How to prepare more fearless landscape architects part one

Article By:

Landscape Architect

In the next few months, I will write a crucial professional exam to become a certified landscape architect. Did the word exam bring back that familiar sense of dread for you? It does for me. It carries with it the fear you won't pass—not because you lack the ability or the resources, but because of the lack of structure (or connection), you have to your reading materials. Or in my case, not having a clear understanding of what you should know, retain and understand to pass each of the four sections in the Landscape Architect Registration Examination.

Even though the University of Manitoba’s Department of Landscape Architecture and the Manitoba Association of Landscape Architects provide their students and members with support,  including books, practice exams, and informal study groups, not everyone has that support or the ability to connect with people outside of work to find these resources. Accessing material can be a huge challenge for those who are already working full-time, have kids or other commitments.

In addition, while studying and passing the registration exams is a requirement for becoming a registered landscape architect, there is also another critical requirement: accumulating the necessary experience to satisfy the criteria recommended by the Experience Record Book, which can sometimes be challenging for aspiring professionals.

Fortunately, in my career, I worked at firms that gave me insight into different areas of landscape architecture. When I interned at a firm in British Columbia, I gained valuable experience in rendering site plans and preparing presentation boards for clients. I also gained experience working on planting plans and honed my skills as a designer under the supervision of two experienced and respected landscape architects. Furthermore, Nadi gave me the opportunity to expand my design knowledge through a wide range of opportunities and projects, as well as working alongside other landscape architects, urban designers and interior designers. 

I appreciate how fortunate I am to gain this experience because not all aspiring professionals receive the same opportunities. Sometimes, they can even be pigeonholed into one type of work. So, to combat these unfair advantages, I present you an idea (drumroll, please): we (the industry) need to create an online digital resource hub, certified by the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Board (CLARB), to help landscape architects and aspiring landscape architects become more successful in their career and exams.

An online digital resource hub for our profession would do many things: 1. Create a centralized location of information, including reading materials, which would be available digitally to both students and members of the professional association, at any time to help them prepare for the registration exams. 2. Help aspiring professionals become better consultants by offering continuing education resources and courses that supplement what professors and instructors taught in academic institutions. 3. Validate the practice of landscape architecture by providing aspiring professionals with educational resources that are endorsed by CLARB.

Therefore, the hub needs to be designed to both supplement the knowledge required to pass the registration exams and also help build and keep current the range of skills that aspiring professionals would typically use in practice.

It’s important for professionals who are developing their careers to have a variety of opportunities and a range of experiences. During the course of their career (typically) they have to work at a number of firms and sometimes with a variety of different professionals to ensure they get all of the required experience. And because of this, I feel that our current system may not be in the best interest and benefit to our clients and the firms we work at.

For example, people who want to leave to gain experience and grow their careers can negatively affect the client’s experience and the firm’s ability to efficiently and timely deliver projects. In addition, landscape architects gain a lot of experience in the delivering projects, and the personal relationships they build with clients over the years can be lost. I feel this is another important reason to create an online resource hub for our profession, one that supplements experience and opportunities, allowing practicing professionals to remain at the firm they work at.

Professional landscape architect associations and Canadian learning institutions should work together with CLARB to offer the most current educational resources, practice exams and courses delivered online or through mobile applications. Even more, practicing landscape architects and urban design instructors and professors could contribute to the flow of information through articles or white papers that can highlight current industry trends and issues. For example, ideas for complex issues like climate change could easily be accessed through courses and/or lectures from environmental engineers and scientists around the world.

We should also expand the benefits of an online professional hub beyond Canada and the United States to create one globalized educational hub, creating a synergy of relevant and timely information about the landscape architecture profession and encouraging opportunities for students and professionals to work abroad.

Of course, an online global resource hub for landscape architecture is a lofty dream of mine (and others, I’m sure). But it’s hard to argue that there are many benefits in cultivating landscape architects to be confident in a variety of disciplines and to be connected to one another on a larger scale. It would be great to be able to access resources to prepare for the registration exams and give back as well. I’d like to take my work experience and contribute to building a course on how to render site plans and another one on best practices in creating planting plans that aspiring professionals can access right on their mobile phones or desktop. 

Ultimately the clients, the firm and the profession would benefit greatly from people that are given more opportunities for professional development and easy access to resources to become landscape architects as they grow at their current firm. Creating a stronger landscape architect is like raising a child, it takes an entire village (or industry) to succeed.

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