Jess Stryker, Landscape Architect
Who is this guy?
You have every right to ask the question "who are you and what qualifies you to write articles and tutorials on landscape and irrigation?" After all, just about anyone can create a web-page on any subject, whether they know anything about it or not. So here are my "credentials" and a bit of personal information for those who are just plain curious!
I'm a registered landscape architect in the states of Arizona, California, and Nevada. Now that I've said that I am required by law to tell you "Arizona registration #32410, California registration #2743, and Nevada registration #443."
What is a registered landscape architect?
Well, there is a lot of confusion among the general public on this. In most of the U.S.A. a landscape architect is someone with at least 6 years of experience in landscape architecture who has taken and passed a very tough national licensing exam (40 hours of tests over 3 days). Basically what an architect is to a building, the landscape architect is to everything outside of the building. We design the landscape, which is a lot more than just plants (although plants are a big part of what we do!) Landscape architects design the shape of the land (grading contours), and the layout of site features such as sidewalks, patios, ponds, fountains, and yes, even the building locations. We design irrigation systems, decks, lighting systems, landscape structures (like gazebos), and erosion control systems for slopes. In short, landscape architects are trained to design just about anything related to the outdoors, from a shopping center site, to a campground, to the restoration of a toxic waste site. In fact, the largest employer of landscape architects in the world is the U.S. National Park Service.
A landscape architect has training in design, colors, textures and all the similar items associated with most design professions such as Interior Design and Architecture. In addition we have substantial training in the more engineering related fields such as grading work, electrical design, plumbing and utilities, road design, sports fields, materials and methods of construction used in small structures (typically things like rest room buildings, shade structures, and gazebos) and, of course irrigation.
Not a Gardener, not a Contractor!
There is one minor area of confusion for many people regarding what landscape architects do NOT do-- we do not install, mow, or prune anything that's not in our own backyard. In fact, I wouldn't want you to judge my skills as a landscape architect on the appearance of my own yard! My yard is where I test out all the new ideas and products that come along, which makes for a somewhat hap-hazard looking landscape. Add in that some of these tests fail, leaving dead plants or holes in the landscape. It's not a pretty sight! So if you want someone to install or maintain your landscape, you want a "landscape contractor" or a "gardener". One final note about landscape architects. They tend to react badly to being called a gardener or landscaper. So please don't call your local landscape architect and ask for a price quote for mowing your lawn. He/she might just blow a cork!
Education is another important thing to look at when evaluating qualifications. Fortunately, I graduated from Cal Poly, Pomona, which has a reputation for one of the best landscape architecture programs around. The only problem is I graduated with a degree in Agronomy, not landscape architecture. (Agronomy is the study of crop science... as in farming.) The fact is, I wasn't that interested in landscape architecture at the time, I was going to get back to nature and live off the land as a farmer (hey, give me a break, it was the 70's! You know, share the land, etc.) I enrolled in an introductory irrigation course and liked it, so I signed up for all the irrigation courses Cal Poly had to offer. This was fortunate, as the professor who taught the courses was Dr. Joe Y. T. Hung, who is a world renown irrigation expert. So my educational background is in irrigation, plants, and soils. A very good foundation for a future irrigation consultant.
|As a side note, Cal Poly now offers a major in Landscape Irrigation Science, so if you really want to learn the business I highly recommend their program.|
Welcome to the Real World!
Upon graduation I quickly discovered that to become a farmer one needed land, and in order to procure land, one needed either money or a close relative willing to give you their farm. I had neither. So much for the dream. When I graduated in 1978 a raging economic depression was taking a hard bite out of the U.S. Agricultural industry. I took the only job I could find, working as an irrigation foreman for a large citrus ranch in California's great central valley. After 3 months of 12 hour days, 6 days a week, in 110 degree heat, for a total of $800.00 per month, I started looking for a job that featured an air-conditioned office to work in. I signed on as an irrigation system designer with a local irrigation supply company and began designing sprinkler and drip irrigation systems for farms and landscapes. After a couple of years the company decided to stop offering design services, and I set up my drafting board in my garage and went into business for myself (that was 1980). Since then experience has been my primary teacher, and it has taught me a lot. I'm no longer working in my garage, I've now graduated to my own office, which we added to our home (my latest "do-it-yourself" project). And my designs are now done on a computer, not a drafting board.
Next step, Landscape Architect.
The landscape architect part came along in 1987 when I decided I needed to expand the scope of my business in order to create a broader client base. While I am still involved in irrigation design, my primary emphasis is now the design of shopping centers and restaurants, which I find to be very challenging (you probably didn't realize that we're using the landscape to put you in the mood to spend money before you even step into the building!).
Shopping at the Rose, Oxnard, California
Have you seen my work?
You just may have if you've been anywhere in the western U.S.A. I have completed projects in just about every city in California. Also Reno, Las Vegas, Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, Denver, and Colorado Springs. Completed projects include agricultural drip systems, parks both large and small, more than 20 schools, more than 100 shopping centers, a couple of golf courses, office buildings, apartments, condominiums and yes, even the sprinklers for a few hundred private homes! Specifics? Have you ever been to Yosemite National Park? I designed a sprinkler system that's installed in Yosemite Valley-- but you're not going to see it unless you really look hard (that's the way it should be!) For more on my landscape firm, see my firm information at www.JessStryker.com.
Ahhh! Information Overload!!!
Well, that's no doubt more information than you wanted to know about me. By now you should be close to fully comatose from reading this!
Text and Images by Jess Stryker. Copyright © Jess Stryker, 2008. All rights reserved.