Andrew Garulay, RLA

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    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.


    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I set up and take 30 shots and then save. If I need more from the same location, I start again by taking the reference points again (usually two house corners on the same face and top of foundation or threshold) and continuing. I often need to relocate, but follow the same protocol.

    I use a more stable surveyors tripod because the one in the kit is hard to set up firmly on turf or mulch. It is also very easy to level the instrument by adjusting the leg lengths. It is just a circle bubble on the base that attaches to the tripod. After that you just select the function for doing the dxf which then prompts you to tilt the head of the device to confirm level – you have to turn it 90 degrees two more times so that the automatic leveling is fine tuned – takes a total of maybe a minute to set up and take the first shot.

    It is good to have some things you can use for a target for those odd instances where you are shooting something flush with grade (a tennis ball, tape measure, or a rock suffices).


    Andrew Garulay, RLA


    I most often use it to 2d draft in plan view. It creates three dxf files. One is a 2d plan view using the xy coordinates, one does it 2d elevation (x,z?), and the other is x,y,z. I most often use the plan view dxf to draft the as-built in plan view. If I also need spot elevations, I will add the 3d dxf as long as I have shot something with a known elevation (usually first floor or top of foundation. I’ll draw a short poly line from that point and then change the elevation of the polyline to match the known elevation and then snap that matching point to the end of the polyline which brings all of the points to the proper elevation. Then I can use the “ID” command to query the elevation of any other point and add text to that area to label the spot elevation.

    I use ACADlt, so all my drafting is plan view, but it does recognize z coordinate and the dwg is still has x,y,z. You just can’t make 3d solid objects or view your work in any other way than plan view.

    It is very quick to set up, shoot, and break down.


    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I think part of the problem is that people are either afraid to look at alternative pathways to success or have been convinced that they are less of an LA if they don’t go the firm route. I’m not saying that one way is better, but if you hit a road block you can either sit there and stare at it, hope for someone else to move it (ASLA, government, …) or you can just go around it.

    Someone is doing all of the “LA work”. If it is not LAs, people who want to do it better figure out who it is and start working for them to figure out why and then use that knowledge to start doing it on your own.

    THE WORK IS GETTING DONE BY SOMEBODY! They might not be called LAs. The education is only a waste if you can’t figure out where you need to look to get it.


    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    Things in the landscape are getting built and people are designing those things. That part has not changed other than volume going up or down as the economy swings. I don’t know (or care) about the statistics of how many have BLA/BSLA, or MLA, or any other degree or whether or not they have LA stamps, some other stamp, or no stamp at all. What I do know is that there is a need for what we call “Landscape Architecture” whether or not a lot of other people are calling it that.

    You can’t do that well without being well trained either through education or experience (where does one begin and the other leave off?). My personal opinion is that the skill set developed in an undergraduate BLA/BSLA program is (or at least was) a very targeted skill set to get a job working for others to develop actual practical experience whether that is with an LA firm, a civil engineering firm, an ecologic restoration firm, or an architectural firm.

    Designing on the land is an extremely diverse field with thousands of people working within it. I think one of the mistakes people make who enter the field through school is that they hear the profession described by their professors which is the “traditional LA firm” where everyone operates the same way. They hear how each design profession does their part and we all fit together. That may have been how most of “the system” worked in the 60’s and 70’s (maybe not), but it is very clear that the lines between our profession and other professions are very gray and fuzzy.

    Quite honestly our profession is made up of those thick gray fuzzy lines between architecture, civil engineering, and environmental restoration. What I see is that those others all reach as far as they can into the gray area that is our profession and when they touch – they don’t need to hire a whole other profession to join the design team. However, the skill set of an LA (or someone trained to become one) is just as viable in those firms reaching into that gray are as they are in a traditional LA firm. The problem is that everyone coming out of school is too focused on the career path that they have been told to follow (by professors who took a different route in most cases).

    There are tons of opportunities to apply the skill set. It is true that you have to start at the bottom and work your way up, but that also applies to traditional LA firms. It might be harder to do so in LA firms because a lot tend to dump their interns in favor of new interns instead of paying them more.

    I think you need to understand how the design profession is working in the market you want to work in and look for where you want to get to. When you know that, it is time to figure a strategy to build your experience so that you can get there without worrying about what letters you have after your name or where the firms you work for on the way up are listed in the yellow pages (sorry, where they come up in a google search).


    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    What you are describing is a active niche for sure. I live on Cape Cod and do residential landscape design. Many of the projects here are the razing and replacing of water front vacation homes (multi-million dollar summer homes). These are all heavily regulated to protect the many wetland resources that occur in these settings. Almost all of these projects require mitigation for expansion in the form of habitat restoration on site because most of these properties were originally developed before any wetland protection and have no or significantly degraded buffers to the resource areas. Additionally, many buffers that do exist are full of non-native invasive plant species. Views are usually very important to the new property owners, so these need to be done by qualified people to justify what is to be removed and how it will be restored in such a way that is not detrimental to the resource areas and enhances habitat for wildlife.

    Landscape Architects who work on residential design like I do usually are able to do the basic mitigation plans, but quite often a separate company is hired to do just the mitigation, vista permitting, and habitat restoration aspects of the more sensitive projects. This is a rapidly growing cottage industry where I am. They are not specifically Landscape Architecture firms, but a mix of biologists, landscape architects, people with landscape architecture degrees, and some people with some coastal engineering background. It is more of a team effort from what I observe and you may already be qualified to join in with a similar firm. They seem to learn from one another very well in their team work office and field environment.

    Google ecologic restoration and a geographic area that you might want to be in and see what careers are listed on the various company websites. You may be surprised.


    Andrew Garulay, RLA


    First – I think a lot of us go through a phase where we don’t see that our careers are moving forward. It is very easy to let yourself think that you don’t have what the employers are looking for. I am someone who is missing a lot of the skills on the check list of what “All Landscape Architects” need to be good at. Once I stopped worrying about that (which was way too long) my confidence built and then things came together. Don’t look for reasons why your career can’t move forward because you will find them and YOU will use them to keep yourself down. Stop that as soon as you can.

    Second – You are turning a corner in the way you are thinking about your career. That will fully come together when you identify where your skill sets fit rather than how are you going to make yourself fit where you don’t.

    Third – this flows where you may fit way more than you think and right away. There is a lot of growth in small environmental mitigation and restoration firms where I live and work. They are small growing companies in a niche industry. It is almost design/build landscaping, but focused just on the environmental portion of the projects. These are more often high end residential projects that are in wetlands protection jurisdiction. These firms are growing and hire people of varying backgrounds and advance from within. My interactions with them makes me feel like all their people are team members and not just people occupying seats. Message me if you want contact info to a couple of these firms.

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