What is Landscape Architecture?

Landscape Architecture is the design profession concerned with the design, planning, management and stewardship of the land.

The work of landscape architects is all around us. Their concern is the form and function of the land. The attractiveness and usefulness of our parks, highways, neighborhoods, urban plazas, gardens, zoos and institutions reflects the skill of landscape architects in design and planning to achieve the best use of land resources.Applying both art and science, landscape architects provide consulting services, prepare plans, and facilitate projects that create a balance between the needs and wants of people and the limitations of the environment.

Specializations within the profession of Landscape Architecture:

Landscape Design
The historical core of the profession is concerned with detailed design for residential, commercial, industrial, institutional and public areas. It involves site analysis, development of design concepts, the sharing of spaces, the balance of hard and soft surfaces in indoor and outdoor spaces, the selection of construction and plant materials, and the preparation of detailed construction plans and contract documents. It may also involve maintenance planning, supervision of construction, and post-construction analysis.

Site Planning
This aspect of the profession focuses on the physical design and arrangement of the built and natural elements of a land parcel. It deals with a wide range of technical aspects such as circulation patterns, utility layout, siting of buildings and creating areas for human use. A site planning project can involve designing the land for a single house, an office complex, or shopping centre, or an entire community. Sensitive site design produces developments that minimize both environmental impacts and project costs, while adding value to a site.

Urban Design
Urban design deals with the design of cities and towns. This field also involves the development of open public spaces such as plazas and streetscapes. As urban designers, landscape architects set standards, develop guidelines and provide detailed design for the implementation of urban spaces.

Regional Landscape Planning
This specialization of the profession has emerged as a major area of practice for many landscape architects, since the rise of environmentalism in the 1970’s. In this field, landscape architects deal with the full range of planning and management of land and water including natural resource surveys, creation and protection of habitats, wetlands, and other natural environments.

Park and Recreation Planning
This area continues to be a mainstay of practice for many landscape architects involved in creating or redesigning parks, recreation and open space in cities, suburban and rural areas. Other landscape architects are involved with plans for golf courses, waterfront developments including marinas, and for large natural areas like provincial/national parks and forests.

Land Development Planning
Land development planning involves undeveloped land and provides a bridge between policy planning and individual development projects. Landscape architects working in this area have knowledge of real estate economics and development regulation processes, as well as an understanding of the constraints of working with the land. Landscape architects often head multidisciplinary project teams that integrate economic factors with good design to create quality environments for human use.

Ecological Planning and Design
This aspect of the profession studies the interaction between people and the natural environment and is concerned with the formulation of design policies that ensure the suitability of a site for development and to guide environmentally sound development including bioengineering practices.

Heritage Conservation
Heritage conservation provides a link between past, present and future uses of land and historic sites. Landscape architects working in this area undertake historical research, analyze contemporary needs, and recommend stabilization, restoration, adaptation, and interpretation of landscapes to accommodate human use and ensure protection of cultural resources.

Landscape Reclamation and Restoration
This field involves reclaiming disturbed landscapes such as gravel pits and landfill sites and creating habitats, wetlands, and other natural environments, or public open space for recreational or other uses.

Social / Behavioral aspects of landscape design
This area focuses on the human dimensions of design such as meeting the special needs of the elderly and barrier free design. Health care and long term care facilities are typical of this type of work.

Consulting Services / Expert Testimony
This field deals with facilitating project implementation, including the planning approval process and public participation.

(Text as used from the Ontario Association of Landscape Architects – www.oala.on.ca)