Landscape architecture combines art and science. It is the profession that designs, plans and manages our land. Landscape architecture has strong roots in the U.S., and early examples, such as Monticello, are still much admired. The actual term landscape architecture became common after 1863 when Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux designed New York's Central Park. Today, landscape architects deal with the increasingly complex relationships between the built and natural environments. Landscape architects plan and design traditional places such as parks, residential developments, campuses, gardens, cemeteries, commercial centers, resorts, transportation facilities, corporate and institutional centers and waterfront developments. They also design and plan the restoration of natural places disturbed by humans such as wetlands, stream corridors, mined areas and forested land. Their appreciation for historic landscapes and cultural resources enables landscape architects to undertake preservation planning projects for national, regional and local historic sites and areas. Working with architects, city planners, civil engineers and other professionals, landscape architects play an important role in environmental protection by designing and implementing projects that respect both the needs of people and of our environment. Meeting human needs by making wise use of our environmental resources is work that is in demand today and will continue to be needed in the future.
Required Education for a Career in Landscape Architecture
A landscape architect needs:
- Sensitivity to landscape quality
- Understanding of the arts and a humanistic approach to design.
- Ability to analyze problems in terms of design and physical form.
- Technical competence to translate a design into a built work.
- Skills in all aspects of professional practice including management and professional ethics.
A formal education is essential to gain these skills and knowledge. Professional education in landscape architecture can be obtained at the undergraduate or graduate level. There are two undergraduate professional degrees: a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA) and a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture (BSLA). These usually require four or five years of study in design, construction techniques, art, history, natural and social sciences.
There are generally three types of graduate degree programs:
- The first-professional Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) is for persons who hold an undergraduate degree in a field other than landscape architecture, and intend to become landscape architecture practitioners. It can usually be earned in three years of full-time study.
- The second-professional Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) is for persons who hold an undergraduate professional degree in landscape architecture. It normally takes two years.
- The MA/MS in Landscape Architecture is for persons who want to conduct research in landscape architecture, but do not seek to be registered professional practitioners.
- Ph.D. is a more recent degree option offered to those who have completed the requirements of the MSLA (or equivalent). One year of resident coursework must be completed prior to embarking on thorough dissertation research as required.
Prospective students who hold degrees should investigate the specific aims and objectives of various graduate and undergraduate programs before deciding where to enroll. The Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board (LAAB) an autonomous committee of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) is the agency that accredits first-professional degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels in the United States. Other degree programs, such as the second professional MLA, the MA/MS and the Ph.D., fall outside the scope of LAAB accreditation.
How to Select a School
Deciding what school to choose is often not an easy or clear-cut decision. There is no system for ranking landscape architecture programs. Besides, you want to find the best school for you. To choose a school, develop a list of questions that you can use to obtain information that will help you make a decision.
Questions for you:
- First, think about your goals and objectives.
- What has attracted you to landscape architecture?
- What type of firm do you want to work in after graduation?
- What type of projects do you want to work on?
Questions for schools:
- How would attending your program help me achieve my goals?
- Have any recent graduates had goals similar to mine? Can I contact them?
- What type of internship opportunities do your students have? How do they obtain internships?
- I'm particularly interested in XYZ, what opportunities would I have to learn about it at your school? Are any of the faculty really interested in this topic?
- Where do your students find jobs after graduation?
It is also recommended that you visit at least one landscape architecture program while classes are in session and if at all possible visit at least one or two landscape architecture offices.
Schools in PA–DE
Pennsylvania is home to 5 schools throughout the state that offer 7 accredited landscape architecture programs as well as MSLA and Ph.D. degrees offered at Penn State University. Delaware currently has no accredited landscape architecture programs however development of these programs is occurring.
MLA Program MLA: LR Spring 2010 NR Spring 2016
Thelma Lazo-Flores, Ph.D, Program Director and Associate Professor
Landscape Architecture/Landscape Studies Program
Chatham University's Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) program prepares students for the analysis, planning, design, and management of the natural and built environment. The program encompasses both the art and science of creating outdoor environments and promotes environmental stewardship through the implementation of sustainable practices. It is a first-professional degree designed for students who have an undergraduate degree in a discipline other than Landscape Architecture. The program has a particular emphasis on educating and training a generation of professionals who are guided by principles of sustainable design, are knowledgeable about contemporary community planning methods, and are grounded in construction and implementation skillsets for both professional and/or academic careers in Landscape Architecture.
The MLA program at Chatham University was initiated in 2003 and has been accredited by the Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board (LAAB) of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) since 2007.
The Pennsylvania State University
BLA Program BLA: LR Spring 2011/NR Spring 2017 MLA Program - Initial IR Spring 2013 NR/Spring 2019
Eliza Pennypacker, ASLA, Department Head
Department of Landscape Architecture
Pennsylvania State University
121 Stuckeman Family Building
University Park, PA 16802 -1912
Penn State's accredited undergraduate degree is achieved through a 5-year program with a required semester abroad. The first three years form a "core" addressing basic professional competencies, while the final two years focus on breadth through study abroad, a range of studios and seminars from which to choose, and plenty of free electives as well as non-directed general education courses. Students are encouraged to take at least one minor (many take two). Special strengths focus on the breadth of perspective considered essential for contemporary landscape architects, with longstanding commitment to service learning, and cutting edge digital technology—all delivered by award-winning faculty.
