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Olmsted Scholar Feature: On Balancing the Professional with the Personal

By Timothy Gazzo, 2010 University Olmsted Scholar

Elizabeth Myer, one of the leading landscape architectural theorists in the United States, gave an interview in Terragrams at the end of which she discusses her advice for recent graduates,

“It’s very easy when you start working to maintain the same kind of rhythm you had in school… I encourage them to find a space within the first few years of practice to do some of their own work… something so that they have an identity that’s outside of the practice and I think that’s fundamental.”

And I believe herein lies the tension that defines many people as they leave academia.

At the time, I was knee deep in my capstone, straddling programs in landscape architecture and environmental forest biology, student teaching and preparing my portfolio. Yet her words struck a distinctive chord within. Could I actually lose the rhythm I established for myself and achieve a balance between my personal and professional goals? I resolved that I would not be sucked into the vortex of professional practice and lose my idealism to the rigors of production.

Since last June, I have been working at Dirtworks Landscape Architecture PC and find myself adjusting to professional practice quite well. The projects are interesting and there is a steady stream of creative stimuli around me every day. David Kamp, FASLA, the president of the firm, spoke candidly to me about his experiences as a young landscape architect and the importance of not only just working, but also pursuing the passion we develop on our own for this profession. This came from a man who had clear expectations of my role as an employee and an even clearer understanding of the value in cultivating the talent within his office.

On occasion, I am presented with opportunities to collaborate and visually interpret landscape design concepts with the foundation I learned in academia. These concepts range from large-scale ecologically mediated sites to sustainably challenged residences on Long Island. This endeavor allows me to combine my creative vision with that of my academic fundamentals, making it not only visually arresting but also relevant.

So when I ask myself what have I been doing since I graduated? The answer is simple. I’ve been enjoying myself by balancing the roles of being a landscape architect with that of following my passion and forging an identity for myself outside of the practice. Within the office, I straddle two worlds: the one I established for myself during my education with the one necessitated by the rigors of production. Outside, I’m pursuing the discussions I began during my capstone on ecological integration within urban centers and find myself more focused in my work, with a deeper appreciation of how nature interacts in the urban environment.

In short, I am working towards achieving a balance between my passion and my work, and I’m having a pretty good time doing it.

Timothy Gazzo graduated from SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry with a Masters in Landscape Architecture in May of 2010. He began working for Dirtworks Landscape Architecture PC in the late spring and is currently looking to further the research he began in graduate school through volunteering efforts on the north shore of Long Island.

LAF is grateful to the many individuals and organizations that provide financial support towards fulfilling our mission to support the preservation, improvement, and enhancement of the environment.

Much of what LAF is able to accomplish would not be possible without the thought leadership and financial investment of our major supporters, including ASLA, which provides over $125,000 of in-kind support annually.