Skills for Success in Landscape Architecture

Peritoneum computer model – 2012 Award of Excellence Winner for Student Collaboration image: Tim Trumble and Anna Christy
Peritoneum computer model – 2012 Award of Excellence Winner for Student Collaboration
image: Tim Trumble and Anna Christy

In a 2014 survey of ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs), we asked members: What one characteristic or skill is most essential for success in landscape architecture? Though there is no single skill or ability that guarantees success, there are many that are certainly helpful to have and continue to sharpen. Perhaps surprisingly, only a handful of respondents mentioned extensive knowledge of plants, horticulture, or the more technical, scientific side of landscape architecture as critical to success. Instead, being an effective communicator and other soft skills appeared far more frequently.

The most popular answers were:

Communication
Creativity and creative problem solving
Flexibility
Adaptability
Listening skills
Passion for design
Curiosity
Attention to detail
Critical thinking

In addition to these top answers, there were several key themes that emerged, highlighting both the challenges and the appeal of landscape architecture:

Communicate Clearly—Verbally and Visually

“Be a strong voice at the table”

“Ability to communicate complex ideas”

“Ability to articulate design concepts”

“Being able to collaborate and communicate successfully with the project stakeholders”

“Knowing how to build consensus”

“Being able to tell a good story”

The Power of Imagination

“Ability to envision a project”

“Be open to new ideas or ways of looking at things. Be curious.”

“Visualizing the potential in a place”

“Ability to envision multiple scenarios”

“Ability to think three dimensionally”

Peritoneum. Sketches. Each student expressed their own design ideas and, as a team, discussed and narrowed down to a final design. – 2012 Award of Excellence Winner for Student Collaboration image: Tim Trumble and Anna Christy
Peritoneum. Sketches. Each student expressed their own design ideas and, as a team, discussed and narrowed down to a final design. – 2012 Award of Excellence Winner for Student Collaboration
image: Tim Trumble and Anna Christy

Systems-Level, Big-Picture, Multidisciplinary Thinking

“Holistic understanding of disciplines LA influences, i.e. architecture, engineering, sociology, ecology, transportation”

“Ability to see big picture in terms of people, places and needs”

“Broad thinking combined with interest in how things are built”

“Horizontal thinking (searching for and uncovering connections among seemingly disparate ideas or objects)”

“Ability to synthesize lots of different types of information”

“Ability to consider multiple scales, regional, city, local, site, at the same time”

“Ability to think across scales to identify opportunities”

“Be well rounded, able to think at all scales”

“Maintaining a comprehensive outlook while being able to pay attention to details”

Landscapes of Justice: Redefining the Prison Environment – 2015 Award of Excellence Winner for Community Service image: Julie Stevens, ASLA
Landscapes of Justice: Redefining the Prison Environment – 2015 Award of Excellence Winner for Community Service
image: Julie Stevens, ASLA

Hands-On Experience in the Field

“Design feasibility. Too many new LA’s have spent time in programs without any real test to what can be done in the real world, and not just their imaginations. Creativity is important, but so is cost.”

“Dealing with stress and short deadlines”

“Coordination of teams/people management”

“Diplomacy”

“Customer service/client relationships”

Confidence

“Self-assurance that our skill set is needed—landscape architecture is not widely understood, and therefore, not always respected as an integral part in the construction and rehabilitation of this built environment.”

At the start of 2014, a questionnaire was sent out to members of ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs). The theme: career paths in landscape architecture. As you can imagine, responses were varied, and included many insightful comments and suggestions. Synopses of the survey results were originally shared in LAND over the course of 2014, and we are now re-posting this information here on The Field. For the latest updates on the results of the annual PPN Survey, see LAND’s PPN News section.

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