Interview: Janice Schach and Mitchell Glass, Landscape Architects


Landscape architects design portions of residential areas, public parks and playgrounds, college campuses, shopping centers, golf courses, parkways, and industrial parks. They plan the location of buildings, roads, and walkways as well as the arrangement of flowers, shrubs, and trees. In doing their jobs, they often collaborate with architects, surveyors, engineers, environmental scientists, foresters, and other professionals. 

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, landscape architects consider the nature and purpose of a project and the funds available for it. They then examine and analyze the natural elements of the site and assess the effect of existing buildings, roads, walkways, and utilities. They must also take into account any local, State, or Federal regulations such as those protecting wetlands or historic resources. They may have to make many changes to their plan before a final design is approved. 

Some landscape architects work on a wide variety of projects. Others specialize in a particular area, such as residential development, historic landscape restoration, waterfront improvement projects, parks and playgrounds, or shopping centers. Still others work in regional planning and resource management; feasibility, environmental impact, and cost studies; or site construction. 

Landscape architects who work for government agencies do site and landscape design for government buildings, parks, and other public lands, as well as park and recreation planning in national parks and forests. In addition, they may prepare environmental impact statements and studies on environmental issues such as public land-use planning. Some are involved in efforts to restore degraded land, such as mines or landfills. 

Landscape architects spend most of their time in offices creating plans and designs, preparing models and cost estimates, doing research, or attending meetings with clients and other professionals involved in a design or planning project. The remainder of their time is spent at construction sites. 

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Interview: Janice Schach

As a young girl growing up in South Bend, Indiana, Janice Schach loved the outdoors and always enjoyed the trips her family took to national parks all over the country. She also loved to draw and work with people, so when she heard about landscape architecture she knew that would be her career. 

Schach is presently associate dean of undergraduate studies at the University of Kentucky, where she is a professor of landscape architecture. She is also the current president of the American Society of Landscape Architects. 

After getting a bachelor's degree in Landscape Architecture from Purdue University, Schach got a master's degree from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. Upon receiving her master's, she worked as a landscape architect for about a year before joining the faculty at the University of Kentucky where she has been since 1981.

In additon to her teaching duties, Schach often helps her husband, Horst, design horse farms in Kentucky's bluegrass country, including several for members of the Saudi Arabian royal family.

Why choose a career in landscape architecture? 

Our profession combines a lot of professions together. There's an engineering component, an architecture component, an artistic component and an ecological component. Because of that landscape architecture has been cited as being the profession of the future by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Why is the field growing so quickly?

Because of the whole concern over growth management, creating livable communities, open space, clean air and water and pedestrian access. We try to resolve some of the conflicts around that. 

What qualities do you need as a landscape architect?

Obviously a creative bent, an appreciation for the out of doors, an ability to see possibilities in areas that other don't see, plus a real interest in drawing and model building or computer technology as a way to illustrate those ideas. 

What was the most fun project you ever worked on?

I worked with my students in inner city Cincinnati. It's an area that has an incredible stock of historic buildings that somehow survived urban renewal. Our task was to go in and really look at options for use of some of the buildings.We brought in mixed use with professional office and light industrial and improved on park space...We developed a plan that the city is still operating with. There have been a number of park improvements since then. 

How do college programs differ?

The City College of New York obviously will have a different orientation than Utah State in Logan, Utah. The City College of New York would be much more urban design, oriented to human systems. Logan would be oriented to more natural systems. 

How can high school students prepare for a landscape architecture career?

The first thing to do is to contact a landscape architect and go into their office and talk to them about what their daily experience is. Better yet, go out to the site with them. The more courses they could get in art, design, ecology, computer technology and the more they can travel and see different parts of the country and the world, the better. In fact, if they could visit and office and become an intern, that would be the best.

What will they find out about landscape architects?

They'll see landscape architects are just neat people. They're interested in improving people's lives. They're not there just to make the money. They find great satisfaction in improving the quality of life for people. 

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Interview: Mitchell Glass

Mitchell Glass is a project manager for the Chicago Park District, which manages thousands of acres of parks and recreation land in and around the city of Chicago. His job is to coordinate the implementation of projects within the parks, from the construction of new facilities to the renovation of existing ones and the preservation of historic sites. 

Mr. Glass became interested in landscape architecture soon after he earned his Bachelor's Degree from the University of Connecticut. "I'd always been interested in ecology and the environment," he says. Although his major was English and his minor was Fine Arts, after graduation he worked for a landscape contractor. He'd always had an interest in ecology and the environment, and thought Landscape Architecture was a field that would let him "pull it all together." 

