Growing Strong with Student Landscape and Landscape Architecture Conferences
This past semester has been a time of growth for many aspiring landscape architects. For example, the National Collegiate Landscape Competition (NCLC), which is an annual student career event organized by the National Association of Landscape Professionals, brought landscape industry students together from all over the United States in March to compete in challenges and show off their skills. In April, landscape architecture students converged on Columbus, Ohio for LABash 2016, an annual educational event featuring networking opportunities, seminars, and tours of the city.
We talked to students from both events to hear their thoughts on the conferences, the landscape design community, as well as the future of the industry and their careers.
Students studying a variety of landscape-related fields represented more than 65 colleges and universities at NCLC, held at Mississippi State University from March 15 through 17. Celebrating 40 years of bringing together students to challenge their abilities, NCLC provided career advancement opportunities while testing students’ skills in 34 competitive events.
Students got their hands dirty and had their wits tested by challenges ranging from irrigation troubleshooting and assembly to 3D exterior landscape design, while also attending workshops, a career fair, and a series of career development presentations, for which schools and teams could also win awards for attending.
In the 3D Exterior Landscape Design competition, Vectorworks issued a challenge for students to design a 2D/3D model of a landscape using Vectorworks Landmark software based on a scaled basemap.
Judges assessed 23 competitors on six factors: meeting the client’s needs, functional use of horizontal and vertical space, design principles and creativity, appropriate use of hybrid (2D/3D) features, maximized use of 3D views, and graphics. Students only had 110 minutes to complete their designs.
The winner, Amer Mahadin, an international student studying at Mississippi State University, said that completing his design was no small feat.
“Time was the biggest challenge for me,” he admitted. “I had to organize my time so I could have my drawing and perspectives at the end of the event.”
Though students who competed in the 3D Exterior Landscape Design competition had varying amounts of experience designing with Vectorworks software, Mahadin learned about Landmark over the past two years through NCLC, as well as through meeting others who are interested in 3D modeling.
“It has been a great educational experience for me and for the Mississippi State University team,” said Mahadin, who believes that there will be more growth in the use of 3D CAD software among landscape architects and landscape designers to “stimulate thinking conceptually to find design solutions. The biggest challenge is to maintain creativity as you create visual animations that mimic reality in order to sell and explain our ideas as designers.”
Mahadin was honored to have a chance to connect with other landscape architecture students and industry leaders at the event.
“The National Collegiate Landscape Competition was a truly life-changing experience,” he said.
Vectorworks also sponsored students from the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) and Morgan State University this past April so they could attend LABash at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.
For some students, this was their first time attending an industry conference.
“I most looked forward to forming personal connections with professionals and other students, and creating lasting relationships,” said senior Kim Jacobs. “The conference widened my views and introduced me to new and exciting concepts.”
Some students are already preparing for next year’s LABash.
“It was great to talk to the people who set up the conference at Ohio State for 2016, as in 2017 University of Maryland will be hosting it, and all the information we can gain from them will be helpful,” said sophomore Ben Hartmann.
Senior Brian Cooper had been to LABash prior to going to Columbus this year but was looking forward to returning and taking advantage of the educational opportunities available at the conference.
“The most valuable part of attending the conference is just going to the seminars and learning new skills,” he said.
Skill workshops and seminars covered topics like composting, green roofs, and BIM. Students could also attend keynotes from speakers like Chad Danos of Duplantis Design Group, Shannon Nichol of Gustafson Guthrie and Nichol, Laura Solano of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, and Thomas Woltz of Nelson Byrd Woltz. Students later took in the city with tours of the Columbus Zoo, the Watershed Distillery, and Zauber Brewery, as well as enjoyed a bike tour of the university's best landscapes. There were even opportunities for students to soak up career advice from professionals and have their portfolios reviewed.
“You can mold your own experience. That’s what I like about it,” said UMD senior Nick Martinazzi.
After attending Vectorworks' Landscape Product Marketing Manager Eric Gilbey’s presentation, “BIM in Landscape Architecture," junior Tandis Hamidzadeh discovered that there are crucial landscape architecture techniques she still needs to learn.
“I had heard about BIM, but it was really cool to see it in detail,” she said. “I felt like I need to learn this ASAP!”
Students expressed that they also enjoyed the many networking opportunities provided at LABash.
“It made me realize how close-knit the field is,” Martinazzi said. “Everyone wanted to help the students.”
Moreover, many students who went to LABash found they also learned a lot from each other.
“You’re not just talking to professionals but also your peers,” said junior Autumn Dorsey. “It’s great to exchange ideas. That was the best part: talking to other students.”
Students found that they were able to exchange tips of the trade and academic advice with both older and younger students from around the world.
“You always learn something from sophomores and juniors, too!” Desmond Liu, a senior, agreed.
Through social events that helped them grow their professional and social networks, many students left feeling more confident in their field, having learned more about the career opportunities available to landscape architecture students.
“This profession doesn’t have to go a certain direction,” Dorsey said. “I knew coming up that it was versatile, but I didn’t realize how versatile it could be.”
From teaching to video game design, Dorsey has gained new insight into possibilities for the future.
“It’s a very vast field. It’s more vast than I thought.”