Landscape Architect Career Interview
Greg Stevens is the senior park planner for the Fox Valley Park District in Aurora, Illinois, where he develops and designs new parks and works on land acquisition, zoning, and grants for the park district. He has worked in landscape architecture firms all across the country. Greg is also the current president of the Illinois chapter for the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).
Landscape Architect Career Path
“I grew up around construction, architecture and the environment,” says Greg. “My father was a general contractor who owned his own business and who was trained by an architect.”
Greg even grew up in a house designed and built by his father, and the house was a very contemporary design.
“As a kid I enjoyed art,” Greg goes on, “so combining all of these landscape aspects, it felt like landscape architecture was the natural choice.
Landscape Architect Experiences
Greg started in landscape architecture in San Antonio, Texas, where he worked for a planning and landscape architecture firm called Anderson-Zuercher Partnership. At this firm, he worked with a team in designing large scale planning projects in Texas.
Greg then worked for another firm called Howard Garrett and Associates, which specialized in corporate campus design, high-end residential, and golf course design.
After moving back to Illinois, Greg started at The Lannert Group, which worked on large scale master plan work and residential planning.
In 2009, Greg moved on to the Fox Valley Park District.
Landscape Architect Degree Programs
A beginning landscape architect must have a Bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture.
Landscape Architect Job Description
Greg is the senior park planner for the Fox Valley Park District in Aurora, Illinois.
“For the park district,” Greg explains, “I work on land acquisition, zoning, grants and new park development and design.
Landscape Architect Daily Routine
A landscape architect’s normal day really depends on where they work. The two fields of work are the public sector and the private sector. Greg has worked in both.
In the private sector, the hours are usually longer and you are more accountable since it is just one-on-one with the client.
“In any given day, you may manage several different projects ranging from small designs to large scale master planned communities,” says Greg. “There may be project meetings or staff meetings in any given day that you will attend. A typical week may be 50 to 70 hours. You are consistently working for a specific client; therefore you must manage your time, stay on task and manage the project within the budgeted contract amount.”
In the public sector, an architect might be under less scrutiny but still has the same demands of getting the work done. A normal week in the public sector ranges from 40-50 hours.
“You manage the work related to the annual budget, but not to a specific contract dollar amount,” Greg explains. “In a typical day, you will probably touch multiple projects and meet with several contractors or vendors.”
Landscape Architect: Steps to Success
“You must be willing to put the time into the profession,” Greg advises. “No one will make it thinking that this is a 9:00 to 5:00 job.”
Greg also recommends trying many different settings of the job before settling on one.
“Offices range from small, individually-owned businesses to large, multidiscipline offices, each offering a wide variety of projects and experiences,” Greg explains, “so it’s good to get your feet wet in all of these to then you can make your own decision on what suits your liking.”
Greg suggests traveling the world to get inspiration for your own architecture, including right in your own backyard.
“There are many historic landscape architecture projects that are invaluable to the understanding of the profession and the understanding of the timeliness of the projects,” Greg adds.
Landscape Architect Job Opportunities
According to Greg, the education to become a landscape architecture already separates the wheat from the chaff; the people that can’t handle making it in this career are weeded out by the first year.
“As long as you persist through the first couple years, you should be fine,” Greg adds.
Landscape Architect Career Favorite Aspect
“Seeing people use and enjoy the spaces you design, especially children,” says Greg.
Landscape Architect’s Future Ambitions
Greg loves what he does, but he wouldn’t mind changing a couple things down the line.
“My dream job would probably be relaxing on a beach in some tropical climate, sketching and designing projects for rich clients,” says Greg.
Advice for Prospective Landscape Architects
“Landscape architecture is a tremendous profession for getting engaged in the arts, science, design, computers and the environment,” Greg explains. “It really does pull all of these professions into one.”
Greg suggests putting the work into the career if you want to be successful, and to do that, you must seek out any landscape architecture internship you can find.
“You may get little to no pay for the internship, but the experience of working in a professional office environment is invaluable.”