To learn more he entered a six-week "Career Discovery" summer program at Harvard University, which allowed him to live on campus while working in a landscape architecture studio. The program gave him a taste of both the the required schooling as well as the day-to-day life of landscape architects - and a portfolio to use when applying to graduate school. He was accepted to the graduate program at the University of Virginia, and earned his Master's Degree there 3 1/2 years later. He has held positions at Urban Design and Landscape Architecture firms in Virginia and Pennsylvania, as well as in the Chicago area. He has worked on projects for the Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., among others. 

Mr. Glass says a Landscape Architect's typical day "depends on where you are." For his part, he might spend his time on everything from a conceptual design to cost estimates to construction documents to phone calls with contractors. His typical day usually lasts eight or nine hours, although deadlines can increase a day's workload. "Most designers are used to that," he observes. "Design in general takes a lot of time."

Asked to describe the best part of his job, Mr. Glass answers without hesitation: "It's coming up with an idea and seeing it through, seeing it come to life - literally." He describes imagining the concept, drawing it on paper, convincing the client to pursue it, seeing it built and finally being able to walk through it. "There's no feeling like that," he says.

Among the hardest parts of his job are working with limited budgets and trying to educate people on the importance of Landscape Architecture. "Landscape Architecture is more than making things look pretty," he says. "It's about quality of life, about making spaces livable and civilized."

To students interested in Landscape Architecture as a career, Mr. Glass advises, "Open your eyes to everything around you. See as many parks and places as you can in towns and cities, and think about what makes them great or what's missing." He urges students to read as much as they can about the landscape history of the U.S., which he calls "very rich." Finally, he believes both computer knowledge and communications skills are valuable. "People are always looking for folks who can write and speak well." 

Have questions? Email Mitch Glass to learn more about Landscape Architecture as a career.
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Course Work

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a Bachelor's or Master's degree in Landscape Architecture is usually necessary for entry into the profession. The Bachelor's degree in Landscape Architecture takes four or five years to obtain. Two types of accredited Master's Degree programs are available: three-year programs for a Master's as a first professional degree, and two-year programs for students who have a Bachelor's degree in Landscape Architecture and wish to teach or specialize in a particular area, such as regional planning or golf course design.

In 1996, 54 colleges and universities offered 70 undergraduate and graduate programs in landscape architecture that were accredited by the Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Required college courses usually include technical subjects such as surveying, landscape design and construction, landscape ecology, site design, and urban and regional planning. Other courses include history of landscape architecture, plant and soil science, geology, professional practice, and general management. Many programs are adding courses which address environmental issues. In addition, most students at the undergraduate level take a year of prerequisite courses such as English, mathematics, and social and physical science.

In 1996, 45 states required landscape architects to be licensed or registered. Licensing is based on the Landscape Architect Registration Examination (L.A.R.E.), sponsored by the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards and administered over a three-day period. Admission to the exam usually requires a degree from an accredited school plus one to four years of work experience. Currently, 18 States require the passage of a State examination in addition to the L.A.R.E. to satisfy registration requirements. 

Because state requirements for licensure are not uniform, landscape architects may not find it easy to transfer their registration from one state to another. However, those who meet the national standards of graduating from an accredited program, serving three years of internship under the supervision of a registered landscape architect, and passing the L.A.R.E. can satisfy requirements in most states.

Those with landscape architecture training also qualify for jobs closely related to landscape architecture, and may, after gaining some experience, become construction supervisors, land or environmental planners, or landscape consultants. 

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Career Outlook

Overall, anticipated growth in construction is expected to increase demand for landscape architectural services over the long run. Employment of Landscape Architects is expected to increase faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2006, according to the Department of Labor. However, opportunities will vary from year to year and by geographic region, depending on local economic conditions. 

New graduates can expect to face competition for jobs in the largest and most prestigious Landscape Architecture firms. The number of professional degrees awarded in Landscape Architecture has remained steady over the years, even during times of fluctuating demand due to economic conditions. Opportunities will be best for landscape architects who develop strong technical and communication skills and a knowledge of environmental codes and regulations. Those with additional training or experience in urban planning increase their opportunities for employment in landscape architecture firms that specialize in site planning as well as landscape design. Many employers prefer to hire entry-level landscape architects who have internship experience, which significantly reduces training time

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And The Pay...

Median annual earnings for all architects, including landscape architects, were about $39,500 in 1996, according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook . The middle 50 percent earned between $30,200 and $53,900; 10 percent earned less than $23,900; and 10 percent earned over $65,800. In 1997, the average annual salary for all landscape architects in the Federal Government in nonsupervisory, supervisory, and managerial positions was about $53,300.

Because many landscape architects work for small firms or are self-employed, benefits tend to be less generous than those provided to workers in large organizations.