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Posts Tagged ‘recession’

One of the most popular stories today in the New York Times is about the “Brooklynization” of Hudson River towns. Even with the weak national economy, or perhaps because of it, New Yorkers are seeking the comfort of small town life and bringing their creative enterprises and locovore habits with them. While this has been true for the closest towns for a long time, the wave of newcomers is reaching farther into the hinterlands today. Ned Sullivan, president of Scenic Hudson, calls this a “green economic revitalization,” suggesting that environmental groups are not opposing this population influx as they might have in the past. Many of the towns in this region have been down and out since their industries left long ago, so the transformation is nothing less than astonishing for the chosen ones.

…for all the images of upstate decay, the population of the Hudson Valley is growing more than twice as fast as that of the rest of the state — 5.8 percent over the past decade, compared with 2.1 percent for New York State and New York City. (While there are no universally accepted boundaries to the Hudson Valley, this reference includes the counties north of suburban Rockland and Westchester and south of the capital region: Putnam, Orange, Dutchess, Ulster, Columbia and Greene.)   … and snip…

But optimism is one thing you find in the Hudson Valley, to an extent not seen elsewhere. It is true that, even here, it takes more than art, farm stands and caffeine to make an economy work — especially for those who don’t make a living with a laptop or a paintbrush. But in a culture sometimes whipsawed between a desire to be in the middle of the storm and to be a million miles away, the Hudson Valley offers the promise of both, the upstate hills and quirky towns just 90 minutes from Manhattan, said Bradley Thomason, who moved his small technology and organizational development consultancy, Miraclelabb, from Manhattan to the mighty metropolis of Accord last year.

“This isn’t like the tech revolution,” he said. “I’d be worried if there were some big kaboom Hudson Valley moment. But I think what you’re seeing is a slow progression toward something that can sustain itself.”

 

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Search online for “sprawl is dead” or “end of sprawl,” and, not surprisingly I think, you’ll find a lot of articles and blog posts (e.g., How History Killed the Suburb and Beyond the Requiem for Sprawl). The Great Recession has decimated sprawl for the foreseeable future according to a growing consensus. But talk to a group of die-hard sprawl warriors, and you’ll find them still engrossed in battle planning or, at a minimum, on guard for sprawl’s return. It’s understandable, I suppose, given the amount of passion that some people devoted to the anti-sprawl effort, but it is now time to redirect those passions. Dan Bertolet of the Citytank blog provides a handy list of “well-documented and intensifying megatrends” that suggest it’s reasonable to redirect energy.

And now there’s speculation that we’ve even reached “peak car use” in cities all across the developed world. Eric Jaffe of The Infrastructurist makes this argument yesterday, giving us 6 reasons why driving has peaked in the U.S. Can you wrap your head around that idea? It’s more amazing than the collapse of the homebuilding industry. I think these megatrends mean that we can stop railing against the bubble-fueled Growth Machine, which was a monstrous force, no doubt, and now focus on another set of forces that are also beyond our control – the ones listed in the Citytank and Infrastructurist blogs. These forces are much more in line with what planners and designers have been hoping for. Perhaps now is the time to act on those dreams, limited budgets notwithstanding.

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When a community’s best hope for site redevelopment is a Kwik Trip. News from the Twin Cities. This relates to a prior post on the land use effects of a weak economy. The American landscape is shifting. I do not believe that we are talking about this enough and analyzing the implications – for communities, for our professions, for education.

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I say broadly! Several posts in this blog are directed at new graduates and job seekers (check the Recession Watch category to the right). This one follows in that vein. It is common for landscape architecture education to be narrowly tailored and made to conform to accreditation standards. This means that the end goal of landscape architecture education has been traditional design practice, even if that goal is unstated (there have always been alternative career paths). Curricula are developed to facilitate this outcome and maintain accreditation. What happens if the likely outcomes for graduates are something other than traditional design practice, as is happening now? What does that mean for the value of LA design education? If traditional LA practice were the only use for a LA education, we’d be doomed. As a pragmatic type, I’ve struggled with this question. But I’ve decided that a design education, and a landscape architecture design education in particular, is a tremendous opportunity for students these days – even if the slim job offerings say otherwise. Why would I say that? (more…)

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Neither been there, nor done that – that’s my caveat for all advice from older people to young job seekers today. We haven’t been here before. You’ve heard the comparisons, right? Not since the Great Depression … If you were an 18-year-old job seeker in 1930, you would be 99 years old now. 99 year olds might have some good advice for young people today. With the caveat, I am going to dispense advice anyway – to Ryan, who is working in a seafood warehouse one year after graduation, who still has a passion for landscape architecture and is very eager to set off on a career path. I have highlighted some lucky young LAs in previous posts (here, here, and here), but I know that there are a lot of people like Ryan too. They need a source of optimism and inspiration. But first, some sobering reality. One of the best charts I’ve seen on where we stand comes from the blog Calculated Risk. The chart is current through May 2011.

Comparison of Job Losses in Times of Recession

The good news? A slight uptick in that red line. OK, it’s the kind of image that makes you want to bury your head in the sand, but that’s not an option. And waiting it out isn’t one either. Ryan needs a job that will launch his career. Where should he start? (more…)

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Tough times test us. And landscape architecture students who graduated in the last 2-3 years have been tested. The bold, tenacious ones seem to have found ways to make it, even if their motivation and sense of self-worth have been challenged along the way. When they land in a job they love, it is especially sweet. That is the case for Mark Bogdan, a BLA graduate of 2010. He has found his first good career opportunity with a nonprofit organization. (As I keep hearing about new grads being employed by nonprofits, I wonder if it is a trend.) Mark generously shares his experience here in the hope that it will help other newly minted BLAs and MLAs.

