If You Could Change Your Career Path

The Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, 2009 Professional ASLA Honor Award, General Design Category image: Terry Moore, 2008

The Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, 2009 Professional ASLA Honor Award, General Design Category
image: Terry Moore, 2008

As a corollary to the previous question covered from a 2014 survey of ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs)—What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career?—PPN members were also asked: If you could change one thing about your job or career path, what would it be?

On a heartening note, around 10 percent of respondents said they would change nothing:

“50 years have flown by and my career path, which has evolved in several paths over the period, is still fun.”

“I’ve done the types of projects that I’ve wanted to, I founded a successful firm. We do great work for good clients.”

“The eight years I spent in the private sector helped me succeed in the public sector where I am today.”

“I actually did just change the ‘one thing.’ I just started my own studio.”

Almost anyone can relate to many of the other answers given, including requests to “add more time” and “I wish I didn’t have to worry about making money.” However, many responses were specific to landscape architecture, and a few recurring ideas are highlighted below.

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The 2017 HALS Challenge

Roeding Park (HALS CA-59). Grove of fan palms on east side of park. image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, HALS CA-59

Roeding Park (HALS CA-59). Grove of fan palms on east side of park.
image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, HALS CA-59

The Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) was created in 2000 to promote documentation of our country’s dynamic historic landscapes. Much progress has been made in identifying cultural landscapes, but more is needed to document these designed and vernacular places.

For the 8th annual HALS Challenge, we invite you to document a historic city or town park. In 2016, the National Park Service celebrated its centennial with the Find Your Park movement to spread the word about the amazing national parks and the inspirational stories they tell about our diverse cultural heritage. Find Your Park is about more than just national parks! It’s also about local parks and the many ways that the American public can connect with history and culture and make new discoveries. With more than 80% of Americans living in urban areas, urban parks are becoming more important than ever.

Perhaps the city or town park you choose to document may:

  • be so popular that it is threatened by overuse;
  • be challenged with incompatible additions or updates;
  • suffer from neglect and deferred maintenance;
  • be unnoticed with its significance unappreciated; and/or
  • be documented to encourage its preservation.

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Ask a Landscape Architect

At the ASLA Annual Meeting's EXPO in New Orleans this October, attendees had a chance to sound off on what they’d like to find out from their PPN peers. image: Event Photography of North America Corporation (EPNAC)

At the ASLA Annual Meeting’s EXPO in New Orleans this October, attendees had a chance to sound off on what they’d like to find out from their PPN peers.
image: Event Photography of North America Corporation (EPNAC)

Each year, a survey is sent out to members of ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs), asking them to sound off on a variety of topics. Past survey themes have included favorite spaces, career paths and work issues, creativity and inspired design, and more. For 2017, we’re asking our members what questions they’d like PPN members to answer.

So, if you had a chance to ask a fellow landscape architect anything, what would it be? Responses are welcome in the comments section below, or by email to propractice@asla.org. We look forward to hearing from you!

Shaped by your responses, the survey will be sent to all PPN members in early 2017, and summaries of the survey results will be shared in LAND’s PPN News section and here on The Field.

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Network and Learn at New Partners for Smart Growth

Citygarden, St. Louis, 2011 Professional ASLA Honor Award, General Design Category image: Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects

Citygarden, St. Louis, MO, 2011 Professional ASLA Honor Award, General Design Category
image: Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects

Registration is now open for the 16th Annual New Partners for Smart Growth: Practical Tools and Innovative Strategies for Creating Great Communities Conference, held February 2-4, 2017 in St. Louis, MO. The conference will explore practical strategies for identifying and overcoming barriers to more sustainable development in the St.Louis region and the rest of the nation and will feature tools, strategies, focused training, and new technologies that will help communities now.

Early-bird rates are available now through November 30, 2016. This year’s conference will feature 80+ conference sessions – plenaries, breakouts, implementation workshops, focused training – and much more over three full days. Visit www.newpartners.org to register today!

ASLA, along with the Local Government Commission (LGC) will once again be leading the effort for Parklets 5.0 at the conference. Planning is underway to create several interactive spaces showcasing how a parklet can transform an under-utilized parking space (or two) into exciting opportunities for creating more vibrant spaces in communities. For additional information, check out Parklets 4.0 from the 15th Annual New Partners for Smart Growth Conference in Portland, OR.

