Landscape Architecture as a Career
A landscape architect is an individual who arranges and modifies the
effects of natural scenery over a tract of land so as to produce the
best aesthetic effect for the land^Òs use. Landscape architecture is the
design profession which applies artistic, cultural, and scientific
knowledge to the design, planning, and development of the land.
Landscape architects accept certain responsibilities related to the
health and welfare of the public and are concerned with resource
conservation of the land. The practice of landscape architecture
requires an appreciation and understanding of natural and social
processes, a creative imagination, and a commitment to preserve or
improve the environment for human use and enjoyment.
Landscape architects plan the most harmonious relationships between the
land and the objects on it by proper combination of open space and
planting, and by wise use of land formation (Concise 151). They may
work on parks, gardens, housing projects, school campuses, golf courses,
or airports. They begin a project by reviewing the needs and desires of
the client. They study the site, mapping such features as the slope of
the land, existing structures and the type of soil. They check local
building codes and availability of utilities, make drawings which
outline the work in detail, and draw up lists of materials to be used.
They then invite bids from construction companies and landscape nursery
companies. With the awarding of the contracts, their work may be
finished, or they may stay on to supervise the work as their client^Òs
A major branch of landscape architecture, golf course architecture,
integrates the skills of a landscape architect on a larger scale. The
aim a golf course architect is to create a truly great golf course by
utilizing to the fullest extent possible the potential of a promising
piece of land (Golfplan 1). This potential is expressed in the site^Òs
location, slope, vegetation, water features, soil types, climate and
orientation. The role a golf course architect is the realization of
this potential under the constraints of design criteria that separate
the truly great golf course from the ordinary (1).
Landscape architecture, the science and art of modifying land areas by
organizing natural, cultivated, or constructed elements according to an
aesthetic plan (Encarta 1). The elements
include topographical features such as hills, valleys, rivers, and
ponds; and growing things such as
trees, shrubbery, grass, and flowers; and constructions such as
buildings, terraces, roads, bridges, fountains, and statuary. No
unalterable rules exist in landscape architecture because each plot of
ground offers unique problems caused by variation in contour, climate,
and surrounding areas (1).
As early as the third millennium BC, the Egyptians planted gardens
within the walled enclosures surrounding their homes (Encarta 2). In
Mesopotamia, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were one of the Seven
Wonders of the World. In ancient Greece, sacred groves were preserved
as the habitats of divinities. Greek houses included a walled court or
garden usually surrounded by a colonnade. In 5th-Century BC, Athens
public gardens and colonnaded walks attached to the Academy (^Óschool^Ô)
and the Lyceum (^Ógymnasium^Ô) were much frequented by philosophers and
their disciples (2).
Domestic architecture in the first half of the 20th Century attempted
to achieve a closer integration of the house with it^Òs surroundings, as
seen in the works of Sven Markelius in Sweden, Alvar Aalto in Finland,
and Frank Lloyd Wright in the United States (Encarta 5). The worldwide
economic depression between the two world wars forced a shift from
domestic settings to large-scale public works, in which landscape
architects and planners worked together on entire communities, regional
areas, and vast state and national projects. The proliferation of
shopping malls, new suburbs, cultural centers, revitalized urban cores,
and new educational facilities, has given landscape architects in the
later decades of this century unparalleled opportunities to refine their
art and to create new forms. They have become, in conjunction with
their colleagues in architecture, engineering, planning, and public
office, the shapers of both the future and the present physical
environment (Encarta 5).
The origin of today^Òs profession of landscape architecture can be
traced to the early treatments of outdoor space by successive ancient
cultures, from Persia and Egypt through Greece and Rome (ASLA 3).
During the Renaissance, this interest in outdoor space, which had waned
during the Middle Ages, was revived with splendid results in Italy and
gave rise to ornate villas, gardens, and great outdoor piazzas. The
history of the profession in North America begins with Fredrick Law
Olmsted, who rejected the name ^Ólandscape gardener^Ô in favor of the
title of ^Ólandscape architect,^Ô which he felt better reflected the scope
of the profession (3). The history of landscape architecture places it
where is today.
The career of a landscape architect requires the use of many job
characteristics. Many personal qualifications and qualities are
required to become a landscape architect. Creative ability,
appreciation of nature, talent in art and design, and the ability to
work in detail are important. Business ability is necessary for those
who intend to open their own landscape architectural firms (VGM 241).
Other helpful qualities for landscape architects include such things as
an enjoyment in working with their hands, good communication skills, an
ability to get along well with others, and problem solving skills
Physically, the career of a landscape architect is not very demanding.
