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Thread: Landscape architecture vs. planning - how do I decide?

  1. #1

    Landscape architecture vs. planning - how do I decide?

    hey everyone,

    I'm a lurker but new to posting. So I am almost 30 and I've had a successful career in the film/entertainment industry as a producer (first in NYC and now in LA) since graduating college 8 years ago. I still work full time in the business in a pretty high-up position for my age. I went to a top film school and graduated with a 3.0 GPA (I focused more on internships and working than grades, since I never thought I'd have to worry about grad school!)

    A couple years ago, I began to realize that showbiz wasn't what I wanted to do forever. Fun in my 20s, but demoralizing and exhausting as a life choice. I started to look into landscape architecture - I have always been a plant/gardening/environmental nerd. For the last year, I've been in UCLA Extension's landscape arch certificate program taking 2 classes per quarter. It's been fun - before this year I never knew how to draw or design anything, and now I have some cool portfolio pieces that I can be proud of.

    I took the GREs recently (720v, 750q) and have been gearing up to apply to MLA programs. However, with the end of year application deadlines looming, I've started to feel a little ambivalent. Though it's been fun sitting down to design, I still feel like I don't quite know what I'm doing while designing, or where the hell I should put that group of trees, or why I should care. Other people just seem to have so much more of a knack for the spatial and design skills.

    My skills as a producer for the last 8 years have involved writing, schmoozing, managing teams, solving problems, and diplomatically dealing with difficult personalities. These are the things I KNOW I am good at and that I'd like to continue doing in whatever career. The idea has started to creep into my brain lately - should I be a planner instead of an LA? I never thought about it before now, but the things about landscape architecture that really excite me are urban parks and projects involving public transportation. Those really are the things I am interested in, and I'm beginning to wonder if it's more the hustle of getting these projects underway that I'm interested in than designing the hardscape and plant materials. The new Transbay Terminal project in SF? Makes me drool. But the plant materials and water features being designed for it? Okay, cool, I guess?

    So I have 2 questions for you guys. One is - with a project like the Transbay Terminal, or the High Line in NYC, what is the planner's job, specifically? And who do they work for - the government? The design firm? Someone else?

    And the other one is - do you think a 30 year old girl with good GRE scores, a meh GPA, great recommendations and a year of landscape architecture classes (but no social science, planning, econ or stats) has a chance in hell of getting into a planning program at a school like Berkeley? (I'm focusing on the Bay Area)

    I've also thought about applying to Berkeley's MLA and then going for the MLA/MCP dual, but they probably wouldn't let me into that with an undergrad film degree... who knows. I could also take another year and keep taking classes before applying to a grad program. Any advice would be much appreciated!

  2. #2
    Quote Originally posted by violet42 View post
    hey everyone,

    I'm a lurker but new to posting. So I am almost 30 and I've had a successful career in the film/entertainment industry as a producer (first in NYC and now in LA) since graduating college 8 years ago. I still work full time in the business in a pretty high-up position for my age. I went to a top film school and graduated with a 3.0 GPA (I focused more on internships and working than grades, since I never thought I'd have to worry about grad school!)

    A couple years ago, I began to realize that showbiz wasn't what I wanted to do forever. Fun in my 20s, but demoralizing and exhausting as a life choice. I started to look into landscape architecture - I have always been a plant/gardening/environmental nerd. For the last year, I've been in UCLA Extension's landscape arch certificate program taking 2 classes per quarter. It's been fun - before this year I never knew how to draw or design anything, and now I have some cool portfolio pieces that I can be proud of.

    I took the GREs recently (720v, 750q) and have been gearing up to apply to MLA programs. However, with the end of year application deadlines looming, I've started to feel a little ambivalent. Though it's been fun sitting down to design, I still feel like I don't quite know what I'm doing while designing, or where the hell I should put that group of trees, or why I should care. Other people just seem to have so much more of a knack for the spatial and design skills.

    My skills as a producer for the last 8 years have involved writing, schmoozing, managing teams, solving problems, and diplomatically dealing with difficult personalities. These are the things I KNOW I am good at and that I'd like to continue doing in whatever career. The idea has started to creep into my brain lately - should I be a planner instead of an LA? I never thought about it before now, but the things about landscape architecture that really excite me are urban parks and projects involving public transportation. Those really are the things I am interested in, and I'm beginning to wonder if it's more the hustle of getting these projects underway that I'm interested in than designing the hardscape and plant materials. The new Transbay Terminal project in SF? Makes me drool. But the plant materials and water features being designed for it? Okay, cool, I guess?

    So I have 2 questions for you guys. One is - with a project like the Transbay Terminal, or the High Line in NYC, what is the planner's job, specifically? And who do they work for - the government? The design firm? Someone else?

    And the other one is - do you think a 30 year old girl with good GRE scores, a meh GPA, great recommendations and a year of landscape architecture classes (but no social science, planning, econ or stats) has a chance in hell of getting into a planning program at a school like Berkeley? (I'm focusing on the Bay Area)

    I've also thought about applying to Berkeley's MLA and then going for the MLA/MCP dual, but they probably wouldn't let me into that with an undergrad film degree... who knows. I could also take another year and keep taking classes before applying to a grad program. Any advice would be much appreciated!
    my current roommate got into school for planning at 30, with a degree in fine arts (photography) and a lower gpa and (way lower?) gre score. we are both attending a top 5 school (according to planetizen) for planning. i honestly think you will be fine. he lurks on this msg board too so maybe he will reply to this as well.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Dec 2006
    Location
    midwest
    Posts
    2,839
    Check out land8lounge.com (LA blog/forum). I started and monitor the Planning and Landscape Architecture Group on that site (nrschmid as well). My background: transferred to planning from architecture halfway through college, have a non-design BUP but do a mixture of non-design and design planning projects, have also worked very closely with LAs as a planner for +7 years and have lectured at a few universities about the relationship between LA and planning.

    I can't tell you anything about Berkeley (midwesterner here). MLA programs are 3 very intense years. You don't need a design background. However, if you had a BArch, BLA, or previous design experience, you can probably complete the MLA in 3 years instead of 2. However, you WILL need some sort of portfolio for admissions (see previous posts on here and land8lounge).

    The MLA/MUP might be a good idea, but try to have a mixture of both design and non-design work. When you graduate school 4 years later, make sure that the portfolio has a mixture of many different types of work. This increases your marketablility. It's a hard sell to show employers you can do LA and planning, most companies think you fit into one camp or the other.

    Be prepared to face incredible competition for jobs in landscape architecture, even if you wouldn't graduate for 3-4 years. I don't know what the tuition is for Berkeley. Yes its a good school but LAs don't make a ton of money coming right out of school, even if you had a dual MUP. I would also check into ASLA.org and the Occupational Outlook Handbook (for the landscape architecture and planning professions). See previous posts on here, too, about LA and planning.

    Hope this helps-
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

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