– By Brian Bage, landscape architect
[Taps microphone] Check. Check.
I’d like to give a little PSA about Landscape Architecture. What is Landscape Architecture? Most people I encounter either have no idea or automatically connect it to your every day landscaper. The most common comments I get are, (1) “You should come do my house;” and, (2) “You must be busy this time of year (especially in Spring).”
It can be frustrating when no one seems to understand what you do, but I try to respond politely. As a profession, landscape architecture is centuries old. In antiquity, it is most often seen as integrating water and life: channels, aqueducts, baths, and other water features. How we perceive landscape architecture today is attributed to Frederick Law Olmsted in the mid to late 1800’s, popularly known as “the man behind Central Park in New York City.” In essence, to me, landscape architecture is a bridge between the built and natural worlds where we shape the land to enhance or provide interaction among ourselves or with the environment.
I am not a licensed Landscape Architect, but I did receive a Master’s in Landscape Architecture. That does not make me a gardener, a horticulturist, or a landscaper. While my education and experience qualifies me to be any or all of those, I chose a different path. Additionally, I am an ISA Certified Arborist; so aside from consulting, I am a pseudo-lumberjack who loves the power of an axe or chainsaw.
As a former landscaper, I understand and respect the profession; and while related, it is an entirely separate field of work. Generally, my job looks more like this:
Indoors, at a desk. Drawing by hand or computer.
How does the American Society of Landscape Architecture define its industry? Quoting ASLA’s website:
“Landscape architects analyze, plan, design, manage, and nurture the built and natural environments. Landscape architects have a significant impact on communities and quality of life.”
The genre of projects is expansive, ranging in parks, trails, campuses, streetscapes, plazas, other community projects, and yes, residential homes. ASLA describes residential design as the “largest market sector.” Hence where the confusion may come from. They continue explaining the difference between landscape architects and other design professionals by stating that landscape architects possess an advanced degree and
“Manage any jobs concerning the design and use of outdoor space and the land. The scope of the profession includes [but not limited to] site planning, town or urban planning, park and recreation planning, regional planning, garden design and historic preservation.”
The short answer is that I can design your house and I am busy this time of year. In fact, I’m busy year round; my job isn’t weather dependent. Digging holes, trimming bushes, and even plowing snow: been there done that.
The limited scope of residential design (plus the labor aspect) wasn’t personally satisfying. I wanted something with greater environmental or community impact, so I’ve spent a lot of time, effort, money, and sleepless nights in graduate school on theoretical masterpieces like this in order to get where I am today.
As a landscape designer at PGAV Destinations, I not only design landscapes, but stories and experiences as well. My craft is not limited to drawing circles on a plan and calling it a tree. So let us recognize landscape architecture as a professional and technical industry that deserves more public awareness.
[steps off soapbox]