Physical demands of a landscape architect include reaching, handling,
talking, hearing, close vision, depth perception, and adjustment to
darkness (Discover 5). Like any other job, landscape architecture has
it^Òs advantages and disadvantages. Advantages of being a landscape
architect are working indoors and outdoors, traveling, working on a
variety of projects, and good employment opportunities. Some
disadvantages include having to keep redoing plans, working with a
limited budget, working overtime to meet projected deadlines, and
dealing with difficult or demanding clients (5).
Landscape architects usually work for firms that provide landscape
architecture services and other architectural firms (Discover 2). They
may also work for federal, state, and local governments or they may also
be self-employed. Landscape architects spend most of their time indoors
in offices. The remainder of their time is spent outdoors at the
sites. Those who work in large firms may spend more time out of the
office because of travel to sites outside the local area. Salaried
employees in this field usually work a 40 hour week; self employed
landscape architects often work much longer hours (VGM 240).
Landscape architectural salaries vary depending on the years of
experience, geographical location and type of position (Schauman 2).
The Economic Research Institute reported that the average starting
salary was $22,500 in 1996 for a landscape architect. The average
salary was $40,500 for all workers in this field and $54,500 for those
with experience (Discover 4). According to the US Department of Labor,
average annual salaries for landscape architects with the federal
government were $47,000 in 1994. Workers with master^Òs degrees start at
about $27,000 (4). A landscape architect^Òs fringe benefits will vary
depending upon whether they are employed by a firm or if they are self
The job market for landscape architects is large but is expecting to
increase. Most landscape architects are self-employed or work for
architectural, landscape architectural, or engineering firms (VGM 240).
State and local government agencies employ landscape architects for
forest management; water storage; public housing, city planning, and
urban renewal projects; highways, parks, and recreation areas. The
federal government employs them in the Departments of Agriculture,
Defense, and Interior. A few are employed by landscape contractors.
Landscape architects work throughout the United States, but most job
opportunities exist in areas with favorable weather conditions, such as
Florida, California, and Texas (240).
The outlook for the landscape architectural field is for rapid growth
in this field through the year 2000, although any periods of downturn in
the construction industry could cause temporary slow periods (VGM 241).
There are about 19,000 practicing professional landscape architects.
City and regional planning programs, interest in environmental
protection, and the growth of transportation systems and recreational
areas will contribute to the demand for qualified landscape architects,
as will the general growth in population. Landscape architects usually
advance by moving to a larger firm, by becoming associates in their
firm, or by opening their own business The landscape architectural field
is expected to grow by 17% through the year 2005 in response to new
construction and a growing commitment to environmental planning and
historical preservation (Discover 5).
To become a landscape architect, a person must be completely qualified
in the field. The career of a landscape architect demands extensive
schooling. Schools with architectural or landscape architectural are
located all over the country. Forty-seven colleges offer bachelor^Òs
degree programs in landscape architecture that are approved by the
American Society of Landscape Architecture (ASLA-Colleges). Some
colleges of interest are the University of Arizona, the University of
Michigan, the University of Minnesota, and Purdue University. Landscape
architects usually require a bachelor^Òs or master^Òs degree in landscape
architecture for entry into the profession (Discover 3). The bachelor^Òs
degree usually takes four to five years to complete and the master^Òs
usually takes another two years. Courses that are taken in college for
the preparation of landscape architecture are anything related to
advanced mathematics, botany, and horticulture (ASLA). Special expenses
of the education would be things such as books and special tools.
College entrance requirements for landscape architects are the same as
any other major since the starting courses are basic.
Practically all states require landscape architects to be licensed
(Discover 3). Licensing is based on the Landscape Architecture
Registration Examination, sponsored by the Council of Landscape
Architecture Registration Boards. Admission to the examination usually
requires a degree from an accredited school, plus one to four years of
work experience. Applicants are tested on all aspects of landscape
Landscape architecture is a very diverse and rewarding profession.
Although extensive schooling is required, the advantages of this career
outweigh the disadvantages. Landscape architects are individuals who
design and produce a better environment that appeals to the public.
American Society of Landscape Architects. Accredited Programs in
Landscape Architecture. Washington, DC: 1996
American Society of Landscape Architects. What is Landscape
Architecture? Washington, DC: 1997.
Costello, Joan M. and Rita Parsont Wolfson, editors. Concise Handbook
of Occupations. Chicago, Illinois: J.G. Ferguson Publishing Company.
^ÓLandscape Architecture.^Ô Discover. Hunt Valley, MD: American College
^ÓLandscape Architecture.^Ô Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia. 1996 ed.
Microsoft Corporation, 1993-1995.
^ÓLandscape Architecture.^Ô VGM^Òs Careers Encyclopedia. Third Edition.
Lincolnwood, Illinois: VGM Career Horizons. 1991. 240-241.
Schauman, Sally. ^ÓLandscape Architecture.^Ô ASLA Council on Education.
Washington, DC: 1997.