It’s been about 12 years since I passed the three-day licensing exam and became the 4,953rd landscape architect to be licensed by the State of California. This morning I covered for the wonderful Ray Freeman, who teaches young aspiring designers how to do grading calculations, prepare plans for stormwater management, and many other intimidatingly technical tasks. Every time I teach, I learn something.
Each passing year brings another layer of regulatory oversight to the construction of a new landscape. Public places are subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which regulates many features of walks, stairs, ramps, and parking facilities. Almost any kind of new construction of a certain size is required to plan for on-site stormwater infiltration. Even a new private backyard may need to meet standards for irrigation efficiency imposed by utilities like EBMUD or Marin Municipal Water or counties striving to reduce pesticide and greenwaste loads.
Change is hard for older professionals, and the technical material that young professionals must master keeps increasing in difficulty. I am constantly impressed, however, by the beauty that arises from this change. Visit the south shore of Lake Merritt and examine the grassy swales, green-roofed restrooms, and public art within easy walking distance of an urban bird refuge and the restored tidal estuary (kayak-friendly, too!). In San Francisco, Crissy Field weaves together beaches covered with families, native dune and wetland habitat, dog recreation areas, and magical places like the Wave Organ. It’s easy to find the sources for inspiration that allow us to keep teaching and learning.