Landscape architecture involves the investigation and designed response to the landscape. The scope of the profession includes architectural design, site planning, environmental restoration, town or urban planning, urban design, parks and recreation planning. A practitioner in the field of landscape architecture is called a landscape architect.
The history of landscape architecture is related to the history of gardening but is not coextensive. Both arts are concerned with the composition of planting, landform, water, paving and other structures but:
The Romans undertook landscape architecture on an extensive scale, and Vitruvius wrote on many topics (eg the layout of towns) which still concern landscape architects. As with the other arts, it was not until the Renaissance that garden design was revived, with outstanding examples including the pleasure grounds at the Villa d'Este, Tivoli. The renaissance garden developed through the 16th and 17th centuries, reaching an ultimate grandeur in the work of André le Nôtre at Vaux-le-Vicomte and Versailles.
In the 18th century, England became the focus of a new style of landscape design. Figures such as William Kent, Humphry Repton, and most famously Lancelot 'Capability' Brown remodelled the great estate parks of the English gentry to resemble a neat and tidy version of nature. Many of these parks remain today. The term 'landscape architecture' was first used by the Scotsman Gilbert Laing Meason in the title of his book on The Landscape Architecture of the Great Painters of Italy (London, 1828). It was about the type of architecture found in landscape paintings. The term "landscape architecture" was then taken up by JC Loudon and AJ Downing.
Through the 19th century, urban planning became more important, and it was the combination of modern planning with the tradition of landscape gardening that gave Landscape Architecture its unique focus. In the second half of the century, Frederick Law Olmsted completed a series of parks which continue to have a huge influence on the practices of Landscape Architecture today. Among these were Central Park in New York, Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and Boston's so called Emerald Necklace park system.
Landscape architecture continues to develop as a design discipline, and has responded to many of the movements of design and architecture through the 20th century. Today, a healthy level of innovation continues to provide challenging design solutions for streetscapes, parks and gardens. The work of Martha Schwartz in the US, and in Europe designs such as Schouwburgplein in Rotterdam by the Dutch design group West 8 are just two examples.
Ian McHarg is considered an important influence on the modern Landscape Architecture profession and land planning in particular. With his book "Design with Nature", he popularized a system of analyzing the layers of a site in order to compile a complete understanding of the qualitative attributes of a place. This system became the foundation of today's Geographic Information Systems (GIS). McHarg would give every qualitative aspect of the site a layer, such as the history, hydrology, topography, vegetation, etc. GIS software is ubiquitously used in the landscape architecture profession today to analyze materials in and on the earth's surface and is similarly used by Urban Planners, Geographers, Forestry and Natural Resources professionals, etc.
The breadth of the professional task that landscape architects collaborate on is very broad, but some examples of project types include:
The most valuable contribution is often made at the earliest stage of a project in generating ideas and bringing flair and creativity to the use of space. The landscape architect can contribute to the overall concept and prepare an initial master plan, from which detailed designs can subsequently be prepared. He or she can also let and supervise contracts for construction work, prepare design impact assessments, conduct environmental assessments or audits and act as an expert witness at inquiries on land use. He or she can also support or prepare applications for capital or revenue funding grants.
For the period before 1800 (see section on History, below), the history of landscape architecture is largely that of master planning. The first person to write of "making" a landscape was Joseph Addison in 1712. The term "landscape gardener" was invented by William Shenstone in 1754 but the first professional designer to use this term was Humphry Repton in 1794. The term "landscape architecture" was invented by Gilbert Laing Meason in 1828 and was first used as a professional title by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1863. Lancelot Brown, (also known as "Capability" Brown), who remains one of the best known "landscape gardeners" actually called himself a "place maker". During the nineteenth century, the term "landscape gardener" became applied to people who build (and sometimes design) landscapes and the term "landscape architect" became reserved for people who design (and sometimes build) landscapes. This use of "landscape architect" became established after the American Society of Landscape Architects was founded in 1899 and the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) in 1948.
Landscape designers and Landscape technicians or engineers are employed with landscape construction and service companies or may be independent professionals. Landscape designers, like garden designers, design all types of planting and green spaces - and are not registered. Many landscape engineers work in public offices in central and local government while others work for landscape architecture firms.
Landscape managers use their knowledge of plants and the natural environment to advise on the long-term care and development of the landscape. Landscape managers work in horticulture, estate management, forestry, nature conservation and agriculture.
Landscape scientists have specialist skills such as soil science, hydrology, geomorphology or botany that they relate to the practical problems of landscape work. Their projects can range from site surveys to the ecological assessment of broad areas for planning or management purposes. They may also report on the impact of development or the importance of particular species in a given area.
Landscape planners are concerned with landscape planning for the location, scenic, ecological and recreational aspects of urban, rural and coastal land use. Their work is embodied in written statements of policy and strategy, and their remit includes masterplanning for new developments, landscape evaluations and assessments, and preparing countryside management or policy plans. Some may also apply an additional specialism such as landscape archaeology or law to the process of landscape planning.
Garden designers are concerned with the design of small gardens and outdoor spaces and also with historic garden conservation.
Known as Canada's Premier Landscape Architect, Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, works on many significant sites, such as the Vancouver Public Library Central Branch including rooftop garden, the National Gallery, the NY Times Building, and the Law Courts at Robson Square in Vancouver. She was raised in connection with Rudolf Steiner, and has crossed paths with John Todd (biologist). Her work on the C.K Choi Building at UBC includes similar designs.
The Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA) provides professional recognition for landscape architects. Once recognised, landscape architects use the title ‘Registered Landscape Architect’.
Across the eight states and territories within Australia, there is a mix of requirements for landscape architects to be ‘Registered’. Generally there is no clear legislative registration requirement in place. Any regulations or requirements are state based, not national.
The AILA’s system of professional recognition is a national system overseen by AILA’s National Office in Canberra.
Most agencies require AILA professional recognition or registration as part of the pre-requisite for contracts. Landscape architects within Australia find that many contracts and competitions require the AILA recognition or ‘registration’ as the basis of demonstrating a professional status.
To apply for AILA Registration, an applicant usually needs to satisfy the following pre-requisites:
1. A university qualification from an AILA accredited program.
2. At least two years of practice.
3. A record of Continuing Professional Practice (CPD).
The application is in two stages:
1. First Stage: A minimum 6 months (12 months preferred) period of mentoring and assessment.
2. Second Stage: Oral assessment/interview.
Professional recognition includes a commitment to continue professional development. AILA Registered Landscape Architects are required to report annually on their Continuing Professional Development.
The AILA has in place processes to recognise equivalent qualifications and experience, which when combined with a number of years of recognised practice as a landscape architect, may provide the basis of recognition as a Registered Landscape Architect.
The Institute provides services to assist members including support and promotion of the work of landscape architects; information and guidance to the public and industry about the specific expertise offered by those in the profession; and training and educational advice to students and professionals looking to build upon their experience.
In 2008 the LI launched a major recruitment drive entitled I want to be a Landscape Architect to encourage the study of Landscape Architecture. The campaign aims to raise the profile of landscape architecture and highlight its valuable role in building sustainable communities and fighting climate change.