Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Book Review: Becoming a Landscape Architect by Kellean Foster

Earlier this month I read Becoming a Landscape Architect by Kelleann Foster, RLA, ASLA.  The book is essentially a compilation of excerpts from interviews done with landscape architects and students from around the country, and provides information about job opportunities and the skills needed to succeed in the profession.  It provided me more insight into the key skills I should try to develop and emphasize as I work on getting my foot in the door at a firm, and offered motivation and inspiration through personal testimonies.

I enjoyed how Foster points to the diversity of backgrounds in the profession.  Due to my age and my current lack of experience in landscape architecture, I keep a keen eye open for instances in which an architect has overcome a non-traditional background to become successful in landscape architecture.  One such architect profiled in the book is Douglas Hoerr of Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects in Chicago, who "wrote a cold-call letter to the most famous gardener he had heard of in England" and gained real-world experience over eight years.  He went on to become a registered landscape architect and now partners a successful and respected firm.

Also inspiring is the fact that almost every architect questioned about the axiomatic qualities a landscape architect should possess gave essentially the same responses; creativity, artistic skill, the ability to empathize with people, personal charisma, a passion for the natural environment, and a love of learning.  For years now I have craved the opportunity to develop these exact qualities within myself, but have felt constrained by the lifestyle I obliged myself to.  My six years in the military, for instance, made me a much more effective leader but did little to promote my artistic talents.  The idea of being able to use and develop these skills as a landscape architect adds fuel to my fire as I pursue this career transition.

Does Foster's book actually lay out step-by-step avenues one should take to become a landscape architect?  No, not really, and I must confess that this is what I had hoped for when deciding to purchase the book.  The book does, however, provide a wealth of raw, first-hand information about what is important in a successful landscape architect, and allows the reader to read between the lines to interpret how he or she might go about developing these skills.  This allowance for interpretation is perhaps more valuable than a cookie cutter recipe for becoming a landscape architect, because (as expounded upon in the book) landscape architecture is anything but a cookie cutter profession.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Learning Photoshop and Building Design Portfolio

Learning photoshop, little by little.

From Wikipedia:

"John Claudius Loudon (8 April 1783 – 14 December 1843) was a Scottish botanist, garden and cemetery designer, author and garden magazine editor.

Loudon was born in CambuslangLanarkshire, Scotland to a respectable farmer. Therefore as he was growing up, he developed a practical knowledge of plants and farming. As a young man, Loudon studied chemistry, botany and agriculture at the University of Edinburgh. When working on the layout of farms in South Scotland he described himself as a landscape planner. This was a time when open field land was being converted from run rig with 'ferm touns' to the landscape of enclosure which now dominates British agriculture.

Loudon was instrumental in the adoption of the term landscape architecture by the modern profession. He took up the term from Gilbert Laing Meason and gave it publicity in his Encyclopedias and in his 1840 book on the Landscape Gardening and Landscape Architecture of the Late Humphry Repton."

This Giraffe has absolutely nothing to do with John Claudius Loudon.

...or does it?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Book Review - Holy Shit by Gene Logsdon

Today I finished Gene Logsdon's Holy Shit (2010) as part of an ongoing effort to education myself on sustainable farming, which I intend on incorporating into my designs as a landscape architect. The book was entertaining, and provided both philosophical and practical advice on the handling of manure from various sources (cow, pig, man, etc.) I appreciated the author's tongue-in-cheek humor throughout the book, which helped make it an easy read. I also appreciated the short but concise chapters, which suggested to me that Holy Shit was formatted to be read in short sessions in which the reader had some, ahem, quality time on his hands.

The book was especially interesting to me in that Gene seems to be someone who has 'been there' in a way that I have not, though I wish I had. He provides real-life examples of how manure was used and managed during his childhood years as a farmboy, and the imagery is both pleasantly and inspiringly nostalgic. I would love to implement some of the suggestions from the book on my father's few acres in Montgomery, such as using chickens and goats to rejuvenate the soil and building a part-time use outhouse to produce additional compost.

For me, one of the book's most important contributions is the author's support of my ever-growing belief that Landscape Architecture (which often involves creative solutions to ecological problems) is a profession truly and deeply important to the stability of first world countries like mine. I immediately recall Jared Diamond's Collapse as I read Gene Logdon's comparison between the agricultural management practices of ancient fallen civilizations and those of today's first world countries:

"But why did these civilizations fall? Although much more evidence awaits discovery, from this new knowledge of prehistory emerges an unmistakable pattern. Invariably, at the root of every collapse was an agricultural mistake."
And also:

"Societies, becoming successful - that is, being able to dominate their environments to suit their own comforts - lose sight of the vital connection between their daily lives and farming."
Holy Shit provided me knowledge, ideas, and entertainment regarding organic waste recycling practices, and I recommend it to anyone interested in small-scale organic farming. I see it as an important addition to my small but growing personal agricultural canon, and it inspires me to continue my education on the subjects of permaculture and organic recycling.