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A landscape architect is someone who creates beautiful outdoor spaces. The scale of the profession’s focus on master planning, site planning, landscape design, project management and implementation is extensive. Projects can range from very small to very expansive residential, neighbourhood parks and golf courses, to regional recreation, environmental, transportation, educational, commercial, institutional and industrial projects.
The skill and talent of landscape architects is visible all around us when we see the beauty and usefulness of our parks, natural areas, gardens, urban plazas, streets, neighbourhoods, and communities. Landscape architects design the aesthetic layout of golf courses and shopping malls as well as other public places. They can also be hired privately to design the landscaping of homes and gardens. Landscape architects can also choose to work in the environmental field designing conservation lands, such as wetlands, and participating in historic restoration endeavours.
A landscape architect will work with their client to meet the vision they have for their outdoor space. No matter how big or small the project, landscape architects can turn a bland piece of land into something special. During these initial meetings with the client, the landscape architect should be able to get a clear idea of what the space will be used for, as well as how it should look. The majority of clients will also have a budget in mind, and the architect should keep this in mind during the design process.
Once the designs are drawn up, a landscape architect will then usually build a model of the space. These models are very detailed, and they will include components such as trees, structures, walkways, and bodies of water. Building these models helps a client to better see how their space will look once it has been built. A landscape architect can also make any last minute design changes before the actual construction begins.
Landscape architects often work and collaborate with engineers, architects, surveyors, community planners, biologists, agrologists, foresters and other professionals. They don't get involved in the hard labour. That work is completed by contractors/workers, however, they do oversee the work to make sure it is all going according to plan. The job of the landscape architect is to come up with the vision for the outdoor space and to draw up the plans in explicit detail so they can be easily read and followed by the workers.
Landscape Architects are often sought on multidisciplinary teams working privately, for public municipalities, for government agencies, for land developers, for commercial developers and on their own, addressing complex planning and development issues. Landscape architects will work with other professionals, including contractors, labourers, and other architects.
In order to become a landscape architect, one must pass the LARE (the Landscape Architectural Registration Examination). Individuals interested in taking this exam must have their degree from an accredited institute and have worked for a licensed architect for at least one to four years. Master’s degrees can take two to three years to finish, longer if the student’s bachelor’s degree is in a different field of study.
Landscape architecture degrees focus on biological sciences and horticulture to give students a deep knowledge of plant life as well as other necessary components for working with biological materials. Many bachelor’s degrees in this field can take as long as five years to finish. Prospective landscape architects spend a lot of time in the studio while getting their degrees. They also put a lot of focus into learning aspects of the design process and how to write up proper proposals.
Once the degree has been attained and the LARE has been passed, there may be more state examinations that applicants are required to take before state licensing can be completed. Individuals should check with their state for specific requirements.
The field of landscape architecture is very broad and encompasses many different areas. Residential design is perhaps the most well known, but new schools, churches, libraries, office buildings, hospitals, museums, gardens, parks and resorts all use the services and talents of landscape architects.
"I hate it when people say, 'Oh, you're a landscape architect, will you do my garden?'" she says. "It's about so much more than plants and borders. There are so many different skills involved - at times it feels a little bit like you're conducting an orchestra."
When it comes to new construction and major home renovations, we as landscape design/build contractors are usually called into a project after the majority of the home construction is completed. In reality, we should be involved in the process much sooner.
Greg Stevens is the senior park planner for the Fox Valley Park District in Aurora, Illinois, where he develops and designs new parks and works on land acquisition, zoning, and grants for the park district. He has worked in landscape architecture firms all across the country.
Neglecting the architectures of the world's fast-changing landscapes will result in endless highways lined with endless blocks of endless tedium - dreary expanses of housing, industry, forestry and agriculture - our natural landscapes buried under repetitive building and planting.