Broad scope needed for landscape architects

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Teague Nall & Perkins, a Fort Worth-based firm started in 1976, added its landscape architecture department about three years ago, and the demand for the staff’s services is already increasing as the public consciousness about being environmentally responsible grows.

As the public becomes more aware of ways to be green, it influences the way cities and companies spend their money and write their laws and ordinances, said Mark Berry, a principal of the company. TNP can be juggling as many as 35 or more landscape architecture projects in various stages at any given time, he said, underscoring the great demand for it.

“It changes the way you feel about where you’re at,” he said.

While landscape architecture may not be totally understood by many people, its principles are ancient. Crop rotation, controlling waters and irrigation, and planting trees are all examples of the principal tenant of the profession, a stewardship of the land. Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed Central Park (among others) in the mid- to late-1800s, is considered the father of American landscape architecture.

“When we go outside this building, we’re involved with the landscape,” said Tom Alves, director of planning/landscape architecture at TNP. “The tree down the street, the brick in the sidewalk, somebody thought about that.”

Since the profession is so broad, landscape architects must have an extensive educational background as well as experience learning under others. In Texas, four schools — including the University of Texas-Arlington — offer degrees in landscape architecture, and then every potential architect must take a national exam. The architects then work with engineers, building architects, developers, construction teams and municipal entities to draw up plans and visions for the land.

Tim May, landscape architecture and planning manager who works in TNP’s Denton office, said the national professional organization, the American Society of Landscape Architects, is working to educate the public about what exactly the field entails.

“We fight this every day, this battle, this perception battle,” May said. “We say ‘landscape architect,’ and people think we plant trees.”

“Or cut the grass,” said Nick Nelson, a LEED-certified landscape architect.

Alves, the president-elect of the Texas chapter of the ASLA, said there are about 800 to 900 landscape architects in Texas who are members of ASLA. He estimates there are about 1,000 practicing throughout the state. Since Texas has large, rapidly growing cities, architects have plenty of opportunity to take on a range of projects, he said.

Also, because there are more than a dozen small ecological realms in Texas, architects must have a mastery of the local flora and fauna to decide what will work best to preserve the land and add to experiences, he said. For example, what works well in Fort Worth may not work well in Dallas, where there is more rainfall and the soil is different, he said.

Berry said one rapidly growing area TNP would like to expand on in the future is roadway landscape architecture.

“Cities, now, they want their roads to look nice,” he said. “Beauty really matters.”

He also said he would like the company to become the premier provider of parks, including ballfields, trails, playgrounds and more. The company already has an extensive list of parks it has completed and is working on, including the baseball, softball and soccer fields at All Saints Episcopal School; trail improvements at the Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge; bridges, trails, benches, a playground facility and more at Bicentennial Park in Pantego; and the lake, park and trail system at the Keller Town Center.

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