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Landscape architects answer the call to define our post-pandemic future.

FROM THE JUNE 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE

 

In late April, the magazine staff put out a call to landscape architects to tell us the intentions they are setting now for the future, and what they’ve learned working under the pandemic’s constraints that they might want to build on afterward.

We heard back quickly, with nearly 100 landscape architects weighing in within a few days, and a range of the responses fill the next several pages. While there were many different opinions about the experience of teaching, working, and learning remotely, several things poked up over and over. The need for enhanced communication and clarity—with colleagues and clients—was one of the most frequently cited lessons. Working from home has yielded seismic changes to design processes, with many landscape architects vowing to incorporate more geographical flexibility into their future practice and, notably, into hiring. Across the board, students expressed real anxiety about their employment prospects, underscoring an urgency already felt to find ways to retain early career designers and new graduates. Fewer cars, lower carbon emissions, less paper, and more time outside and with family were cited by nearly everyone as eye-opening, unexpected benefits. But for most respondents, the pandemic is a call to action. Sona Greenberg, ASLA, a midcareer professional from Seattle, put it like this: “We’ve worked within a flawed system for a long time. COVID-19 and adjacent world events have exposed these flaws to more of the world and thereby have offered us an opportunity to build something better, locally and globally.”

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BY BRADFORD MCKEE

FROM THE MAY 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Not much good is coming from this parlous time, as the novel coronavirus floored just about everything people normally rely on, and with shocking speed. Some strands of hope, should they hold up with time, have appeared amid the desperate confusion. There is an odd but significant reassurance in how quickly so much of daily life buttoned up early on. That progress has been uneven, depending not least on brands of leadership. But once the severity of the situation everywhere became clear, enough people took heed of the stay-home advice that the numbers of holdouts thinned quickly if, alas, not to zero. Everything can change fast. The public compliance, the mass cooperation, happened without much pronounced role for the police, whose jobs have grown steep with new danger, like the work of all public safety professionals. Having everyone stay apart is the only way to contain the crisis. Each infection avoided supports the health care and public health community, who offer societies the only chances of stopping loss and getting through it all.

For landscape architecture, there’s a deep paradox. The bad part is that there is pain, and will be more pain as this business contracts along with everything else. The profession is looking into a future far more unknowable than during the Great Recession a decade ago, when it lost a generation of new landscape architects, and some not so new. Total employment in the profession, federal data shows, fell from 22,000 in 2006 to 15,750 in 2012. Membership in ASLA fell to 15,000, from 18,000 before the economy collapsed; it never bounced back. For emerging designers during the recession, there was no path forward, no new jobs, and many jobs lost. Interns had no place to get the office time they need to qualify for licensure. They went elsewhere. We are still feeling it.

The good part during this crisis is that landscapes for people have seldom seemed as vital and as visible. (more…)

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