Landscape Insight December 2017 - Page 47

OPEN STUDIO journalist Maggie Philbin who works to encourage young people into careers in construction, applied sciences, technology and engineering in her role as CEO of TeenTech. She spoke passionately about the vital, but generally unappreciated, work of civil engineers. Ex- ICE president, Jean Venables, gave the keynote speech and described the civil engineering profession whose work people neither understand nor realise the importance of, so that as a profession they, like landscape architecture, are struggling to attract young people. It was somewhat heartening to know that landscape architecture isn’t the only profession struggling in this respect, particularly as other professions in the industry, like architecture, garden design, interior design seem to be easily recognised and understood. Lack of appreciation and lack of understanding are issues which are partly down to the tremendous variety in the work both professions are involved in. The lack of clarity over the identity of landscape architecture has long been an issue, in the past even resulting in discussions around whether the profession’s name should change. The variety of our work, though, is surely fundamental to its importance: the breadth of various threads; the way landscape architecture creates connections between natural and man-made systems, the holistic approach the profession takes and enables. The variety is also what makes landscape architecture an incredibly rich and interesting career to be involved in; as I tell young people in schools and colleges, ‘it is the best job in the world’. We recently welcomed graduate landscape architect Rhys Jones to our studio to talk to us about his research into the potential role of landscape architects in the humanitarian sector (see Rhys’s blog: landscape-architect-blog/humanitarian- role-landscape-architectures-new- direction/ ). Rhys did this in reciprocation of our sponsorship of his trip to Nicaragua and he started by asking us all what attracted us to landscape architecture. Responses ranged from a desire to change the world, to bringing together diferent skill sets, interests and experience. Only one person out of the dozen members of our team had known that landscape architecture was what they wanted to do since childhood, in the same way you might want to be a doctor, a teacher or an actor. My colleague, Martin, grew up in Yorkshire and saw the work of landscape architects irst hand in the reclamation of coal mines. The huge diference made to the area and to the lives of people in the community inspired Martin to become a landscape architect. He hadn’t identiied his future role by seeing somebody on television or by knowing them in his own life; he had seen, appreciated and understood the impact that someone had made. Now he had to ind out who that someone was. None of my colleagues, even the recent graduates, came across the profession during careers talks, interviews or fairs, and several of us only stumbled upon it by serendipitous accident IDENTITY CRISIS and, through subsequent investigation, became convinced of dramatic career changes. Hopefully, eforts made by the Landscape Institute and all of us who are active ambassadors for landscaping will show how landscape architecture, as a career option, is becoming more widely publicised. Unlike architecture, interior design or garden design, we are not speciic, focused, conined or limited. Perhaps we are so disparate, so varied, so omnipresent; so totally integral to the environment people inhabit that we just don’t stand out. Our lack of focus is our weakness as well as our strength. Perhaps it is also the modest collective ego we have as a profession where we don’t feel the need to make a statement, to stand out, to leave our personal mark. We are content to leave a site functioning perfectly and robustly and sustainably and yet with a simplicity which belies the complexity of the issues which needed to be resolved. We recognise that our genius is best exhibited in subtle ways, giving the impression of natural evolution rather than self-conscious design. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Alison Galbraith is associate director of The Terra Firma Consultancy, a professional landscape architecture practice specialising in all aspects of landscape planning, assessment and design; at all scales, in all sectors, throughout the UK and overseas. Launched by ex-Portsmouth City Chief Landscape Architect John Wigham in May 1985 and since 2000 under the leadership of ex equity partner Lionel Fanshawe, Terra Firma has worked in 30 countries, currently employing over 30 directors and staf across 4 oices in Hampshire, London, Vilnius and Dubai. CONTACT: 01730 262040 | December 2017 | Landscape Insight 47