Do you follow the The Dirt? (the blog of the ASLA) I stop in from time to time but this morning’s visit quickly got under my skin. I am curious to know your opinions about a recent post titled “Frederick Law Olmstead is Holding US Back (there I said it)” (please go read it, leave a comment there and then come back and we can discuss here too)
I shared my opinion in the comments of the post but to to further clarify, I think it is more than fair to respect the training that someone has. It is even better if they take that training and apply it in great ways. But to act as if your training is inherently better than the training that anyone else has, is just absurd. Is it somehow harder or more worthy to become a world class landscape architect than it is to become a world class horticulturist, gardener, groundskeeper or garden designer? NO.
So to be a Landscape Architect in the eyes of the ASLA you have to take and pass a test ….so let anyone take the test….if they pass it give them the certificate. What are you afraid of? Why can’t you take the test unless you have gone to a specific set of schools? This all wouldn’t so distasteful if through this ‘licensing process’ there wasn’t also an effort to also make it illegal to work in the industry without the license. I have no love of the ASLA’s constant drum beating for required licensure for anyone acting in an exterior design role. My general feeling is that while, in theory, licensure sounds like it is a public protection thing, it often really isn’t. I generally get the idea of licensure for things like Medical professionals, architects, structural engineers and so forth. The common thread being that if these people screw up, people can die….so it is important to make sure that they know what they are doing – for the sake of public safety. It is a rare landscape project that carries this kind of life and death ramifications. — and for those — fine, require a license. And fine, if you want to give out liscenses for those who want to earn one….sure go ahead — even make it really hard to get it you want — but don’t go trying to make it illegal for those who don’t opt into your self-serving system to work.
Further, I have dealt with some of these ‘professional organizations’ and in my experience (I am speaking specifically of one instance which involved a Structural Engineer’s design failing immediately, miserably and spectacularly) the professional organization for structural engineers did little (as in nothing) to help me (as the person who hired them) and was far more concerned with protecting the engineer in question. I can only presume that this was because he is the one who pays the hefty fees to belong to the organization….not me or my client. It was a shameful display of closing ranks and protecting one of their own, even in the most obvious of professional mistakes. (BTW — all I was asking for was a note to be associated with his name and firm so that should others call for a recommendation, (as I had) that this could be noted….further, I later learned (through my lawyer and colleagues) that many people in my community had hired this firm and like me, had horrible mistakes happen, and had to resort to legal action — where in every case they won in the court system and this firm was found repeatedly negligent). Who knows really how many people have had this kind of experience with this company….and yet the professional licensing board still defends, protects and even recommends them.
I don’t mean to sound jaded or victimized, but I think that the nature of these ‘professional’ organizations — even when the profession is suitable for needing licensure or control of some sort — aren’t achieving what they should be setting out to do. The ASLA in my opinion should be spending their time and resources educating the public about what Landscape Architects do and how they make our world a better place, how to hire them, how to find a good person or firm in your community, helping LA’s to be better at what they do and all those good things, but they shouldn’t be the ones who are regulating who can call themselves a Landscape Architect or lobbying to for this in local governments. If we can even come to an agreement (which I can’t) that it is an important thing to do it ought to be an outside group who only has the public’s interest at heart not the ASLA or any other professional organization who more often than not has only their business and members interest at heart.
BTW — This is my comment on the post at The Dirt:
There are two lines here that really have me a little irritated….”We lament that laypeople confuse us with landscape designers and horticulturists, and we envy the greater visibility that architects enjoy. ” and then later “The talk was all “architect this, architect that,” but when it came to discussing the landscape, which is one of the landscape architect Dan Kiley’s masterpieces, it went something like this: “The garden was designed by Dan Kiley.” Period. I was thrilled to hear Kiley mentioned by name, but there was no hint of any professional association or credentials. It was as if this guy Kiley were the groundskeeper.”
IMO — this wouldn’t be such a problem if the LA side of the exterior design professional spectrum didn’t see themselves as the rightful heirs to the top of the heap…..there is no heap…you should not be ashamed to be confused with other professionals that are are your teammates and who quite frankly can bring you and the industry a lot of great attention and glowing accolades. It is Horticulturists who cultivate the plants that people connect with and it is largely landscape designers who create the residential spaces that they live in on a daily basis and it is gardeners who make them last for generations…these people, if you embraced them — rather than act like they are unqualified 2nd class professionals would be your allies, but the ASLA and people with attitudes like yours continue to behave as if you are above all others and it isn’t helping you. Stop being so hung up on credentials….we all have them….nobody’s are better than any ones else’s.