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American Society of Landscape Architects


June 2006 Issue

Young Owners
Starting a firm is hard, but starting a firm while young is even harder. Here’s how a few landscape architects have made their own start-ups work.

By Adam Regn Arvidson, ASLA

Young Owners Paul Anderson/

In 1841, Andrew Jackson Downing wrote the seminal work A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, Adapted to North America. He was 26 years old. By 30, he had written two more books on the then-fledgling profession of landscape architecture. Calvert Vaux entered into a partnership with Downing in 1850, also at the age of 26. Beatrix Farrand, original ASLA member and designer of Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C., began practicing on her own from the upper floor of her mother’s New York City brownstone at age 25. Thomas Church opened his San Francisco-based firm in 1903 at the age of 30. Garrett Eckbo followed him in 1940 at the same age. M. Paul Friedberg got a head start on them in 1958 at age 27.

In probably any profession there are examples throughout history of those who have started early—those who defy the unwritten rules of experience and paying one’s dues, and hang out a shingle before they pass their third decade. 

So what? For every venerable landscape architect who started early, there are even more who did not. And for every young upstart who succeeded, there are likely just as many who failed and are now lost in anonymity. The harsh reality is this: Starting a firm is hard, and starting a firm young is even harder. Young practitioners (take young to mean thirtyish and younger, for the purposes of this article) are likely to have fewer contacts, less business savvy, and less credibility—all major obstacles to overcome in a profession responsible for a wide breadth of projects and founded on individual client contact.

…To read the entire article, subscribe to LAM!

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