Profession of Landscape Architecture

Overview of the Profession

The following brief overview of the Discipline and Profession of Landscape Architecture was developed by the Department of Landscape Architecture at Cal Poly.

"In facing the growing urgency of environmental issues confronting human societies, we must do more than sustain the earth; we must heal, enhance and manage the life-sustaining processes of the planet and ensure the integrity and strength of the global landscape which connects them."
American Society of Landscape Architects
Declaration on Environment and Development - January 1993

Photo of a golf course landsacape

In 1858, Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., considered today the Father of Landscape Architecture, initiated a project that would redefine the industrial city. Historians credit the design and achievements of Central Park in New York City with having a tremendous evolutionary impact on park design, parkways, urban open space, pedestrian, and transportation systems. In fact, Olmsted's innovations at Central Park addressed and influenced the core of what is good in American urbanism and our environment today.

There were others before Olmsted of course. However, Olmsted with his intense social commitment resulting from many world travels and his strong involvement with the pre-Red Cross organization during the Civil War focused on planning and design (landscape architecture) as the best way to solve so many of the urban ills of the mid-1800's. And there were others who followed him as well who applied and improved on his innovations. The historical development of landscape architecture parallels, in many ways, the unprecedented growth of the United States during the last half of the 19th century and all of the 20th century. Landscape architects became the leaders in social reform and making our cities livable. They were the ones who offered counterpoint ideas for new town planning and the need for parks and open space in our cities and suburbs. Landscape architects played a leadership role in writing the legislation and passage of the National Forest Act of 1898 and the National Parks Act of 1916 establishing a world precedent for the preservation and management of our unique natural resources.

Photoof a garden wall of slats

The American Society of Landscape Architects offers the following definition and application of the profession of landscape architecture:

"Landscape architecture is the profession which applies artistic and scientific principles to the research, planning, design and management of both natural and built environments. Practitioners of this profession apply creative and technical skills and scientific, cultural and political knowledge in the planned arrangement of natural and constructed elements on the land with a concern for the stewardship and conservation of natural, constructed and human resources. The resulting environments shall serve useful, aesthetic, safe and enjoyable purposes."

Green Roof

Landscape architecture may, for the purposes of landscape preservation, development and enhancement, include: investigation, selection, and allocation of land and water resources for appropriate use; feasibility studies; formulation of graphic and written criteria to govern the planning and design of land construction programs; preparation, review, and analysis of master plans for land use and development; production of overall site plans, landscape grading and landscape drainage plans, irrigation plans, planting plans, and construction details; specifications; cost estimates and reports for land development; collaboration in the design of roads, bridges, and structures with respect to the functional and aesthetic requirements of the areas on which they are to be placed; negotiation and arrangement for execution of land area projects; field observation and inspection of land area construction, restoration, and maintenance.

Currently within the United States there are 62 universities that offer programs in landscape architecture along with five universities in Canada that are accredited by the Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board of the ASLA.

Visit the American Society of Landscape Architects web site to further explore the profession of Landscape Architecture. Or, click on the "Explore the Profession" links on our Prospective Students web page.


ASLA's Your Path to Landscape Architecture

Career Discovery @ ASLA

ASLA's Facebook Page

Eddie George (former NFL player) on Careers in Landscape Architecture

Landscape Architecture Magazine

Be a Landscape Architect (.pdf)

California Occupational Guide for Landscape Architects

Landscape Architects
An Occupational Outlook by the Bureau of Labor Statistics

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