Landscape Architecture Documentation Standards: Principles, Guidelines and Best Practices



Design Workshop, Inc. | Publisher: John Wiley & Sons


Landscape architecture is well positioned to address the most fundamental challenges faced by communities, cities and nations. In order to respond to these challenges, theory and practice must be well integrated, suggesting a critical need for effective translational relationships between theory and implementation. This publication explicitly strengthens the relationships between design, documentation and built outcomes, and bridges the training gap between academia and the profession.

This book is the first comprehensive publication of its kind in the profession. It has been field-tested in landscape architecture offices on a variety of national and international projects for over a decade, used as part of course materials at universities, and focuses not just on technical aspects of documentation but also on how documentation relates to the design process. This publication provides an important tool in improving the quality of built work, thereby elevating the stature of our profession.


The profession must be committed to continually improving the processes by which it designs, documents and constructs landscapes. Strong theoretical ideas can result in exceptional built outcomes only if these ideas can be effectively translated into well-executed construction documents.

This publication is intended to focus on the all-encompassing role of documentation in landscape architectural design and construction processes. Documentation refers to those drawings, images, models and narrative elements produced and organized sequentially to convey design intent and construction requirements. Across the industry, a wide ranging literature base highlights the breadth of the profession, including publications that address design process, landscape architectural graphics, construction technologies, and specialized topics such as grading and planting design. However, there are a very limited number of resources that focus strictly on documentation practices for landscape architecture. Landscape Architecture Documentation Standards: Principles, Guidelines, and Best Practices is award-worthy because it fills this void as a comprehensive resource and provides explicit depiction of the entire design and documentation process. The book is intended to be used as a teaching and industry resource, in an effort to elevate and standardize best practices, and consequently enhance the influence of our profession.

The publication is innovative in its strategic inception and role in both academic and professional venues. So far, six universities have used the material as a teaching tool and peer reviewed the document. Landscape construction and documentation courses are often faced with apprehension by students and only loosely connected to processes taught in design studios. Today’s practice demands that practitioners understand and apply relationships between the landscape architectural design process, documentation practices and associated graphic requirements.

Purpose of the Book: As a reference book, the publication focuses on the key documentation needs of the landscape architectural design and construction documentation process. That includes both “design documentation” and “construction documentation,” as well as all of the activities that occur in the transition from one realm to the other. Documentation requirements include those components necessary to explore and define design analysis, intent, logic, physical proposals and, ultimately, the specific components included within construction and bid documents.

The book is organized to guide the reader through five phases of the design and documentation process including Pre-Design, Conceptual Design, Schematic Design, Design Development and Construction Documentation. It is also designed to function as a reference manual, whereby a student or professional could easily navigate to information pertaining to the particular project phase, sheet or component they are undertaking. Key components, drawings, sheets and documentation “sets” are described for each of these phases. For each of the elements, an explicit set of content, graphic and coordination requirements are defined.

The principles from which standards are drawn are most important and the book places explicit emphasis upon them. Equally important is an exhaustive discussion of the role and requirements of each phase of the design process, as there is much variation and uncertainty in the design industry regarding this topic.

Audience: These guidelines are intended to serve both academic and professional needs. They may be used in both realms as a teaching tool, helping students and practitioners to understand the landscape architectural design and documentation practice. Landscape architecture degree programs typically teach this process, along with associated graphic requirements. These courses do not typically cover the topic comprehensively or in great detail. While these skills can only be fully developed during years of practice, this publication may help to establish a stronger academic foundation before entering the practice.

Dilemma: Professionally, the young landscape architect is usually left to learn these requirements over long-term exposure to projects and by working with experienced staff on a variety of project teams that may require or value different elements. This type of instruction can vary in quality, range and timeline. Continuing education opportunities focus in part on preparing for the Landscape Architecture Registration Exam. This process is concentrated on selected construction documentation components and tasks and does not incorporate the full design and documentation process. While relationships and distinctions between different phases are fundamental to landscape architectural practice, they are generally not taught with much emphasis in academic or professional settings.

Thesis: The book methodically presents the subject matter in a comprehensive and explicit manner, with a number of fundamental premises that organize the approach:

These premises suggest that each phase and all associated components of the design and documentation process will be made clear and meaningful. Clarity is initiated with a foundation of intent that can be logically applied throughout the process, resulting in superior built outcomes.

Objectives: The following objectives and metrics have been established for the guidelines, aimed at a range of intended audiences, including students, faculty, entry-level landscape architects, seasoned project managers and design leaders.

The ultimate measure of success will be evident with better trained landscape architects and better executed design, completed within allocated schedules, consultant fees and construction budgets.

The book is being sold both in hard copy and as an e-book, by John Wiley and Sons, via major on-line book sellers. Supplemental materials are available on-line with the e-book version. Copies of the book were distributed to university landscape architecture departments, with the hope that the publication will become a required textbook for students.

“This is so needed; it’s something I can give to my students. In fact, it’s a project that benefits everyone.”

- 2016 Awards Jury


Primary Content Authors:

  • Chuck Ware, ASLA
  • Paul Squadrito
  • Kurt Culbertson, FASLA

The publication represents the efforts of dozens of professionals, including landscape architects, architects, graphic designers, technical writers and quality control specialists. The project team and key contributors include esteemed university faculty, several well-practiced senior landscape architects and a number of prestigious Fellows of the American Society of Landscape Architects.