Shaping The Profession - Alpha Designer Survey Results05-21-24 | News

Shaping The Profession - Alpha Designer Survey Results

Practicing Landscape Architects Agree on The Importance of Their Status
by Staff

When the ASLA released a joint 'Reframing' study in December '23, it immediately drew the attention of Landscape Architects across the country. With the ASLA elections at stake, PLAs agree that they should be a lead member on development teams. Many were concerned that the association was on the path to further weaken the brand following a year where Landscape Architects were labeled as hedge-clippers on national TV and branded as socially woke activists by society. So, LASN sent out a survey, asking readers to choose between starting a conversation about the profession with a statement about the Social Benefits of a PLA or a purposefully assertive statement about a PLA's Alpha Leadership role. It was sent first to the ASLA Board of Trustees. Then, we sent one email to ASLA members and another to non-member Practicing Landscape Architects (PLAs).

Within 48 hours, we had more than 300 surveys taken and more than 130 of the survey takers left comments. The results were a dead heat, with 'Alpha' garnering one (1) more click overall than 'Social' from PLAs. Of the few PLAs who are members of the ASLA, 52.17% chose the Social Comment, while 52.94% of the non-member PLAs chose the Alpha statement. Not surprisingly, 69.5% non-PLAs who took the survey choose the non-Alpha statement.

There were many great comments, as well. The overarching theme is that PLAs have the skill to lead, 'Alpha' may have been too strong, but the need to strengthen the PLA's position is vital to the future success of the profession and, just as importantly, the whole world in need of LA services. Here are excerpts from a few dozen of the commenters. The comments are preceded by the person's choice, then by their status as a PLA (Y or N), and then by their ASLA membership status (self reported).

Alpha Survey Comments

Landscape Architect

Alpha Y Y My career began at Sasaki Associates when they had a branch office in the Miami, Florida area. The one thing I learned early was that the Landscape Architects were expected to take the lead on projects even when their own architects and civil engineers were involved. That is what Hideo Sasaki wanted.

Alpha Your request is timely, as I am in the process of preparing content for our WIASLA state chapter conference in April on the topic of the perceived value of landscape architects on project teams and why our profession has seemed to become less understood by allied professionals. I intend to spend the remaining years of my career shouting through a bullhorn to the public, agencies, municipalities, and academia on this topic. We are LANDscape Architects, not PLANTscape Architects.

Social Y N The [Alpha] statement *IS NOT* true, though it should be. There are an increasing number of non-LA professions that do, or are permitted to do, the work of the LA. I would also argue that the LA should have a significant role in Siting the building and even in its design if the second statement is true.

Social Y N I'm no Alpha designer, but I effectively lead a team of design professionals, scientists, and site managers to create and manage environmentally sound and sustainable solutions.

Social Y Y We may be Alpha designers, but we are usually part of a team that includes a number of engineering disciplines.

Alpha Y Y At first, I was a little put-off by the [Alpha] statement, since I thought it was a little too bold, but realized that's what our profession needs. We need to be bold, outspoken, and at the forefront of leading projects, since we are integral in designing and shaping the built environment and how people use and feel while in the spaces we design and build.

Social Y N LAs really need to be in the forefront, whether it's for visual impact assessments, resource protection, or advice on restoration plans. Architects and engineers design things that are mainly static, but LAs plan and design for the evolution of a space.

Social Y Y I agree with the [[Alpha] statement, but it is too aggressive to be used for constructive conversation.

Alpha Y N I think it's really important to emphasize that land and site planning is our domain. We just do a better job at it. For all the head scratchers out there wondering why, it's simple: because we spend our 40-60 hours a week thinking about land, while architects spend their 40-60 hours a week thinking about buildings.

Alpha Y N We are not necessarily Alpha Designers. We are more like conductors and coordinators that have kick-ass design skills.

Alpha Y Y Landscape is not a sauce to be poured over buildings to make them taste better. Architecture exists within the larger order and context of landscape the way furniture exists within a building.

Social Y Y There is probably a better statement that says the built environment is critically co-nested to health and well-being and that LAs are engaged in all parts of the built environment, especially those parts that are outside the walls of a building.

Alpha Y First, by not aggressively communicating to the world who we are and what we do, we have allowed architects to dominate the practice of what we do. Architects essentially do all the site planning.

Alpha Y Y I once had a city councilman who said, "Landscape Architects are half-educated, temperamental architects." Been working a lifetime to prove that wrong!

Alpha Y Y I prefer the [Social] statement (about health & well-being), however the first statement (about being Alpha Designers) could create a more informative and engaging conversation, better representing the role of the Landscape Architect.

