Design and Politics

Capitol Building, Washington, DCimage: Shavawn Coleman
Capitol Building, Washington, DC
image: Shavawn Coleman

It’s inevitable that politics and the design profession collide. After listening to Eric Roberts, the Vice President of SH Architecture in Las Vegas, NV, it is imperative that the design profession get involved in the political aspect of our profession. Politics and design don’t seem to coincide. If we go back and look, only one United States President listed ‘architecture’ as his profession, Thomas Jefferson. It is about time we end the 200 year hiatus.

The question is how do we get involved?

Join a political action committee (PAC). A PAC allows people to get their message on to the public agenda. Not only will it get voices heard, it will promote the design profession. Also, a group of voices is much more powerful than one voice. Consider the quote: “If you don’t have a seat at the table then you are on the menu.” How many times has landscape architecture been on the chopping block at universities and we run in to save it, then go back to our lives? It’s time we be more proactive and passionate about saving the landscape architecture programs in our schools.

Why landscape architects make a difference.

Designers are right brain thinkers, very creative, passionate, and free spirited. The world is run through left brain thinkers, linear, logical, and analytical. Politicians need our passions, ideas, and creativity to take to the left brain thinkers.

All of this needs to start at the beginning with children. Currently our education system is left brained. Education these days is measured by test scores. These test scores are more important than creativity. It shows every year when the arts and music programs get cut and test scores fall. It is time Celebrate the Right Brain!

Future generations will be led by people who can adapt to change and the entrepreneurial desire to excel their career. In design school, we were taught to create our own solutions to design problems. While in business school, the problems were taught by precedence and not creating their own solutions. Many times we were wrong, but if you are afraid to fail, you will never be right.  We need to design and create for the little kid inside of us. Remember having a wild imagination as a child and somewhere we lost it growing up?

Creativity and politics comes full circle. Becoming involved with the political side of design not only helps our current careers, but also helps college programs, and trickles down to the children who are our future in design.

What can you do today?

  1. Join a PAC
  2. Call your City Council Members and educate them on our career.
  3. Volunteer! Anywhere you can, especially in schools. Teach kids how awesome design really is.
  4. Run for office.

Be sure to check out ASLA’s Advocacy Resources, such as the ASLA Grassroots Advocacy Network. The Advocacy Network allows for Landscape Architects to contact their Federal, State, and Local elected officials on important issues.


Eric Roberts, AIA, NCARB, LEED Design Expert- Vice President of SH Architecture. Lecture at Nevada ASLA monthly meeting.

by Shavawn Coleman, LEED AP BD+C, ASLA| | Secretary and Treasurer for Nevada ASLA Chapter and Project Coordinator for a local Las Vegas Landscape Architecture Firm

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