Monday, January 13, 2014

Digging Up Dirt 2.0: A Career in Landscape Architecture

I don't know about you, but I have a need to see some green this time of year.

Consider a career as a Landscape Architect. A landscape architect is someone who designs...

                                                City park, Chicago


Recreational facilities
Aerial view of a water park

                          Someone creative imagined this terracing next to a highway.

                        A landscape architect worked with others to plan this site.


                                         Here is a playground set in the north woods:
                            how did the landscape architect make it fit in with its surroundings?


                        The building process of a hippo exhibit at a zoo

                    This garden features a waterfall and a bridge that seems to float.

College campuses

 Campus of Santa Monica College, California: Someone planned this walkway lined with palm trees.

                                                        Winona State University

Golf courses

Residential developments

                  A planning sketch of a new neighborhood with plantings such as trees.

Commercial settings

This kind of architecture is about 'building' atmospheres so that they are attractive, environmentally friendly, and fit in with the areas around them.

People who are interested/talented in Art and Science, and who enjoy designing and developing the outdoor environment, can become excellent landscape architects. To become a Landscape Architect, you will need a degree from an accredited school and will need to pass a Landscape Architect Registration Exam.

Coursework for this degree will include:

Map reading and map drawing
Earth Science: Ecology, plant life, etc.
Social aspects of outdoor designing
Community Design
Site design and planning
Design Graphics
History of Landscape Architecture
Computer-Aided Design

                   Imagine being a landscape architect for Disney World...

In this career, you will collaborate with others to get the job done: foresters, city planners, civil engineers, building architects, and sometimes hydrologists (hydrologists study water--the sources of water, the ability to build close to it, whether the water quality might be affected by buildings close to it).

You will need to create your plan based on the specs, or specifications, of the person in charge of the entire project. You'll have to understand issues such as:

  • What is the water table of that area? In other words, is the ground going to be solid to build on?
  • How will it fit into the existing landscape? The future?
  • Will it be lit at night?
  • Do you want it to have pathways for walking?
  • What will the entrance to the area look like?
  • How will it work with car traffic?
  • What are the city's requirements? Most cities require a certain amount of landscaping for new as well as existing developments to maintain the attractiveness of the city. How will you include that?
  • Are there species of plants that must not be disturbed by your plan? 
  • What plants and trees are going to be sturdy and reliable, and last for many years with little maintenance?
  • How can you be certain you're not disturbing a historical site?
  • Where will fire hydrants be placed?
  • Can emergency vehicles access the area easily?
  • Does it involve accommodating persons with disabilities?
  • Do you have a plan that will evolve over several years as the area brings in more people?
  • If you are building a golf course, for example, how will you be sure the irrigation system works for the whole area? How will you ensure that maintaining the grounds will be as easy as possible?
  • If you are creating a zoo, how will you be sure it's the right environment for particular animals or plants? You'll need to figure out how people will walk through the exhibits freely, as well.
  • Will your design it have a man-made water feature such as a waterfall or pond?
  • Are you familiar with the climate in that area?
  • How will it be maintained in changing seasons?

                    Cherry Spoon Bridge at night: Lighting plays a part in landscape design as well.

Working with others will be a large part of this career: your vision and that of the building architect may not work together from the beginning.  Every person involved plays a role, and you need to be able to cooperate to achieve the finished setting.

                                    Rooftop landscaping

                  Mansion landscaping-it's hard to believe only one family lives in this place

If you'd like to check into becoming a landscape architect, here are some schools that offer degrees:    University of Minnesota 
Other colleges offer degrees in Horticulture, Geography, Land Surveying, or Planning and Community Development; these relate to Landscaping Architecture as well.
Technical and/or 2 year degrees in landscaping and horticulture:
Anoka Technical College
To read more about becoming a Landscape Architect, see these websites:

Here is the site for American Society of Landscape Architects:

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