Social Y N I don't support either. I am a registered Landscape Architect who's been practicing civil engineering for the past 25 years. Civil Engineers play a far greater role than LA's when it comes to outside the building.

Alpha Y The [Social] statement is typical public double-speech! It's offensive and unintelligible. The [Alpha] statement may offend the engineers. GOOD.

Social Y N I don't agree with the [Alpha] statement because Landscape Architects and Architects should work together to design both the natural and built environment together, in tandem, not separately.

Social Y N Maybe work on combing the two. A Landscape Architect's role is anything outside the building, but what we do outside the building is what you stated in [Social].

Alpha Y N The [Alpha] option seems to stake the claim that Landscape Architects are an influential component of the built environment. I like the content of the [Social] option, but the statement does not carry a tone of leadership. I would like ASLA to be more bold with the role of Landscape Architects. We do more than "support."

Social Y N Neither! The first statement makes it sound like it's a wrestling match between the LA and the Architect, when in reality it should be a collaborative effort. The second is a word salad that seems to include all the social buzzwords you could find.

Alpha Y Y The assertion that landscapes are not just complementary to buildings but often the main attraction is particularly resonant. As society becomes increasingly aware of the vital role that well-designed landscapes play in enhancing the quality of our environments, the demand for skilled Landscape Architects continues to grow.

Alpha Y N Please don't use the word "Alpha," but I like the framing of Building Architect and Landscape Architect.

Alpha Y Y I don't agree with either position, but I would cast my vote towards the first, overly aggressive stance. LA's are in a position to address solutions to a huge global crisis of climate change and extinction of species, including our own. What a tremendous moment in history for our profession!!

Social Y Y As a Profession, we have lost our purpose: Landscapes. We are not exterior decorators, we do not provide our installed work for passive entertainment, we cannot rope the wind to power our electronic devices, and we are not going to solve every social issue with another playground. Our work is living and breathing design.

Social Y It does not help that the licensing is compartmentalized by individual states instead of being a national license, like many of the other construction professions.

Social Y Y I have to select [Social] because, as a design-build Landscape Architect, I have seen far too many landscapes "fiscally designed" because of site work and structure cost overruns. It's always the Landscape Architect's scope that takes a beating as the project close-out approaches.

Social Y Y We've been saying (and will likely continue to say) the first statement [Alpha] for years, but as a former member of a state licensing board, I can tell you it just doesn't resonate without some elaboration as to who we are, what we know, and what we can bring to the conversation that others can't.

Social N Y Landscape Architects are usually members of land development teams and certainly have a major influence over the project outcome. The landscape architect is rarely making the final land-use decisions but is frequently influencing the overall project (and the professionals on the team) in a very positive way.

Alpha Y Y I often tell people I am a site planner before I tell them I am a landscape architect. When I do tell them what I do, I say LA's design everything outside of the building. We do/lead the site DESIGN. Then that DESIGN gets engineered, built, and vegetated.

Alpha Y Y Last time I checked, doctors deal with mental health and well-being. We deal with safe, functional environments.

Social Y N Landscapes designed by LA should be the projection of the building the area is attached to.

Social Y Framework's was not an endeavor that ASLA did solo, but one that was done with other landscape architecture professional groups such as CELA, CLARB, and LAF. As we are a diverse profession, it will always be hard with any initiative to make everyone happy, but we are trying to give all voices a seat at the table and provide a path forward that furthers the profession and benefits all practices. We all don't have to agree with each other, but we can work together to create a better environment for all practicing professionals.

Alpha Y Y The ASLA should refocus its efforts on advocating for our profession rather than emphasizing woke politics and questionable climate change agendas. The inherent nature of our profession already mitigates the environmental impact of development, making the need for political activism unnecessary. Our work itself contributes to a greener world, driven by practicality rather than ideological environmentalism and identity politics.

Alpha Y Y I was disgusted by the lack of an explanation about what services landscape architects provide after that TV ad. I've had to deal with ignorant comments about 'just being a landscaper' or 'tree hugger' throughout my career. It was a perfect opportunity to educate this country on our multifaceted, interesting, important profession.

Social Y Y I am disappointed in the leadership of our national association and the stance they take regarding DEI and LGBTQ+. We as landscape architects design spaces for people, it doesn't matter what their [or our] skin color or orientation is. The many politically correct issues that the society thinks are important to the profession in my estimation do little to enhance the reputation of the profession

Social Y Y Not being rude, just being blunt. Please take a step back and think about how LASN might contribute to professions working together better. And lose the "Alpha" talk.