Updates from ASLA

ASLA 2019 Professional General Design Honor Award. Glenstone, Potomac, Maryland. PWP Landscape Architecture >

Public Practice Grows Here

The ASLA Public Practice Advisory Committee aims to serve the professional needs of ASLA members employed in government, nongovernmental organizations, and nonprofit agencies who are involved in public works of landscape architecture. The committee’s work also aspires to encourage more landscape architects, including students in landscape architecture programs and emerging professionals, to pursue careers in the public sector.

ASLA members who identify as professionals in the public sector responded to a survey in the fall of 2019 about their professional practice needs and interests. Responses included many insightful comments and suggestions, which the PPAC will use to curate future professional development opportunities.

Below are highlighted quotes from public practitioners on key themes that arose when answering:

How did you get into public practice?

Pursuing a passion for public service
  • I got an opportunity to teach while I was in school and enjoyed the sense of satisfaction that comes with helping others achieve success
  • rebuilding post-Katrina and seeing ways to more effectively address community-based needs/visions and work at scale
  • I love the service and always wanted to do park planning

Made the switch from private practice
  • I spent my first 9-10 years in private practice. I decided to "test the waters" of public practice and found that it was more rewarding (professionally).
  • After three years of high end residential design-build I wanted something bigger/different (a bit blindly but stayed 32 years)
  • Referred for a position by a colleague - after spending 30 years in private practice.
  • I got into public practice after working in the private sector for about 3 years. I learned about public practice work from my brother who was a planner for the WSDOT and was intrigued by the different scope/scale of work done at DOT. I've been in public practice for 15 years and find it rewarding (despite the challenges inherent in government work/processes and being a minority discipline).
  • Worked in the private sector for 14 years. Answered an employment add in landscape architecture for a park & recreation planer position in the Omaha Parks, Recreation & Public Property Dept. over 26 years ago.
  • After working almost four years in the private sector, I realized that I wanted to have a greater impact on the community and be involved in the decisions made earlier in the process that eventually inform the work that architects and landscape architects do.
  • By working for multi-disciplinary firms and learning about wetland science.
  • I sold my four-year-old residential/commercial design-build business in order to seek out any person, group or organization that aspired to the concepts I had in mind. My first job in public practice was to train NYC Dept of Parks crews to perform tasks that we would now consider components of ecological restoration: repairing fragmented forest patches in large NYC Parks in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx.
  • I started working at a small LA/planning firm for about 5 years and got very interested in the planning side of things. I wanted to go into public practice so I could help shape policy and take a larger view of the urban landscape (rather than on a more site-by-site basis).

Exposure to public clients
  • I worked for over a decade in consulting specializing in public projects (mostly trails and active transportation, and later shifting to park planning), and wanted to work on the “owner side” to have a bigger influence.
  • I worked on public projects for a landscape architecture firm then an engineering firm and really liked them then I went to work at the Vt. Agency of Transportation first as a planner then assistant to their landscape architect.
  • I was recommended for an entry position in the planning department by consultant hired to assist with growth management, changed from private sector during a period of slow growth
  • I subcontracted with the nonprofit to do a stormwater facility design, during which the person running the program left. I was brought in on an interim basis, then applied for the position
  • They were a client in my private practice. They recruited me.

I always knew I wanted to be in public practice
  • Always wanted to work in public practice - so tailored my degree to reflect those interests. Summer jobs working in government, got a job immediately after graduation for government.
  • All I ever wanted to do is design parks and public spaces for the common good and the good of the planet. I set goals and made it happen.
  • Always my impulse from the very beginning, to work on projects in the public realm. I have done so from the public sector, private sector and non-profit roles.

Insights on specific pathways or resources
  • Working as a draftsman, then a highway engineering supervisor, then a landscape designer, then a landscape architect, now a wayfinding sign program specialist
  • A student internship with a state land use management agency led to eventual full-time employment in planning and community development.
  • Applied for positions through
  • Environmental & Sustainability Planner was my first job in the public sector.
  • passion for park projects. started out working for a non-profit land trust and eventually found positions as a park planner and project manager
  • Working for a non-profit in park planning then went into state park planning.
  • Through the Presidential Management Fellows program, the Federal Governments premiere leadership development program for recent graduates.
  • I was a planner first and sought landscape architecture as a way to mitigate the negative effects of development.
  • After years of private practice, applied for federal government position through
  • applied during economic slowdown of 2008 when private practice was struggling
  • My first job out of college was in public practice at the City of Portland's Bureau of Transportation. I responded to an advertisement for an entry-level program/project/planning support role and then continued to advance in my career as a capital project manager. My career took a different path than most of my peers because I've never worked in a traditional landscape architecture practice.
  • It offered the best pay and benefits package while allowing me the best work/life balance. In addition, I like working for and with the public and on big picture projects.
  • Initially hired to perform construction plan review for NPDES permits, branched out into grant project design for sustainable stormwater management for municipalities
  • My tenure started with an internship during my undergraduate studies that led to a temporary position and then a permanent one after I obtained my MLA.

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