Landscape architecture speaks for itself. You can see it in professionally-designed residential properties, public parks and playgrounds, parkways and golf courses. The purpose of landscape architecture is to create spaces that are functional and beautiful. Residential landscape architects plan the location of flowers, shrubs, and trees, and the arrangement of hardscape elements, such as outdoor water fountains, arbors and gazebos, and luxury swimming pools. They are also charged with designing and planning landscapes that suit the natural environment and conditions.
Landscape Architects: Background
Who can deliver landscape design? To become a landscape architect usually requires a bachelor’s or master’s degree in landscape. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are two undergraduate professional degrees: a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA) and a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture (BSLA). Typically, these degrees entail four or five years of study in design, construction techniques, art, history, and natural and social sciences.
For landscape architects seeking advanced degrees, there are two routes. Those who hold undergraduate degrees in landscape architecture can earn their Masters (MLA) in two years. If you hold an undergraduate degree in a field other than landscape architecture and want to go into landscape architecture, the MLA usually takes three years of full-time study.
In 2007, 61 U.S. colleges and universities offered 79 undergraduate and graduate programs in landscape architecture that were accredited by the Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).
Working with home architects, surveyors, engineers and contractors, landscape architects help determine the best arrangement of the property’s elements. Landscape architects, in collaboration with these professionals, create detailed plans indicating new topography, vegetation, walkways, and other landscaping details, such as outdoor kitchens, gate placement and other decorative features.
In the preliminary stages, landscape architects first study the project as a whole. They consider the wants and needs of the homeowner and the available budget. They analyze the natural elements of the site, such as the climate, soil, slope of the land, drainage, and vegetation; observe where sunlight falls on the site at different times of the day and different times of the year; and assess the effect of the existing neighborhood, roads, walkways, and utilities.
The next step in the process is the conceptual design phase that develops out of the meeting notes, site analysis, program of uses, and the architect’s experience. At this conceptual level, a landscape architect conveys the overall design intent, such as the general use areas and their sizes, material choices, irrigation systems, drainage systems, lawn areas, and plantings. An overall cost study is developed from the conceptual landscaping design as well.
Once you have agreed on the overall design intent, sizes of use areas, general material selections and their applications, you are ready to begin the landscaping design development and construction phase. The documentation for this phase includes landscaping design drawings for permitting, drawings to convey final design intent, and construction documents, which include specifications for materials and their installation.
These drawings may be accompanied by a full package of additional drawings to include an existing site survey, elevation plan, a plan for tree disposition and tree preservation, landscape planting plan, landscape lighting plan, and construction details for the above plans.