May 2012

The Practice of Landscape Architecture

So what does constitute the practice of landscape architecture? I know how GS 89A defines it. I know what it means in my office and for my practice. I also understand that some of my colleagues practice it a little differently than I do.  

As practitioners we all decide what our knowledge, skills and abilities will allow us to do. These decisions are made every day. Making these decisions in a responsible fashion is what makes us professionals. No different from a doctor, lawyer, or engineer.

While it might be hard for some to understand exactly what we do, because of the breadth of our profession, at the end of the day, the practice of landscape architecture is about protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public. It's how we arrange elements and uses on the land and it's about making sure that sight lines at an intersection are unobstructed. It's about endeavoring to preserve culture and history. It's understanding sacred places and involving ourselves in the communities where we work. It's about protecting water quality and integrating art into the landscape. Through our work and along the way we try to create a sense of place, identity, inspire and engage. It is all of that and more. At least that's the view from my porch.

What I also know is that teaching various aspects of the profession of landscape architecture does not constitute the practice of the profession. This view was supported by the NC Board of Landscape Architects at their April meeting. The board found allegations made against faculty members of the Landscape Architecture Department at NCSU, unfounded and that they were not in violation of GS89A.

Even implying that students of landscape architecture should only have professors that are registered landscape architects and not educators with advanced degrees in landscape architecture or other areas of study such as biology, behavioral sciences, art, planning, architecture, engineering, or horticulture reflects an incredibly narrow view of the profession and it would be a great disservice to the student if that was ever the case.

Across the board this is common for other professions as well. Not all classes in law school or in an engineering curriculum are taught by professional lawyers or engineers.

Education is only one of the three requirements to become a Landscape Architect and it is critical that during the education process, students are exposed to various aspects of the profession as well as other areas of study that might shape and influence their eventual practice.

Having witnessed the evolution of the landscape architecture department at the College of Design over the past several years I want to applaud those educators for providing a well-rounded education to the students. Recent graduates are well prepared to enter the profession and decide for themselves what the practice of landscape architecture means.

NCASLA supports the decision of the NC Board of Landscape Architects relative to this most recent case.

Practice and Politics

The practice of Landscape Architecture is granted under and defined by GS 89A. This statute is upheld by the NC Board of Landscape Architects. Any violations of this statute are addressed by the board. The responsibilities and activities of the board in turn protect the public's health, safety, and welfare. It is critical to the public's protection that this board continue to function as it has over the years. However, the issue of state board consolidation or elimination is one we may face in the upcoming legislative agenda. The spin being spun is that state boards are a restraint of trade and that consolidation or elimination would improve efficiency and save the state some money.

The practice of Landscape Architecture and the regulation of the profession administered by the board is not a restraint of trade. Design professionals working in the public realm need to meet certain qualifications and the distinction between Landscape Architects and other professionals that offer similar services provides choice to the marketplace. The ability to choose encourages healthy competition among qualified design professionals and that is good for business.

In addition, the consolidation of our board with another will not result in improved efficiency or save the State of North Carolina any money. The NC Board of Landscape Architects is independent from the state. They receive no money from the State of North Carolina.

Most importantly, consolidation will jeopardize our ability to protect the public's health, safety and welfare and to practice the profession under GS 89A. NCASLA opposes elimination of or the consolidation of the NC Board of Landscape Architects with any other state board for professionals engaged in the built environment.

This is one of the messages that we need to deliver to legislators at theNCASLA Legislative Breakfast in the North Carolina Legislature Building cafeteria on Thursday May 17th from 7:00 to 8:30. It is important that we have a strong turnout of members. You should have received through the ASLA advocacy network some information and a request that you contact and invite your representatives. Please let the NCASLA office know if you have not.

This week, NCASLA Executive Committee members, Ed Johnson, Matt Langston and I will travel to Washington DC for mid-year Chapter President's and Trustees meetings and to participate in Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill. In June at the NCASLA Spring Meeting representatives from ASLA, NCASLA, and the NC Board of Landscape Architects will present information on political issues affecting the profession of Landscape Architecture and efforts to protect the scope of what we do.

I hope to see you on May 17th and in New Bern in June.

Brian H. Starkey, RLA/ASLA
President, NCASLA