According to the May 2019 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine, “the number of people working in the field of landscape architecture peaked at around 45,000 in 2006, then nose-dived to about 30,000 in 2013.” Everyone remembers the Great Recession right? I remember fondly trying to find a job in 2011 when college career fairs were canceled and many of those without work left the profession entirely. Fast forward to 2018 and the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported we were down to 23,500 with minimal growth predicted for our future.
How could this be? Some, as in the aforementioned issue of LAM, point to the increasing cost of education with the average student leaving school with roughly $40k in student loan debt. Others may point to increased “scope creep” from architects, civil engineers, and self-styled “place-makers” who seek to bring many specialist designers under one roof. Lastly, some have speculated that even the title “Landscape Architect” is too narrow, limiting, and misleading to the layman.
So what are we to do? I believe to avoid being left behind, we need to get better at promoting the brand of landscape architecture. Less of the talking about how we are misunderstood to each other and more proselytizing to others.
In that vein (and as announced earlier in 2019) our chapter has developed a strategic partnership with AIA Baltimore to get more of you and your work in front of one of our biggest employers, architects. More of their events will be accredited for LA CES PDHs to provide more value to your membership. We have also begun collaborative discussions with ULI, APA, USGBC, and Baltimore: Blue+Green+Just to name but a few. We have sought to join forces with our sister chapters in DC and Virginia on an exciting conference in 2021. We should be combining our efforts, not working in silos, and leveraging our unique perspective to gain recognition and opportunities from others. One of the best ways to do this is to support these efforts locally and nationally by becoming a member of the ASLA. Our members are our strength and we need more from the ranks of the profession.
In my last bit of doom and gloom, membership in our dear society is also waning. I believe the benefits of membership in ASLA greatly outweigh the costs. The amount of work our advocacy, student outreach, and other committees accomplishes is truly inspiring. But for those that don’t see that benefit, I take that as a personal failure on our part to communicate what we see so clearly. If we can’t express value to each other, how are we then to share it with everyone else?
There are many opportunities to contribute to this collective effort. Committees need volunteers. Panels need speakers. Issues need advocates. Students need mentors. Speakers need listeners. Whether we are members or not, each day we are challenged with the Society’s mission - “to advance landscape architecture through advocacy, communication, education, and fellowship.” There are opportunities for you to be part of that as well. I sincerely urge you to join us! Sincerely,
Benjamin Boyd, PLA, ASLA
President - Maryland Chapter