Devon on April 1st, 2010

NLAM 2010April is National Landscape Architecture Month. I am proud to be in the profession that for the third year in a row, U.S. News & World Report has named among the best career choices! National Landscape Architecture Month is most likely April because it is the birth month of Me! — but I guess more importantly Frederick Law Olmsted‘s bday, the father of Landscape Architecture. Olmsted designed many very well known national treasures during his career, such as Central Park in New York, Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C, the Niagara Reservation at Niagara Falls, Boston’s Emerald Necklace greenway park system, and the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition (AKA 1893 World’s Fair). Not in comon knowledge, Olmsted and his associates also designed many of the prestigious academic campuses in the US, such as Yale University (Connecticut), Wellesley College (Massachusetts), University of California, Berkeley (California), Stanford University (California), Cornell University (New York), University of Chicago (Illinois), and many others.

Olmsted was a landscape architect before the profession had a title. Olmested is accredidted with being the father of landscape architecture even though in past histroy we know of people that practiced that which we would concider landspace architecture. One that comes to mind is André Le Nôtre, best known for his garden designs for Louis the XIV palace Versailles. An interesting fact, in the Louvre Museum (Paris, France), hangs portraits of all the designers of Versailles. Jules Hardouin-Mansart portrait has “L’architecte” under his portrait and the other designers have their respective tittles too. But, when you come to André Le Nôtre’s portrait, it only has his birth/death year.

This use of “landscape architect” became established after Frederick Law Olmsted, and others, founded the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) in 1899. One of the goals for having ASLA and National Landscape Architecture Month is to promote the profession. Becuase landscape architecture is relatively a young profession, we still need to explain what we are. What most people do not realize is, in North America and Europe, landscape architecture is a very heavily regulated profession. Much like the timeline in becoming a medical doctor, landscape architects are in school for 4-5 years, then complete a 2-5 year internship, during which they must pass the Landscape Architect Registration Exam (5 tests totaling 16 hours and 45 minutes) — which I have endearingly began calling “the landscape bar,” which upon passing receive licenser, then pick a specialization or stay a general designer. And to remain licensed, they are required to receive a minimum of 6 hours of continuing education each year. As you might be wondering, with all of the regulation, landscape architecture must be more then just planting plants in a backyard. You would be correct; landscape architects work on (all at varying scales of design, planning and management):

  • urban design
  • site planning
  • town or urban planning
  • environmental restoration
  • parks and recreation planning
  • green infrastructure planning and provision
  • private estate/ residential landscape master planning and design

Landscape architects are also vital members of multi-disciplinary projects including:

  • The planning, form, scale and siting of new developments
  • Sustainable development, sustainability
  • Stormwater management including rain gardens, green roofs, groundwater recharge, and treatment wetlands
  • Civil design and public infrastructure, highways, transportation structures, bridges, and transit corridors
  • Reservoirs, dams, power stations, reclamation of extractive industry applications or major industrial projects and mitigation
  • Environmental assessment and landscape assessment, planning advice and land management proposals
  • Coastal and offshore developments and mitigation
  • Ecological Design any aspect of design that minimizes environmentally destructive impacts

So now you know! I believe I have done my online duty in spreading and explaining what landscape architecture is. Do me a favor and tell some other people it is Landscape Architecture Month. And if they ask you what that is, try and tell them or, better yet, send them to this blog or ASLA’s National Landscape Architecture Month website.

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