Not too many years ago, I can remember lamenting with a colleague about submittal deadlines and how we, as landscape architects, always seemed to be the “tail of the dog” when it came to getting base files and other information we needed from our clients or other consultants to complete our design work.
Chaos and caffeine are among a landscape architect's tools.
How many times have we sat at our computers, feverishly scurrying to finish up a plan set and trying with all our might to beat the clock to make our submittal deadline? All the while silently cursing under our breath while our blood pressure creeps higher and higher by the minute.
How many times has the plotter decided to stop working or the network decided to go offline in the middle of plotting that final set--30 minutes after the local print shop has closed for the day?
Oh, the joys of landscape architecture!
Still, we landscape architects do have some pretty nice benefits when it comes to our jobs: We get to work with fancy and expensive software programs, exercise our creative genius by making the spaces we design more sustainable and user-friendly, and spend a fair amount of time outdoors.
All in all, it is a pretty sweet deal.
Why is it, then, that when deadlines loom, we turn our lives upside down and morph into crazed, high-strung stress cases who survive on coffee, soda pop, and snacks from the vending machine until we roll that final submittal set of plans and send them off to the client?
Most of you know that I took a job outside of landscape architecture four years ago when the economy started to decline. I am grateful for that opportunity, but I have never been happier than I am now to be back doing what I love.
This week, we are facing a looming deadline, and suddenly I have found myself back in that familiar mix of chaos and caffeine.
One thing I am constantly surprised by is the last-minute rush to get everything finished. It seems that no matter how much we plan or how much time we think we have the week before our deadline, we always scramble to get things out the door at the last minute.
I think that as landscape architects, we fall pretty low on the pecking order when it comes to consultants in the green-build industry. I don’t mean to say that we are less important than anyone else, but when it comes to starting work on a project, we are often at the mercy of other consultants to finish their work before we can begin ours.
For instance, we have to wait for the civil engineer to finish the site plan before we can start our planting plan. It drives me crazy, and I’m sure it drives you crazy, too.
Sometimes I look at my desk, littered with coffee-stained, red-lined plans, and ask myself, “Why do I put up with this insanity?”
It is ironic to me that I love this job so much, yet it can be so frustrating at times. Perhaps that is the nature of any job we do? Perhaps it is because we want to always do our very best and we have a difficult time grasping the concept of “Good Enough”?
One of my roles in the company I now work for is irrigation designer. I am currently working on the irrigation design for a project that is due tomorrow, and I am about ready to pull what is left of my thinning, graying hair out by the roots.
As I sit here buried in irrigation catalogs and pipe sizing charts, I ask myself, “How did I find myself in the situation again?”
While the next day or two might be a little crazy, once the submittal goes out the door, life will return to normal and I will start the process all over again.
I’ve learned a lot over the years, and recently one thing has become abundantly clear: If you think the landscape architect is the “tail of the dog,” then the irrigation designer is definitely the “tip of the tail of the dog,” because I cannot start my design until the landscape architect sends me his planting plan.
Oh, look! He just did!
I hope you have a great weekend! I now have to get this submittal out the door!
Boyd Coleman is a landscape architect in Phoenix, Arizona. He can be reached on twitter at @CDGLA or email: email@example.com