What is a Landscape Architect?


What is a Landscape Architect?  Here is a definition provided by us:
Landscape architects are architects of the external environment. Landscape Architecture is an occupationally licensed architectural design profession that is a component piece mixture, study and use of:

  • the study of project/site specific context, people - their behavior & use of outdoor space and the various contributing factors considered in the design & conceptualization of external programmatic space and the connected relationships therein.
  • fine arts
  • architecture
  • the structural design & engineering of hard built structures / hardscape elements (site retaining & knee walls, pedestrian & vehicular pavement, freestanding structures, etc....)                   
  • design of surface and sub-surface drainage systems
  • horticulture
  • soils science
  • geology
  • hydrology
  • grading (the designed adjustments to topography / slope contour of the earth-soil, or built hard surfaces placed within the external environment)

For what architects conceptualize and plan within the complex interrelationships of internal space, systems & facility, landscape architects do for the external environment. Landscape architects are architects of the outdoor environment. When one begins to grasp the complexity of the earth, its amorphous connections, blurred lines between different interrelated natural and built systems, there may be a beginning in understanding that landscape architecture isn’t about the placement of plants and trees. Everything from the base geology bedrock, up to the surface of the earth, as well as people and their relationship to the outdoor environment are taken into account, in any varying combination, for different types of landscape architecture design projects.


What is the difference between a landscape architect and other design professionals?  What is the difference between a landscape architect and a landscape designer?  Here is a quote found / explanation provided on the American Society of Landscape Architects website:

"Q. What is landscape architecture?

Landscape architecture is the profession that encompasses the analysis, planning, design, management and stewardship of the natural and built environment. Activities of a landscape architect include creating public parks, site planning for commercial and residential properties, reclaiming blighted areas, designing towns and historic preservation. Landscape architects have advanced education, professional training, specialized skills and licensure in 46 states (now all 50 states, plus Washington, DC).

Q. What is the difference between a landscape architect and other design professionals?

Landscape architecture, architecture, civil engineering and urban planning are all professions that work with the "built" environment. Despite some overlap between these professions, there are important distinctions.

  • Landscape architects manage any jobs concerning the design and use of outdoor space and the land. The scope of the profession includes site planning, town or urban planning, park and recreation planning, regional planning, garden design and historic preservation.

  • Architects primarily design buildings and structures with specific uses, such as homes, offices, schools and factories.

  • Civil engineers apply scientific principles to the design and construction of public infrastructure such as roads, bridges and utilities.

  • Urban planners develop a broad, comprehensive overview of development for entire cities and regions. Earlier this field was closely associated with landscape architecture and architecture; however, urban planning has developed into a distinct profession with its own courses and degree programs. Today many landscape architects are still heavily involved in the field of urban planning.

Each of these four professions is very distinct from gardeners, landscapers, horticulturists and landscape contractors.

  • Gardeners and landscape designers usually do not have the advanced degree that is requisite for landscape architects. Their activities focus primarily on fundamental garden design and maintenance.

  • Horticulturists are trained in the science of growing and producing plants. Many horticulturists become nurserymen or work in garden centers.

  • Landscape contractors install planting elements of design conceived by landscape architects. Landscape contractors may be gardeners or landscapers."

(Credit: Jeff Lofton - American Society of Landscape Architects)


Are they really a landscape architect?

Occasionally, a potential client might believe that the titles "landscape designer" and "landscape architect" are interchangeable, or the same, but they are not.  It is actually illegal to title / represent oneself as a landscape architect, practice as a landscape architect, as well as register a landscape architecture design firm, unless you posses a landscape architect's license (as is the same with building architects and civil engineers).  If you have questions as to whether someone is really a landscape architect, all states governments have a department of occupational regulation.  You usually can do a "license lookup" for landscape architects, architects and civil engineers, on a state government website.  For example, the Virginia state government's "DPOR" (Department of Occupational Regulation) and the Maryland state government's "DLLR" (Department of Labor, Licensing & Regulation) have a professional / occupational license look-up found here on their government website:



Being a landscape architect is not something that you happen to select as a hobby, or random choice.  University architecture schools typically house a landscape architecture program, along with building architecture and urban planning programs.  You have to go to architecture school and acquire an undergraduate, or masters degree in landscape architecture, in order to qualify to sit for the landscape architect's license exam.  Here are some sample landscape architecture masters and undergraduate degree programs:

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