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Landscape Architecture
For more information, contact Jeff Lofton, 202-216-2331,


Q. What is landscape architecture?

Landscape architecture is the profession that encompasses the analysis, planning, design, management and stewardship of the natural and built environment. Activities of a landscape architect include creating public parks, site planning for commercial and residential properties, reclaiming blighted areas, designing towns and historic preservation. Landscape architects have advanced education, professional training, specialized skills and licensure in 46 states.

Q. What is the difference between a landscape architect and other design professionals?

Landscape architecture, architecture, civil engineering and urban planning are all professions that work with the "built" environment. Despite some overlap between these professions, there are important distinctions.

  • Landscape architects manage any jobs concerning the design and use of outdoor space and the land. The scope of the profession includes site planning, town or urban planning, park and recreation planning, regional planning, garden design and historic preservation.

  • Architects primarily design buildings and structures with specific uses, such as homes, offices, schools and factories.

  • Civil engineers apply scientific principles to the design and construction of public infrastructure such as roads, bridges and utilities.

  • Urban planners develop a broad, comprehensive overview of development for entire cities and regions. Earlier this field was closely associated with landscape architecture and architecture; however, urban planning has developed into a distinct profession with its own courses and degree programs. Today many landscape architects are still heavily involved in the field of urban planning.

Each of these four professions is very distinct from gardeners, landscapers, horticulturists and landscape contractors.

  • Gardeners and landscaper designers usually do not have the advanced degree that is requisite for landscape architects. Their activities focus primarily on fundamental garden design and maintenance.

  • Horticulturists are trained in the science of growing and producing plants. Many horticulturists become nurserymen or work in garden centers.

  • Landscape contractors install planting elements of design conceived by landscape architects. Landscape contractors may be gardeners or landscapers.

Q. Why are commercial developers, urban planners, architects and public policy makers hiring landscape architects with increasing frequency?

Thoughtful landscape architecture adds value to a commercial development by handling aesthetic and practical considerations, and addresses the growing public concern for the environment. In recent years, the most successful building projects in terms of profitability and positive client public response have been those that incorporate the collaborative expertise of many professions. In such cases, landscape architects and the other design professionals have worked together from the project's planning stages.

Q. Granted that landscape architects add value to commercial developments, what is the ongoing value of the profession to public land management?

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the profession's forerunners in England and France laid the foundations for the world's first great public parks. Landscape architects have been associated with public land management since the earliest members of the profession in America helped establish national parks at Yosemite Valley (1864) and Niagara Falls (1885).

Today landscape architects bring with them an expertise in planning and managing entire ecosystems and society's interaction with the land. Landscape architects develop comprehensive plans so that parks can successfully serve growing numbers of users today and in years to come. The importance of the profession can be seen in the large number of landscape architects employed by the National Park Service and other government agencies at the federal, state and city levels.

Q. What is the difference between "softscape" and "hardscape?"

Softscape refers to the natural elements with which landscape architects work, such as plant materials and the soil itself. Hardscape refers to elements added to the natural environment, such as walkways, bollards, plazas, retaining walls, trellises, irrigation pipes, sculptures and fountains.

Q. Where can one find examples of the work done by landscape architects?

Their work surrounds us, from the location of buildings to the design of parkland and public space. Yet the more successful the landscape architect is in solving problems concerning the human use or stewardship of outdoor space and the land, the more their work becomes "invisible." Successful landscape architecture wisely blends the built and natural environments.

Landscape architecture projects can involve urban design, landscape preservation and resource management, and have included site planning for office buildings and corporate headquarters. Examples of landscape architecture projects include Central Park in New York, TRW's headquarters outside Cleveland, the "Emerald Necklace" of green spaces and parks in Boston, Sursum Cordan Affordable Housing in Washington, D.C., and the planned community of Reston, V.A

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