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What is the Profession of Landscape Architecture?

Learn the art and technical sides of landscape architecture. Planning, designing, construction, are involved in creating functional and enjoyable outdoor spaces whether for commercial, public or residential projects.

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To many people, the profession of landscape architecture is a mystery. Confused by the word ‘landscape’ in the title, it is often mistaken that the profession is about ‘landscaping’ or about plants. This is an honest mistake. After all, nowadays when people hear the word ‘landscape’ they immediately think about placing plants around buildings in a ‘decorative’ manner.

But that is not what landscape architecture is about. In fact, some landscape architects practice their profession without ever dealing with plants at all. In the 1800’s when the profession was founded, the term ‘landscape’ would have properly been defined as meaning the ‘lay of the land’. The term ‘architecture’ can be defined as the art (design) and science (technical) of a construction project. Landscape architecture is really about land architecture, which is the planning, designing, arranging, and constructing of, and on, the land, with the consideration of preserving natural features, when possible, and when required to do so.

Landscape architects employ the same considerations and requirements that civil engineers and architects have when working on a construction project, with each profession having their own area of expertise. The process includes many issues that are necessary to address during the planning and designing of a project, such as function and form; the people who will use the space; limitations of the project’s site and budget; creating individual spaces for different uses, and determining how those spaces will work in the context of the project as a whole; easements, setbacks and right of way, and adhering to laws or guidelines required by local regulations.

Projects require that landscape architects provide a master (or concept) plan to carry out the projects purpose, and the aspirations of the client, through design. Following this, in the design development phase, the concept is further developed and refined. The next phase is preparing construction drawings, specifications, and construction details which instruct the contractor as to how to build and where to locate every element of the design (project).

What types of projects do landscape architects design? Commercial, public, or private projects including subdivision layout, school campuses, resorts, site plans and parking lots for shopping malls, corporate complexes, bridges, plazas, recreational and amusement parks, gateways into cities, major and minor vehicular parkways, revitalization of central business districts, and private residential projects. Also, as part of the designing process, landscape architects will select or specify materials or products that will be used in the design and construction of the project.

Who are typical clients of landscape architects? The usual clients are commercial and residential developers, homebuilders, municipalities, government agencies (State Departments of Transportation, EPA, National Park Service), and individual homeowners.

The positions held by those in the profession of landscape architecture are very diverse. They may work for developers, cities, global and local civil engineering companies, multi-discipline firms (that are comprised of engineers, landscape architects, architects, interior designers), a landscape architecture firm, government agencies;


and places like Disney World have their own landscape architects on staff.

To practice landscape architecture, one must attend a university that offers an accredited landscape architecture curriculum and earn a four year Bachelor’s degree or a two year Master’s degree. After graduating, to become registered or licensed, it is required to intern with a registered landscape architect for a minimum of two years before taking, and passing, the state board examination. It is possible to qualify to be licensed in multiple states.

You probably don’t realize that many of the beautiful and interesting outdoor places and spaces you have been in were designed by a landscape architect. Hopefully, with this information, the profession of landscape architecture is a little less of a mystery.

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