The state of the economy is a hot topic at the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA) conference at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign this week. While things seem to be improving, there is some concern about what will happen to the many architects and landscape architects who were laid off and still can’t find work. Ted Landsmark, president of the Boston Architectural College, and Mark Hoverston, dean of the College of Art and Architecture at the University of Idaho, discussed this at the table where LAM is stationed for the gathering. “We’re going to lose a whole generation [of designers], but it’s not the generation we thought,” Landsmark said. Both agreed that recent grads, at least those who had secured the technical skills that firms are seeking, are being hired. It is the mid-career professionals—10 years out of school—that they were most concerned about.
Given the choice of hiring someone with 10 years’ experience who’s been out of work for a couple of years and someone who is fresh out of school, firms are hiring the person who’s fresh out of school, Hoverston says. They typically have the latest technical skills—not to mention the drive. Many architecture firms seem to have shed their mid-level people, they said.
Landsmark, whose school recently started a landscape architecture program, also shared his impressions about the rising profile of the profession. He has heard some mayors say that landscape architecture is the discipline to turn to if they want to create a legacy. Landscapes tend to be less costly than buildings and make for a much better photo op, he says.
Wednesday’s keynote address was by Elizabeth Meyer of the University of Virginia. She talked about “Sustaining Beauty: The Performance of Appearance,” a Journal of Landscape Architecture article she wrote that was republished in LAM in October 2008, and she explained how her opinions have evolved since then. The article, which encouraged designers to examine the role of aesthetics in sustainability, has gotten a lot of attention, it seems. It’s not a quick read, but if you set it aside for when you had some more time four years ago, perhaps it’s worth another look.
My favorite moment of the night was when Meyer reminded the audience how important it is that academics write about topics that matter to nonacademics. Yes, that’s occasionally necessary at CELA.