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Land Matters: What You Said

Our favorite issue of the year is here! Everyone looks forward to seeing the latest annual lineup of ASLA Awards for student and professional work and the panoramic look they offer into the best current thinking in landscape architecture practice and education. (Read it for free online.) It’s edifying for landscape architects to see how the profession is evolving. But it’s also a collection we hope will intrigue and educate a wider public and introduce people, if they don’t know already, to the diversity and complexity of issues landscape architects can illuminate and the range of problems they can solve. The two juries that choose the awards invest long, exhausting hours together reviewing the work of hundreds of entrants to decide which projects point definitively forward—and that includes among them the worthiest interpretations of landscape history.

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Here at the magazine, we undergo a thorough review, too, in the form of our annual readers’ survey. All of our subscribers, to both the print and digital versions, were invited in August to fill out a questionnaire online. It is a bit long and detailed, we know, but it covers everything we need to know in the push for constant improvement. This year, we had what we consider a healthy response from slightly more than 1,000 of you.

Some basic statistics gave us a profile of our readership. Most of the readers who answered, about one-third, are between the ages of 45 and 60; another 30 percent are between 31 and 44. More than half earn $100,000 or less a year (about 8 percent make more than $200,000). Fifty-one percent work in private design firms, and about 16 percent work for a public agency. Among types of work, parks and recreation supply the greatest share of projects by type (52 percent), followed by urban design and streetscapes (48 percent), planning (40 percent), and residential design (37 percent). Sixty-five percent of respondents say they select consultants or contractors for their projects.

Nearly two-thirds have been reading LAM for more than a decade, and 57 percent report spending one to three hours with the magazine. As for other publications, the consumer magazines most often read by respondents are, in order, National Geographic, Dwell, and The New Yorker. One-third say they don’t subscribe to any consumer magazines; one-third also report not reading a daily newspaper, though among dailies, the New York Times is read by 28 percent of respondents.

Now, let’s drill into LAM: We’re happy if you’re happy, and most of you are. (And those who aren’t left robust comments that we are certainly taking into account.) We received our highest counts of “good” or “excellent” for our photography and images (86 percent), followed by the range of topics we cover (81 percent) and writing quality (80 percent)—and to avoid sounding skewed, the goods always outnumbered the excellents, except for overall appearance, which 42 percent found excellent and 36 percent found good. The highest numbers of “average” ratings were for our level of technical detail (30 percent) and typography (29 percent). Typography also brought the highest combined number of “below average” and “poor” ratings, at about 16 percent—the rest were in the single digits.

As for how we currently cover a long list of topics, most notable are what you told us we need to cover more: development trends (35 percent said so); biohabitat issues for animals (27 percent); plants and soils (39 percent); and planting design (38 percent). The plant-related numbers came as a surprise, though a pleasant one. About a third of readers would like more coverage of urban design and revitalization.

Finally, there were the answers I was looking forward most to reading: What topics do you think will be most important to cover in the next three years? More than 400 respondents answered this question, and there were frequent replies of stormwater management, urban issues, and promoting active living. But the single most commonly cited issue towered over the rest: climate change, climate change, climate change. Those of you who gave that answer will find yourselves quite interested in next month’s issue. All of your answers will be extremely helpful to us in the coming year. On behalf of everyone at LAM, I thank you for taking time to tell us what you think. Enjoy the awards, in print or for free online.

Bradford McKee
Editor
Landscape Architecture Magazine

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