These “lessons” were presented to students of landscape architecture during a lecture in April 2006 at North Carolina State University’s College of Design.
Lesson 1: Be passionate about your beliefs! But listen to others all the time. They have experiences you don’t have yet.
Lesson 2: Landscape Architecture is an art form as well as a science, and should be pursued by “generalists,” not “specialists.” You must know and understand both art and science. If you neglect one for the other, you become a “specialist” with generally boring experiences as your livelihood.
Lesson 3: Understand and appreciate Nature. You must have great knowledge of plant material, ecosystems, conservation of natural resources, and sustainable design practices.
Therefore — Lesson 4: Pursue a broad, daily education. Read books, magazines, etc. on a wide variety of subjects, especially those of related professions (architecture, engineering, the arts….). Learn more about design, art, culture and religion in Europe and Asia, in particular. Try to get fellowships and prizes that will expand your physical and intellectual horizons.
Lesson 5: Become a colleague. Attend meetings, conferences, social events of other related professions: Nurserymen, Architects, Engineers. And truly get to know your clients. It’s a form of networking and creates bonds. To place a computer between you and your clients is a great mistake. (Explain what you did and how it helped you with your career. Note the award you won from the American Nurserymen – the highest award they give.)
Lesson 6: Get involved. Get yourself on boards, committees, commissions, etc. Become a leader, not just a follower. (I participated in planning commissions, Land Use Congress, N.C. Environmental Education, Rotary Club, ASLA, NC Design Foundation.)
And specific to projects…
Lesson 7: Design environments that people will want to be out in – enjoying the environment. Introduce wondrous elements, like fountains, etc.
Lesson 8: If you have a better idea, present it. Be innovative. Push for excellence. Don’t automatically settle for what the client thinks he/she wants. I was able to work on projects nobody else did because I thought of them.
Lesson 9: Go to the top. Talk to the people at the top of the “food chain” that affects your project: corporate presidents, politicians, educators, etc. If they believe in what you say, in your ideas, they’ll filter it down to get the job done that you want done.
Lesson 10: Make them think it’s their idea. Make sure your clients feel that they are part of the design process, not just decision-makers. You need to be subtle and to understand human psychology. Place your clients into some sort of value system to encourage them to understand what you do. (People got used to me trying to educate them!)
Lesson 11: Be persistent. Don’t give up. As Calvin Coolidge once said, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”