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Advice for Emerging Professionals

The Power Station, 2016 Professional ASLA Honor Award, General Design Category image: Adolfo Cantu-Villareal

The Power Station, 2016 Professional ASLA Honor Award, General Design Category
image: Adolfo Cantu-Villareal

Given the question What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? in a 2014 survey,  members of ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs) responded with a wealth of insights into the profession and sound advice for emerging professionals. Among the topics mentioned most frequently were the importance of business management and marketing skills, and also being an effective communicator. In addition, several other key themes emerged, highlighting both the highs and lows of a career in landscape architecture.

Skills to Focus On

“How important communications are to being a good professional.”

“The best idea in the world is worthless unless it can be communicated to an audience.”

“How important/beneficial sketching can be and to take more art classes to hone that skill.”

“How to draw really well and how to take top-notch photographs.”

“The importance of collaboration with other trades (architects, engineers, sociologists, developers) and how to communicate better in multidisciplinary teams.”

“The importance of marketing skills for personal success in the profession.”

“The importance of public speaking and professional writing.”

“Artistic expression and creativity aren’t the only things you need. Writing, organization, and management skills are just as important.”

“It is very important to have good people skills and business skills. Our whole profession is based on selling ideas to people and managing people.”

“The business aspect of running a firm. So much of our work is trying to win new work.”

“I wish I had a better understanding of the business side of things, accounting, proposal writing, fee estimation, client coordination, etc.”

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Wonder for the Outdoors

The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk Through the Forest that Inspired the Hundred Acre Wood, by Kathryn Aalto image: Timber Press

The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk Through the Forest that Inspired the Hundred Acre Wood, by Kathryn Aalto
image: Timber Press

Book Review of The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh by Kathryn Aalto

Although I have read Winnie-the-Pooh and grew up watching the Disney movies, a book on the forest that inspired Winnie-the-Pooh seemed a stretch for design application, even with children’s outdoors environments. But it isn’t. Winnie-the-Pooh’s 100 Acre Forest was based on the real Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, England. Preservationists have kept it much the same as it was when A.A. Milne wrote the stories so it can be visited today. Kathryn Aalto’s approach to her subject is nuanced and thorough. It provides a perfect case study for children spending time in nature.

Divided into three parts, the book starts with a short biography of A.A. Milne and the illustrator E.H. Shepard as well as the creation of the story. The youngest and most precocious of three sons, Milne could identify words before age three. With two parents who were teachers and the nature around Hampstead in the late 1800s, he thrived. His father told the children, “Keep out of doors as much as you can, and see all you can of nature: she has the most wonderful exhibition, always open and always free.” [2] It is hard to imagine the breadth of the territory that he explored with his nine-year-old brother as they wandered through the British countryside. The text includes Milne’s essay on their three-day walking tour through the country and villages. This narrative fits well with Louise Chawla’s research that most people who care about the environment had either an adult modeling a love of nature or spent extensive time in nature as a child. [1] Milne had both.

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Design Tools: Sketching vs. Digital

Left: Michigan Avenue Streetscape: 20 Years of Magnificent Mile Blooms, 2016 Landmark Award / Right: The Digital & The Wild: Mitigating Wildfire Risk Through Landscape Adaptations, 2016 Student ASLA Honor Award, General Design Category image: Hoerr Schaudt / Jordan Duke, Student ASLA

Left: Michigan Avenue Streetscape: 20 Years of Magnificent Mile Blooms, 2016 Landmark Award / Right: The Digital & The Wild: Mitigating Wildfire Risk Through Landscape Adaptations, 2016 Student ASLA Honor Award, General Design Category
image: Hoerr Schaudt / Jordan Duke, Student ASLA

In addition to where landscape architects spend most of their time—in the office or out on site—the primary media used to create and carry out designs, perform research, and manage projects also vary from one practitioner to the next. In a 2014 survey of ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs), members were asked how they prefer to work: on a computer or sketching ideas out by hand.

Overall, sketching proved to be the more popular choice: 46 percent of respondents love to sketch, 31 percent prefer to work on a computer, and 23 percent favor a “hybrid approach,” using the “computer for efficiency” and the “hand for creativity,” as one respondent put it. Several key themes highlighting the pros and cons of each emerged in respondents’ comments.

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