I was very worried, nervous, frustrated, almost angry about graduating in this difficult economy.  I tried to make it a point to ‘stay within the industry,’ and I used my past experiences to filter through the job search.  Since I had some construction and site design experience, I applied for everything from entry-level LA, construction foreman at a construction company, residential design/build, nursery worker (to learn more about plants), etc.  Since I had no ties, I applied to big firms who had work in China, India, Dubai, Europe (anywhere and everywhere). Still I had no bites for a job. (more…)

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That is, does it matter to landscape architecture educators? To any graduate from a landscape architecture program, that question sounds crazy (or worse). My own working class roots cause me to bristle at the thought. On a personal level, an emotional level, of course, it matters very much whether or not graduates of our programs get jobs. It is really a privilege to teach highly creative people, as many of our grads are, and therefore very painful to see them leave college and not find the success they deserve. I am featuring the personal stories of some recent grads in this blog because I think their experiences are important in more ways than one.

The question really is, in what way does it matter to educators? Is it just on an emotional level, a hope that students you know personally will succeed? Or do the difficulties faced by graduates in the past couple of years suggest that parts of our curricula need to be reconsidered? The answer depends on whether you think the current economic upheaval is just a cyclical event and that we’ll eventually turn the corner and be back to “normal,” or you think that a major restructuring is underway. Educational institutions respond very slowly to change, and that is probably very appropriate in the case of the rise and fall of the national economy. If, however, a major restructuring is taking place, and new forces are shaping the profession in lasting ways, shouldn’t education respond? And, in the near term, shouldn’t we find ways to emphasize a breadth and diversity of knowledge and skills that help new grads be as flexible as possible when they embark on their careers?

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What advice do recent graduates (1-4 years out) in landscape architecture have for students who are graduating now?

First, some optimism. In the spring of 2011, there were more job openings in landscape architecture than in the previous 2 years, according to job watchers on the East and West Coasts. For example, Archa Malhotra Kalla, employed since 2008 in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area said:

Yes, the economy has had a major impact on the profession, but I do feel that things are picking up now. I’ve seen more job listings in the past 2-3 weeks than I had in the past 2 years. I personally have been involved with construction administration and some landscape inspection for a highway project. [Editor’s note: diversification.] Also, I used this time to learn more about green building practices (get and maintain professional credentials) and the sustainable sites initiative.

And, in California, K.M. (MLA 2007) had the following reaction to the question about “green shoots”: (more…)

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Nonprofit organizations have not been immune to the economic downturn, especially those dependent on donations. However, it appears that an increasing number of landscape architecture graduates in this region (New York) are finding jobs in the nonprofit sector. J. Lyons (MLA 2009) reports that there are “green shoots” in her professional niche in the “In the Field” excerpt below.

I’ve been seeing a lot of green shoots, mostly because I’m working in an environmental/sustainability field, and these movements finally seem to  be becoming more of the norm and less fringe. I’m sadly grant funded, but, where many of my colleagues who are not in the environmental field are getting program cuts, I’ve been able to take advantage of a wide range of funding opportunities to expand programs. I honestly feel like we’re in the midst of a very hasty and significant paradigm shift because of the combination of pressing environmental and economic concerns.

The emerging areas are definitely “green infrastructure”, sustainable agriculture, and regional community planning that integrates rural and urban systems (food/agriculture and energy).

We’ve hired a handful of people in the last few months, and regardless of program and function – we look for an ability to be interdisciplinary, applied experience instead of pure academic experience, and self-directed inquiry and problem solving.

My advice is to volunteer! Students and graduates need to show that they are constantly engaged and involved, inquisitive and proactive. If someone can’t find a design job right away, seek out a job that is interesting and find a way to design in your free time – volunteer or do design competitions.  I feel like things are moving very quickly and evolving rapidly (do I sound like an old fogey already?) so adaptability, gumption and perseverance seem to be key.

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As described in a previous post, I sent messages to a variety of landscape architects and recent grads to get feedback on their experiences as influenced by the national economy. The most global (in more ways than one) response I received was from Nick Onody, MLA 2009, who is employed in a multidisciplinary firm in Toronto. The breadth of his comments suggests that I start with his take on professional trends and follow-up in later posts with other people’s stories of personal experience. I think each view can teach us something about what is happening now and how those both “in the field” (currently employed in the profession) and “on the fence” (seeking employment in the profession) see the world. Nick’s view is strongly influenced by landscape urbanism and its spinoffs.

Thank you for the message. I think this is quite an interesting endeavor on your part and timed perfectly at such a critical time in the design professions. The ‘Great Recession’ has led to a variety of trends and forces that have sent the profession in fundamentally different directions. Over the past decade, we have witnessed landscape come into vogue. Sustainability and the rise of LEED. Landscape as ‘scene’ to landscape as urbanism. Terrorism and natural disasters. The rise of megacities and the influx of city migrants globally. Population decline and suburban foreclosures locally. What does this all mean? What has changed and what is to come? (more…)

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