion may be dying, but landscape architecture as an activity is as vibrant as ever.


    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I agree that LA needs to have credibility and that professional licensing helps in that as well. There is nothing new about many other professionals and non-professionals doing design on the land. I don’t see them as competing against Landscape Architecture. They all fill needs in different ways for people with varying needs or they simply would not be able to get the work. A lot are taking on work that most LA’s would not want to compete for unless the clients were looking for more than what those designers are offering. Some of us expect the client to rise up to whatever our own office standards are. Some simply don’t feel that need and get what they want from those who will match the standards they are looking for whether that is based on price to produce or to simplify the process.

    “CE’s, Architectural Firms, Landscape Design Build Firms, Landscape Nurseries, Landscape Contractors, Swimming Pool Contractors, General Contractors, even Land Survey Companies, etc” …. These are opportunities for experience if you are a young person trying to move forward in the profession if there are not opportunities in a traditional LA office. Many of these are in fact people who have LA degrees and did not have doors opened for them in LA offices. They are doing the work and some are doing so by understanding the client needs and adapting to those rather than complaining that the clients are not adapting to what standards “Landscape Architecture” dictates that they SHOULD do.

    If Landscape Architecture firms are shrinking it is because they are not meeting the needs in the market while others are. It is that simple.

    Adapt, adapt, adapt! Don’t expect the market to adapt to what you have been taught to be ideal. There is still a need for every type including the very traditional Landscape Architect, but every market has different market segments in different proportions. Once a segment is full it is not easy to keep piling on. Sometimes a slight alteration in your services better meets the needs of some prospective clients than what others have been offering them. That could be to do more or it could be to simplify a little bit.

    If you are losing work to others, it means that others are meeting the needs of that clientele. That is just reality.

    Always remember that between any two points is another point. Just because the market is settling for a lower standard than what some others offer, it does not mean that their needs are being fully met. There is ALWAYS a place in between which could be the sweet spot to exploit the market that you are in.

    Are you not doing enough? Are you doing too much? The key is to understand your prospective clientele’s values and try to apply them to your approach. Openly discussing them might be something you do or it might be something that seems too awkward or unprofessional, but it is a realistic way to get a conversation going. “How can I serve you better than you are currently being served?” rather than announcing that we have higher standards which seems to be the current philosophy of our profession.


    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I say it all of the time. Landscape Architecture work has not disappeared. The title and structure of the profession is what has changed. It was an emerging profession that seemed like it was growing and taking off toward something on an equal footing with other licensed professions coming out of the 60’s. Something clearly happened or is happening to have diluted the need for it to stand as a separate profession in a big way. I don’t know if it has to do with how professional associations may have over played the self important hand or if it is something else.

    The fact is that Design on the land is real and it is thriving. Being part of it is not dependent on title or professional affiliation so much as just finding who is doing the work that is going on and finding a way to be part of it. I think “the profession” was once the vehicle for becoming a part of doing the work of designing on the land, but I think anyone wanting to do this type of work can’t just lock into that one channel and expect that all doors are opened through it.

    If you identify yourself too closely with “the profession” you will rise and fall with it rather than based on going out there and finding a place to be productive regardless of what the sign says on the window of the firm that you work for or own.


    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    The counter point to that is that the areas that you would not consider are areas with people with a lot of money, a high amount of “keep up with the Jonses” mentality, and a lot of regulation. All of these things add up to more opportunity in general as well as a higher need for design professionals not only to meet their aesthetic needs, but also to get them through the permitting process. This makes for a higher value and higher billing rates that can make those areas more than just affordable for people in our profession. That does not mean that you need to go to those places to have a great career.

    Everyone is different and values different things. My feeling is that you should never move somewhere that you don’t want to be just because it has a better job. Your job or career is to sustain and enhance your lifestyle. Your career should never determine your lifestyle.

    I think that is the underlying point that Bob is trying to get across that I would certainly agree with.


    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    It is very much state to state. A state with a Practice Act may have specific things that an LA can stamp while states with a Title Act pretty much allows you to do what any other person with no license can do except you can call yourself an LA. I see many Practice Acts as being little more than a Title Act to be honest with you. But, some states do grant the authority to design certain things that are otherwise restricted such as drainage.

    The reality is that our profession is so broadly defined that even the licensing is not very specific. That does not mean that it is not vibrant. It just means that there are few things that specifically require an LA. However, there are a lot of things that a particular LA may be the best person (or firm) to accomplish.

    Any person or firm has to be vigilant and understanding whom is doing what in their market and making sure those that have work that fits your skill set know about you and have good reason to want to use you instead of someone else … be that someone else an engineer, or architect, or landscape contractor, …. even Interior Designers are trying to do “our work”.


    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    No, I have not worked with the other units. I get by very well with the 910, so no strong desire to upgrade. Most of my jobs have fairly complete surveys anyway. I use it to supplement if they don’t get all of the trees, or if it is a small job like adding a swimming pool to an existing house. It does not replace a survey crew on a full site, but does a good job locating things in relation to each other.

    If topo is important, I use a zip level to get spot elevations on the ground, but again, I usually get a surveyors dwg with lots of spot grades and contours.

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