Career profile - Landscape architect

From urban parks breathing life into our cities to nature reserves adding biodiversity to rural wastelands, the creations of landscape architects are all around us, in both our built and natural environments.

This is because they design new structures and spaces for the benefit of our planet and society.

What is best about being a landscape architect?

"The huge variety of design, travel and collaboration opportunities has certainly kept me interested and motivated over the last 30 years," says Grant Associates director Peter Chmiel. "However, the most rewarding aspect is seeing a completed project on site and returning in the future to see how it has improved the environment and influenced people's perceptions on the value of place."

What kind of skills, attributes, knowledge and experience do you feel are most in demand for this role in the recruitment market at the moment - and why?

Design and communication

"Creative design and an ability to see what others might miss is the key ability I look for," says Chmiel. "The ability to communicate your ideas in an articulate and passionate manner, and support this via quality illustrative graphics, are of paramount importance. Landscape design proposals and the strategic interwoven relationship with other project components are often difficult for others to visualise. We need to be able to clearly demonstrate what added value the landscape proposal will bring to the project from the outset."

Horticultural knowledge

"Planting knowledge and (landscape) construction are areas that are often lacking so I am always pleased to meet applicants with in-depth knowledge," notes Chmiel. The Landscape Agency senior landscape architect Michelle Stevens says knowledge of horticulture and ecology is key.

IT skills

Stevens notes that candidates should be familiar with software packages such as Adobe Creative Suite, AutoCAD, Sketchup and NBS (building software).

Tenacity

"Many projects can take five-to-15 years from inception to completion and even longer to mature," says Chmiel. "The lead designer's tenacity to maintain the original design vision is often the difference between a reasonable scheme and an outstanding one."

What sort of qualifications and experience would you need to see from a candidate to be convinced that they possess these qualities?

Landscape architects need a recognised qualification. For a graduate role, Stevens says you would need to have gained a year's work experience in a landscape practice. A more experienced landscape architect would need a couple of years' work experience following completion of their postgraduate diploma, while a senior landscape architect would need to be a chartered member of the Landscape Institute with two-to-five years' work experience.

Chmiel adds that, alongside the necessary academic qualifications: "It is always good to see skill in the creative arts or hands-on experience/a qualification in horticulture, engineering or a general interest in architecture. Indeed, many of our applicants have often undertaken a conversion course from either urban planning, architecture or horticulture/garden design."

Are any of the skills that are in demand transferable from other horticulture roles?

"Yes," says Stevens."Some landscape architects do enter the profession from backgrounds such as architecture, geography and garden design, among others, progressing their first degree with a conversion degree course in landscape architecture."

Chmiel notes that a change from a horticulture role to landscape architecture often demands more than a selective "upskill", adding: "However, a horticulture background, whether it be design or production/technical-based, is a solid foundation on which to start to build an exciting and rewarding career in landscape architecture."


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