Three Years Later - Studio Outside Retreats and Reflects

We're sorry we weren't there to answer our phones.

This past Friday, the entire Studio Outside staff vacated our studio in Exposition Park and converged on the Trinity Audubon Center in Dallas for a full day of reflection on the company's growth in the past year, the state of the firm in the present, and the future of Studio Outside as the individuals that make up the company see it. 

The third-annual staff retreat covered a wide range of housekeeping and state-of-the-union type topics including employee feedback (anonymously compiled from a survey), financial and budget reports for the firm, and an afternoon workshop focusing on the future of the firm.

Presenting visions for the future at the Trinity Audubon Center. Photo by Charlie Pruitt

bcWORKSHOP's Brent Brown presents to the Studio Outside team. Photo by Charlie Pruitt.

Meg Fitzpatrick, a strategy consultant with MMF Strategies, was the MC for the morning session which focused on comparing the state of the company today with the company a year ago, thorough feedback received through employee surveys. Everyone, from staff, to entry-level designers, to principals participated in the anonymous survey, the results of which were incredibly helpful both to see what we've improved on in the past year and also where we still have room to grow as a company. 

The afternoon session was highlighted by a presentation from Brent Brown, the founder of the Building Community Workshop (bcWORKSHOP), a public design firm focusing on architecture and design that helps improve the quality of life for people within the community. Brent's passion for public design - as he explains it, design that takes into account the people and the community that it affects, even outside the project boundaries - is something that is shared by a lot of the people at Studio Outside. Much of the discussion during the afternoon was centered on this shared vision for design that impacts the Dallas community in a positive way - how can both bcWorkshop and Studio Outside participate in building and shaping a better quality of life for the citizens of Dallas in the future?

Studio Outside's Paul Freeland opens up the discussion for feedback. Photo by Charlie Pruitt.

Before we left, we were able to take a tour of the Audubon Center, a beautiful building constructed in 2008. Walking around the trails through the reconstructed blackland prairie and natural floodplain ponds, we learned that the site was formerly a trash dump - a forgotten patch of land next to the Trinity River in an area of Dallas that was less than desirable.

After talking all afternoon about becoming real stewards of our city and neighborhoods, the choice of location for the retreat couldn't have been more fitting.

Studying for the LARE: Getting Started with the New Landscape Architect Registration Exam

Image via  Alberto G/Flickr

Here at Studio Outside, a few of us are preparing to take the Landscape Architect Registration Exam, also lovingly known as the LARE. Because the format of the test has changed completely for 2014, I thought it might be helpful to summarize some of the major changes to the test as well as provide some helpful study hints for those of us looking to become registered in 2014. 

Old vs. New Format for the LARE in 2014

One of the most daunting tasks in beginning the LARE exam has been to understand the difference between the old format (5 sections A-E) and the new format (4 sections 1-4). Regrettably, most of the study material available has not been updated to the new format. The CLARB website does do not go into much detail on the difference, so I wanted to share what I have understood.

Section A has essentially become Section 1, which is still called “Project Construction and Administration”. Section 1 has 100 multiple choice and multiple response questions. The new section 2 “Inventory and Analysis” is the same as section B, “Inventory, Analysis and Program Development”. Programming seems to have been rolled into Analysis of Existing Conditions, but the content is unchanged. This section has 80 multiple choice and multiple response problems. For sections 1 and 2, any study material from A or B is worth your study time.

Section 3 is now called “Design” and combines all content from Section C “Site Design” and some from Section D “Design and Construction Documentation”. Section D topics covered in this section are design principles, resource conservation and management, and materials and methods of construction. Section 3 consists of 100 multiple choice, multiple response and advanced item types.

Section 4 is now called “Grading, Drainage and Construction Documentation”, and it combines the other part of Section D and all of the section E. Section D topics covered in this section are graphic communication and construction documentation. Section 4 consists of 120 multiple choice, multiple response and advanced item types.

The question format is the biggest change. Since all parts are on the computer now, the old test’s vignettes have replaced advanced item types. Still these items are worth 1 point each, it has the same value as the multiple choice and multiple response questions.

The item types are detailed brilliantly in the CLARB orientation video above. The video is 44 drawn-out minutes of each item type explained, but it is definitely worth your time to watch it, since you get the benefit of having a test administrator give you the exact logic of 12 real test questions. Understanding the logic of the test is just as important as learning the material. It can help you reason through areas where your knowledge of the subject may be weak.

the LARE tests only your knowledge and your ability to protect the health safety and welfare of the public. It is not any sort of measure of innate talent or creativity.

A Few Helpful Tips

Image via Pawel Kryj,  pawel_231 ,

Image via Pawel Kryj, pawel_231,

It is important to remember that the LARE tests only your knowledge and your ability to protect the health safety and welfare of the public. It is not any sort of measure of innate talent or creativity. The only way to pass is to become familiar with the material and the logic of the test. Taking as many practice tests as possible is the best way to get familiar with the types of questions on the exam.

Another study tip I find useful is to set a schedule. Set serious goals and map them onto the calendar. Different people need different amounts of study time so no two schedules will ever look the same. Take inventory of your time as it is now, before the test: where do you have extra time that you could use to study? Should you give up TV time or time spent on a hobby? I have time, for example, on Friday afternoons, that I usually spend doing miscellaneous chores, reading the internet, etc. This time has become my study organization time. I now use this time to set up a schedule for the week and collect any material I might need to accomplish this. That means, during the week, I can devote 1-2 hours every night to study time, and not figuring out what to do next.

My final tip is to make flashcards from the study material. Write down everything new you learn onto flashcards. Do not use someone else’s cards; you will only be getting half the benefit!  Creating the flashcard will create a memory of the term or concept better than just reading it. Closer to the day of the test, at the point where you have read enough material to get an overall understanding of the subject matter, start to study from your flashcards. Narrow down the cards where you may have weakness and set aside the cards you can’t possibly forget. Keep distilling the information down until a few days before the test. This spaced repetition is the most effective form of studying.

Right before the test, go over everything again to make sure you haven't forgotten anything while you were learning the harder stuff. The book LARE Secrets is what I would recommend for the beginning and ending stages of studying, because it is just facts and no fluff.

Good luck conquering the LARE!


Further Reading:

CLARB - Prepare for the LARE Exam

ASLA - First Steps in Preparing for the LARE 

Amazon - LARE Secrets Study Guide