From iconic outdoor spaces such as Central Park in New York City to the millions of lesser-known open-air alcoves that dot cities and towns across the country, landscape architects design spaces that facilitate healthy naturalistic diversions. In addition to making the simple act of traversing public spaces enjoyable, landscape architects contribute billions to the U.S. economy, according to research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Endowment for the Arts.
These individuals and the work they produce are the motivation behind World Landscape Architecture Month, an annual celebration that occurs every April. The American Society of Landscape Architectssponsors the occasion, leveraging social media to help members of the general public understand how landscape architects affect modern life. Last year, the organization’s online efforts reached more than 2.9 million Americans. This year, the ASLA hopes to further amplify the impact of its social campaign by introducing new branding and encouraging users to share images of public spaces designed by up-and-coming professionals in the industry, according to a press release.
“We’re really excited about putting the future of the profession and ASLA on display,” ASLA CEO and National Executive Vice President Nancy Somerville explained. “We want to showcase the great projects our student members create while we move into a new era for the society.”
Understanding the profession
An estimated 24,700 licensed landscape architects are working within the U.S., according to research from the BLS. These skilled professionals take on outdoor projects of all kinds, from rehabilitating wetlands and installing new public parks to retrofitting commercial and private structures to ensure they are energy efficient and environmentally friendly. Landscape architects do not perform this work within a vacuum – most collaborate with community stakeholders and builders to ensure the domains they create meet the needs of everyday users. Consequently, design processes often begin with spacial studies wherein landscape architects gain input from all parties involved, observe the environment and then, finally, put pen to pad for the first time, according to the ASLA. Initial sketches eventually take physical form with help from civil engineers, urban planners and construction crews, blossoming into outdoor expanses that benefit the well-being of visitors, researchers for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation discovered.
Tacking troubling professionals trends
Despite the storied and rich history of the profession, modern landscape architects are encountering worrisome roadblocks that reveal serious problems plaguing the occupation. For example, many struggle to cultivate professional identities due to the low public profile of landscape architects and operational pressures, according to survey data from ASLA. Others have found success and fulfillment but fear the profession is in decline due to falling enrollment rates at college landscape architecture programs, the continued use of antiquated design and development approaches and the expansion of the engineering and urban planner occupations.
Bolstering the profession through awareness
World Landscape Architecture Month gives these professionals and the organizations that support them the opportunity to advocate for the profession by promoting impactful work and discussing career-specific challenges. The ASLA hopes to generate awareness via its annual social media campaign, which encourages users to share images of the public spaces in their communities that they treasure. The group also motivates landscape architecture firms to share the work of up-and-coming professionals who have the potential to rise to the top of the vocation and evolve into icons.
Those interested in the landscape architecture or simply enamored by its overall impact should participate in World Landscape Architecture Month and hopefully help a critical line of work gain the recognition it deserves.