Aug 29, 2007

"Suit. Suit. Skirt-suit."

I live in just enough of a vacuum that it's always gratifying to stumble across someone else voicing an idea I thought only I had. Case in point: the Banana Republic "Architects" ad I noticed on Hwy. 101 in San Francisco this spring, quickly and lovingly excoriated by Gawker. (Never mind that I'm only finding the post 6 months later.) My response had been, "who are these people?", and I think Flashman's reply is probably about right. Which further proves my long-standing claim that there's a very thin line between landscape/architecture and advertising: the only thing more important than a good concept is a good presentation.

And that transports me to another thought I've had recently: the "ad man" character, so prominent from the 1980s (thirtysomething, Melrose Place, Crazy People, Nothing in Common) through about 2000 (Bounce, What Women Want) seems to be giving way to the "young architect" character (Click, The Lake House, The Last Kiss) and, now, the "landscape architect" character (Just Like Heaven, Breaking and Entering). (On the other hand, this seems to mirror my own career trajectory. So maybe it's just me?)

I might venture that it has something to do with our global consciousness: as television matured in the '70s advertising messages evolved to be more subtle and pervasive than ever before, perhaps reaching their zenith with the marketing of a certain actor-turned-president. Sure, "Bewitched" had given us the goofy ad man decades before, but in the "greed is good" decade advertising took on a new allure… and we loved it.

Now, our thoughts are on the environment and our nests within it. Again, the architect isn't a new character; but in an affluent society living in a post-9/11 world, his role is paramount as he creates (or re-creates) our cities (pride, honor) and our homes (refuge, ego). And the landscape architect, well, he represents nothing less than the savior of our planet — not a warrior, though (that would be too scary), but an approachable, "outdoorsy, artsy" type. That's comforting, isn't it? Break out the wool sweater and fire up the Prius, we're going into the hills to visit Al Gore.

I don't mind the stereotype, really I don't; I just hope the media will treat the profession a little more accurately than they ever did advertising. I never did set foot in an agency where the creatives were playing paintball in the halls or binge drinking before deadline (although maybe I just never worked at the right shop). Dare we show the paying public that landscape architects spend more time bleary-eyed in front of a monitor than strolling through forests? Mostly, I hope the media will reflect the growing trend in my industry toward making things right — restoring wetlands, increasing green open space, correcting decades of environmental mismanagement — and not just making things pretty.

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