Product News by Forms + Surfaces, Victor Stanley, ANOVA, and Topos

Product News by Forms + Surfaces, Victor Stanley, ANOVA, and Topos

10/3/2017

What Gets in Your Way?

Members of ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs) were recently surveyed on a number of topics, with questions created with member input gathered at the ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO, on social media, by email, and through comments on The Field. Responses were varied and included many insightful comments and suggestions, which will be shared and discussed with everyone here over the next few months, and also used to spark ideas for ASLA Online Learning webinars and posts for The Field.

What is the greatest challenge landscape architects face today? We asked this question for the first time back in January 2014 (see The Field for a summary of the responses then). In 2014, the most frequent response was described by one member as “the same challenge we have always faced”—defining and communicating what landscape architecture is, both to the public and to other design professionals, to ensure that the value of landscape architects’ work is understood and recognized. Other recurring topics included the economy, finding work, dealing with limited project budgets, competition, climate change, and water scarcity.

While one snarky member wrote that “surveys” are the greatest challenge landscape architects (and another said, “Finding a great marker pen”), this time around, while growing recognition for landscape architects remains a critical challenge and climate change was mentioned many times, financial topics were a greater focus. Twenty percent of responses to this question touched on payments / pay, profits, financial security, funding, the economy, budgets, and competition. A few other increasingly relevant issues: government regulations and challenges to licensure.

Below, we highlight quotes from PPN members on these key themes.

Recognition of Landscape Architecture and Landscape Architects’ Value
• “A large portion of people involved in developing still view landscape architects as a luxury that's not needed unless an elaborate design is to take place. Landscape architects can make a dramatic difference in how a site will function after any development.”
• “Advocating for the profession to the point that everyone knows what a landscape architect does.”
• “As always getting people to understand and appreciate what we do and the value we bring. Architects, engineers, clients, contractors, the public.”
• “Communication....and the name....because the field is so diverse (which is great) it is sometimes hard to explain what all the benefits of landscape architecture are and what many previously ‘non-traditional’ choices there are for people to choose from.”
• “Educating people on what our skills are. A lot engineers and architects I work with are often surprised we do more than planting and irrigation plans.”
• “Fighting the professional cubbyhole - we are not garden designers! We are architects of the land, and all that it entails.”
• “Generally, people don't understand the value we provide, and that we create places whose social and environmental values appreciate with time - something that's not immediately envisioned or measured.”
• “To be taken seriously, to be understood. As Laurie Olin said, ‘It is hard to think of any field that has accomplished so much for society with so few people and with so little understanding of its scope or ambitions.’”

Landscape Architects as Leaders, from the Start
• “Having sufficient knowledge about their craft to give them sufficient confidence to be more aggressive in their advocacy for the benefits of good, ecologically based design.”
• “LAs are rarely put into leadership positions within project teams. LAs need to be able to lead projects to drive innovation, design principles, and further LA causes.”
• “Other professions still think we aren't needed, many engineers and architects still think we are only there to provide a planting plan for a commercial project instead of vital part of the entire process. We are only consulted at the end of a project when everything important is already decided, instead of at the beginning when we could contribute and collaborate to make a better project.”
• “Public recognition as the leader of the design and works we do. I still see architects getting or taking credit for our work.”

Financial Security and Funding Challenges
• “As it has been for years, getting enough work and staying profitable.”
• “Competition for limited dollars and space in our urban centers.”
• “Demanding schedules inhibit thoughtful iterative design processes.”
• “Federal level defunding of institutions and projects that are our lifeblood.”
• “Financial security as we are often seen as the fluff or icing on the cake vs. the bones of a project.”
• “Funding and selling the far reaching benefits of what we do (educating clients) - both seem interrelated.”
• “Loss of federal support for public projects.”
• “Making MONEY!!!! It’s extremely difficult to make money as an LA. Market over saturation and the cut throat bidding wars make it very tough.”
• “The bureaucracy of maintaining a business.”

Dealing with Regulations and Defending Licensure
• “Dissolution of our profession's legitimacy. Defense of our profession's licensing requirements at the state level demands an ongoing commitment of advocacy. Without this distinction, we are little more than ‘landscapers’ to other industry professionals.”
• “Government cutting budgets which force them to consider taking licensure off the table.”
• “In my current state of residence seeing how little licensed LA's are 'allowed' to do here as compared to what is day to day business in every other state (truly sad!).”
• “Restrictions on scope of practice by government licensing agencies. Profession is too small in number to exercise the political strength to get restrictions on practice lifted. Public suffers.”

Continue to Innovate

• “Advocating the true potential of what we are capable of doing, and trying to push the potential of green infrastructure rather than continually doing cookie cutter designs. We need to change and be innovative with every project.”
• “Coupling advancing technology and design roles with basic plant knowledge and planting design. We can't lose sight of the landscape part of landscape architecture.”
• “Status quo retrenchment in policies and beliefs that are counter to understanding that it is necessary and possible to change human habitat and habits for the better.”
• “The sustainability movement that is evolving into a set of inflexible rules instead of a mode of thought.”

Growing Diversity and Growing the Profession
• “1. Our profession does not represent the communities we serve (demographically). 2. We need to be mindful that our pursuing of ‘legacy’ as professionals does not reinforce the urban-rural divide. Our recent political shift at the federal level is underscoring the fact that we need to figure out how to be bridges of the urban-suburban-rural gradient—even with this global urbanization trend.”
• “Finding entry level employees that have adequate critical thinking, problem-solving, motivation, math and writing skills. Also the ability to grasp what needs to be done on projects without constant guidance. And finally, the emotional intelligence to navigate through client interactions professionally and positively enough to instill faith in our firm.”

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