Landscape Architecture’s Identity Crisis


A recent review of our blog recently sparked a thought concerning landscape architecture. Most people do not really know what landscape architects are. This is a common topic of discussion in the profession, with seemingly monthly discourses in the professional magazine and lengthy manifestos, like that done at Iowa State- An Apocalyptic Manifesto, which laments the profession’s complacency:

“At the start of the 21st Century, landscape architecture is a troubled profession, more distinguished by what it lacks than the qualities that it actually possesses. It has no historiography, no formal theory, no definition, direction, or focus. A vast schism currently existing between its academics and professional practitioners. In universities across the nation, researchers poach methodologies from other, more vibrant disciplines. Meanwhile, in professional offices, designers yoked to the bottom line crank out pedestrian design.”

Of particular interest to me are the public’s perception of landscape architecture and landscape architecture’s relation to the construction industry. Ask your average person on the street to name an architect and a minimum you will get the iconic Frank Lloyd Wright. Likely modern names of Pei, Geary, and others will follow. Pose the same question with landscape architects, and any response would probably be an exception rather than the rule. Should landscape architects be as recognized as architects? Ask the same question of notables, concerning other design disciplines such as engineering, and you are unlikely to draw a response either (The Spanish architect and engineer Calatrava jumps to my mind).

From our perspective in residential landscape design and construction, a strengthening of the relationship between landscape architect and builder is something that could help the profession as well. Design theory is one important element, but equal focus on construction methodology and cost could enhance and improve the public sector practice of the profession.

For More:
Manifestos from the Pruned Blog
A definition from Gardenvisit
ASLA definition of the Profession
Wikipedia definitions and professional associations