Penn State's professional master's degree is achieved through 3-year program characterized by the same strengths as the BLA: breadth of perspective, service learning, and cutting-edge digital technology. All MLA students also undertake a capstone project that demands a rigorously explored research question that is either tested or illustrated through a design. MLA research is robustly supported by Centers and expertise areas, including the Hamer Center for Community Design, the Stuckeman Center for Design Computing, and the new Water x Design Collaborative, which showcases Penn State's extensive departmental expertise in water-focused design and planning.
Students who hold a professional design degree and seek expertise in a niche area are well served by Penn State's two-year, post-professional research master's degree. MSLA students enjoy a great deal of freedom in their curriculum; and their research is robustly supported by the Centers and expertise areas, including the Hamer Center for Community Design, the Stuckeman Center for Design Computing, and the new Water x Design Collaborative, which showcases extensive departmental expertise in water-focused design and planning.
PhD in Architecture with an emphasis in Landscape Architecture
Our PhD focuses on the opportunities afforded by interdisciplinary collaboration through the Stuckeman School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. The curriculum is highly individualized: first, students must complete the requirements of the MSLA (or equivalent); then they undertake one year of required resident coursework, after which they complete dissertation research as required. This curriculum, like our other degree programs, benefits from potential alliance with award-winning faculty University-wide, and with the Hamer Center for Community Design, the Stuckeman Center for Design Computing, and the new Water x Design Collaborative, which showcases extensive departmental expertise in water-focused design and planning.
BLA Program - Initial BLA: LR Fall 2008/NR Fall 2014
Kimberlee Douglas, MLA, PLA, LEED GA, Director
Landscape Architecture & Geodesign School of Architecture
Philadelphia University, Smith House
3460 School House Lane Philadelphia, PA 19144
Philadelphia University's Landscape Architecture Program has a mission of sustainable urban design through service-learning. Our program is committed to providing leadership in confronting ecological issues of the natural environment and cultural and social issues that affect urban neighborhoods, particularly those in need of revitalization. What really makes our Landscape Architecture Program unique is that for most design studio projects we partner with community groups, schools, or governmental organizations to address "real" environmental and community issues. Our upper level landscape architecture design studios are taught by some of the top landscape architects in the world!—One of the key advantages of studying landscape architecture in Philadelphia. This has resulted in our graduates being extremely successful in landing internships and/or fulltime employment at some of the best firms in the country.
BLA: LR Spring 2010/NR Spring 2016
MLA Program IR Fall 2012/NR Fall 2018
Pauline Hurley-Kurtz, ASLA, Chair
Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture
580 Meetinghouse Road
Ambler, PA 19002-3999
The undergraduate Landscape Architecture program at Temple University was founded in 1988 and has maintained national accreditation by the Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board (LAAB) since 1990. Students, faculty and alumni are regular recipients of local and national awards. The rigorous curriculum emphasizes ecological principles in land use, planning and design.
Students develop the analytical, artistic and scientific skills necessary for designing, preserving, and rehabilitating natural and built environments. Landscape Architecture students also develop strong skills in horticulture through courses in plant identification, botany and plant ecology. They are skilled in a range of computer software typically used in professional design and planning offices.
The program also includes a unique Design/Build studio. Diverse and talented faculty members provide professional experience, and use real world projects to teach students how to create places of beauty, public value, and ecological integrity in the local community. Landscape Architects from area firms also play an active role in educating Temple students as adjunct faculty.
Temple's professional experiential approach to learning combines scientific knowledge, technical skills and hands-on application, resulting in a well-rounded education that is extremely valuable when students seek internships and full-time employment.
The Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture offer a nationally accredited Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) degree. This program provides the design and technical knowledge necessary to earn a professional degree in landscape architecture with an emphasis on ecological landscape restoration.
MLA students study design, urban community revitalization and public lands in studio. Technical courses include landscape engineering and native plant identification in addition to woodland and wetland ecology. The final year of the program culminates with an independent capstone project, where students synthesize landscape architecture and restoration, including both research and design.
MLA students graduate with a variety of skills including expertise in computer software such as the Adobe Suite, AutoCAD and Sketchup; horticultural knowledge with an emphasis on native plants; urban design and planning; and ecological restoration learned in the classroom and 'hands-on' in the field.
The MLA program is available both as a two-year post professional and a three-year professional degree, with part-time and full-time options. All courses are offered at the Ambler Campus, the location of a 187 acre arboretum, which is a living laboratory for teaching and research. The arboretum includes historic
formal gardens, wetland and rain gardens, stream corridors, meadows and woodlands.
University of Pennsylvania
MLA Program MLA: LR Fall 2010/NR Fall 2016
Richard J. Weller, Professor and Chairman
Department of Landscape Architecture, School of Design
University of Pennsylvania 119 Meyerson Hall,
210 South 34th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6311
The University of Pennsylvania, Penn, is synonymous with the major intellectual and creative developments in landscape architecture that have occurred over the last 60 years. It was in this school that Ian McHarg developed his famous planning methodology and his student and later Chair of the Department Anne Whiston Spirn wrote 'The Granite Garden'. In the 1990's Penn then appointed the world's pre-eminent landscape historian John Dixon Hunt from where he oversaw landscape architecture's timely return to poetics and James Corner rose to global prominence as a designer and theorist. The school prides itself on advancing the discipline's ideas and methods and puts a premium on the intersection of theory and practice through the agency of the design studio. The curriculum is designed to ensure that subjects in media, theory, history and technique all support and align with the investigations undertaken in the studio. Faculty include senior figures such as Anu Mathur and Laurie Olin and emerging voices such as Chris Marcinkoski and Karen McCloskey. The program is currently Chaired by Australian landscape architect Richard Weller who advocates that landscape architecture is an art of instrumentality reaching across all scales.