The journey to becoming a Landscape Architect
20th September 2022
James Parker – Landscape Architect
I have always had an interest in the outdoors and spending time in nature. From a young age, I loved being outside, whether I was camping with friends and family or bursting out the door to set off on a trip to Coombe Abbey. Through this exposure to all things green and grubby, I absorbed a passion for the natural world and discovered how the landscape can shape your feelings, as well as providing a stimulus for creativity. Landscape Architecture is a perfect fusion of my interests.
Education in Landscape Architecture
At the point when I chose Geography and Art at A Level, I didn’t necessarily have a clear vision of the potential jobs Infront of me. However, when Landscape Architecture came up as a creative career, with a focus on design and the outdoors, I realised I’d found my career!
I was keen to apply for a BA in Landscape Architecture and delighted to accept a place at the University of Gloucestershire. After 3 wonderful years as an undergraduate, I stayed on for another year and completed a post-graduate qualification in Landscape Architecture.
Finding Employment as a Landscape Architect
At this point, my career ran into some bumps in the road. There was a recession, and it was tough to get jobs in any sector, let alone Landscape Architecture. I was determined to push forward though and tried to find ways to keep my career and aspiration to be a Landscape Architect alive.
Although I couldn’t find a relevant job at that point, I was able to spend a year volunteering for the Conservation Department at Coventry City Council. This provided me with some incredibly important work experience to keep the knowledge progressing. I met with the Conservation Officer, Landscape Architect and Urban Designer who helped to show me what my role might look like in the real world and how landscapes and local character is protected.
Through this time, it was important to me to stay positive and not take the economic conditions personally. The market was tough, but I kept my career on track in different ways by trading my time for experience.
After many job applications, I was happy to be offered a role as Assistant Landscape Architect. I was actually the first employee of the company owner! During the following 9 months, I learned an incredible amount about the wide range of skills I needed to build a career in Landscape Architecture. I also began to discover what it takes to be a Landscape Architect and run your own business.
The time came for me to move to a larger company. Here I was able to learn from other Landscape Architects and to broaden my horizons and experience. Over the 8 years I spent with this practice, I worked in a variety of roles. I began as a Landscape Assistant, learning about what it takes to be a good assistant, prepare work, refine AutoCAD software skills and attend client meetings. Gradually I was given more responsibility over time and this put me on the pathway to Chartership.
Chartership in Landscape Architecture
If you are considering a career as a Landscape Architect, I highly recommend getting accredited through the Chartered Landscape Institute. This is a highly respected organisation in the UK and I was excited when I applied and got accepted onto their Pathway.
The route to Chartership is rigorous but enjoyable. It usually takes between two and three years and I needed to submit various examples of my work and share experience of the projects I was involved with. I am very grateful to my previous Landscape Practice for supporting me through the process and I’m proud of my achievement. By becoming a Chartered Landscape Architect, I have demonstrated that I meet the required level of knowledge and understanding. This has enabled me to offer my clients and colleagues a high standard of professionalism.
Joining IDP and Working throughout Coventry and the Midlands
I think every young Landscape Architect enjoys new opportunities and I am no exception. I felt ready to get involved with new projects and extend my experience across a wider area, working alongside different disciplines, such as Urban Design and Master Planning. Moving to IDP has given me an ideal opportunity to work with many different Architects and Urban Designers on a variety of different projects.
At IDP, I can work within a team of Landscape Architects whilst still feeling like a design collective. I love the way we are all under one roof which gives clients a coherent service and gives me the opportunity to experience cross-functional teams. I believe this way of working is incredibly important for everyone, but especially in the early stages of your career as a Landscape Architect.
I relish the challenge and personal development that I get from working alongside a great team. I also get the opportunity to work on different types of projects and really stretch myself, while knowing that I’ve got support where I need it.
I’m currently working alongside IDP Architects on a project to deliver a 600 dwelling development. This project is at the Master Planning stage and I’m responsible for the design and integration of the landscape within the scheme. From a landscape perspective, the project will have outdoor play areas, soft landscape in amongst the residential development, strong green infrastructure links, a variety of landscape treatments including wetland meadow walks, public open space for recreation and community orchards. It is such an incredible opportunity for me to contribute to a multifaceted landscape architectural design and deliver a project like this.
There’s always something new to do at IDP and the support I get from great professionals pushes me all the time. I have undertaken my first LVIA (Landscape Visual Impact Assessment) which means I review a proposed development and assessed how it might impact surrounding areas. This is a skill I am glad to have been able to demonstrate and will continue to develop through more projects.
As you can probably tell, I am very happy at IDP. I’ve already talked about the amazing team and I must add that the Directors are good to work for too. I really feel like I can make a difference on the projects IDP delivers.
I’m very passionate about our ethos of ‘Placemaking for life’. To me this means creating spaces people want to be in. These are places with meaning, value, memories, experiences, and play. Part of my role as a designer is to look after future generations.
It’s very important to me to continue to gain new skills and experience, and I know that I can do that at IDP. In time, I’m looking forward to mentoring others and continue to grow as a Landscape Architect.
I can honestly say that, at IDP, life is good!