May I contribute a version (taken from chapter 1 of the book written jointly with Jamie Liversedge Landscape Architecture, an introduction ) which overlaps, but also extends the ground, covered by Tom Turner?
Aesthetics + Horticulture + Ecology + Sustainability
Landscape Architecture grew out of landscape gardening and was primarily a visual and aesthetically based profession in the nineteenth century, with a strong horticultural basis. In the twentieth century it became an ecologically focused profession while in the twenty first century it has became a profession concerned with sustainability as well. So it deals with issues such as climate change, ecological footprint, biodiversity, sustainable drainage systems (SUDS) and a low carbon economy, while still addressing visual and ecological issues. It is an applied art based on a scientific understanding.
At the larger scale landscape architects deal with landscape planning, for example, Landscape Character Assessment or the Dutch National Waterplan, which was initatied by a landscape architect. This larger scale work can range from the city region to the national scale and can involve countryside planning. Landscape architecture is concerned for the public good, with community values and with human development and its impact on the land.
Landscape architects’ clients are usually communal, whether central and local government and charities, or corporate such as developers. The classic form of practice is private consultancy practice, and this can be as sole practitioners or in larger landscape architecture consultancies But landscape architects also work in multi-disciplinary architectural, planning, engineering and urban design consultancies. They can work for quarrying companies and for forestry companies. And landscape architects are employed directly on a salaried basis by work for central and local government. They can also be employed by charitable foundations, such as the National Trusts or Groundwork Trusts in Britain.
So what is landscape architecture?
Landscape Architecture can be described by saying that:
• it involves work outside, sometimes, and you have to relate to lots of different sorts of people;
• it can often involve lots of work in an office, maybe spending hours or days in front of computer screen;
• you need to be able to design and therefore to be able to draw;
• you need to be able to write and present a case for conserving what is good while proposing changes;
• you need to work with people, and need to communicate ideas;
• you need a technical understanding of construction, of building materials and how to use and assemble them; and therefore sufficient comprehension of chemistry and physics as well as building industry procedures;
• you need a thorough knowledge of plants and how to cultivate and manage them;
• you should have a understanding of geology, of soils, of geomorphology or how the land is formed and of human, plant and animal ecology;
• you need to endure, and you need patience, for example, Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe began work on the Hope Cement Works and Quarry in 1940 and continued advising on it until the 1990s; landscape projects take a long time, years and decades; and
• you should be financially responsible, you are charged with spending other peoples’ money and therefore must do that responsibly and accountably, and so
• you need to be able to administer, to keep records, to take part in meetings and often to chair meetings.
You are unlikely to become rich
Landscape architecture tends to be relatively low paid compared with other development professionals such as architects, engineers or surveyors (though this changed in many countries in the twenty first century). In the UK the typical annual salary on graduating is c.£30,000 while in the USA the Department of Labor figures for 2010 report a median annual salary of $62,090. However, both salaries are above the average salary for all employees in both countries.
You are unlikely to become celebrated.
Currently both TV chefs and garden designers have higher public profiles. There is lots of administration and it is demanding work. It can also be highly rewarding. It is a profession, which deals with critical environmental concerns such as biodiversity, green space, urban heat island effect and climate change issues. 60% of most towns and cities are the streets, yards and parks and gardens, which together form open space, and all this is the province of the landscape architect. Like film-makers and opera directors, landscape architects persuade other people to give them the money (or rather the finance or means) to realize their and their client’s dreams.
Some landscape architecture specialisms are:
landscape design, and
Definitions of Landscape Architecture
Definitions include the art, science and management of landscape. The IFLA (International Federation of Landscape Architects) definition of 2003 has been lodged with the International Labour Organization as a proposed entry for its International Standard Classification of Occupations and reads:
“Landscape Architects conduct research and advise on planning, design and stewardship of the outdoor environment and spaces, both within and beyond the built environment, and its conservation and sustainability of development.”
Given landscape architecture began in the United States one should also look to ASLA (the American Society of Landscape Architects founded in 1899) for their advice, which is:
“What is Landscape Architecture?
Landscape Architecture encompasses the analysis, planning, design, management, and stewardship of the natural and built environments.”
This is the more succinct definition of the two so let’s emphasize the common elements which are:
• the analysis, planning, design, management, and stewardship of the natural and built environments.
Stewardship is given in addition to management, because it suggests something more comprehensive and analysis is added to the IFLA three of planning, design and management. Stewardship suggests stocktaking or (in modern jargon) audit. This is significant in terms of the growth of landscape character assessment in the past twenty years.
Finally one should look also at the largest and oldest profession in Europe, that of Germany. The professional body is the BDLA (Bund Deutscher Landschaftsarchitekten founded in 1913) and its website describes landscape architects as:
“Landscape design expresses the spirit of the time; it is a cultural language and involves both the conservation and reinterpretation of landscapes. Landscape architects combine ecological awareness and expertise with planning competence; they assess and prove the feasibility of plans and realize projects. They take creative responsibility for our natural reserves and for the interplay of the environment with our social and built environment.”
The significant point about the BDLA definition is that it refers to landscape as a cultural construct (“a cultural language”) and includes an ecological awareness. It also emphasizes the executive nature of the profession: it “realizes projects”, this is also explicit in the choice of the word “Architect” in the BDLA title.
From the above one might list some common themes:
• design, planning and management
• town and country
• scientific understanding especially of ecology and horticulture
• space and time
• execution i.e. effecting change and development, and
• a cultural awareness and a social conscience.
But note the nature of landscape architecture can vary from country to country and from landscape to landscape. This is also the case with forms of professional practice. In the UK the Landscape Institute has membership divisions in design, management and science. In most other countries landscape architects professional associations emphasize design and planning. In some countries nature conservationists are included.
In some countries the term “landscape architect” is little used: in Russia landscape architects often graduate in green engineering while the French and Spanish may not use the word “architect” in their title (because of laws protecting the title of “architect”) so call themselves Paysagiste or Paisajista. In Germany landscape planning is very important and many government landscape architects are planners. In the UK the position of the town planning profession is so established that there are far fewer landscape architects engaged in planning of town and country than say in Germany. In the USA landscape architects will often undertake plot layouts for housing estates or design of road layouts, which in other countries would be undertaken by surveyors or civil engineers.
The (British) Landscape Institute’s inclusion of a landscape management membership or a science membership is atypical. In yet other countries the landscape professional body includes significant numbers of landscape contractors.