Landscape architecture is a complex discipline that can be considered part gardener, architect and artist. It’s a career that requires education, licensing and a love of Mother Nature to thrive.
Landscape architects create and manage public spaces, community gardens, green infrastructure and sustainable urban development projects. These include everything from restoring rivers to planning transit solutions and tourism strategies.
Greenery and Nature
Landscape architecture is about more than just the physical appearance of a space. It incorporates the surrounding ecosystem, helps preserve and heal nature, and promotes sustainability.
For example, green spaces are great for promoting productivity in the workplace by eliminating feelings of entrapment. But to do that, they must be consistent and sustained – not just the occasional influx of plants or trees.
Using a variety of techniques and materials, landscape design can enhance urban areas by adding natural elements to the built environment. These include terraced gardens that double as cafe seating, outdoor arenas for live entertainment, and recreational amenities that incorporate natural features.
Plants also absorb pollutants, reduce noise, improve air quality and temperature, and increase visual appeal. By incorporating these natural elements into the urban environment, landscape architects help to improve the quality of life and health of residents and visitors. It’s important for them to work with the local ecology, making use of native flora and fauna where possible and ensuring that trees have long lifespans so they can continue to benefit the community.
The landscape architecture profession is part art, part science, part engineering, part horticulture and part planning. It is a remarkably versatile field.
As such, it’s a natural fit for public works projects including waterfronts, parks and green spaces, community gardens and memorial or cultural sites. But landscape architects also excel in enhancing environments surrounding existing or new structures: shopping centers, downtown districts, business parks, hospital and clinic campus, golf courses, airport runways and transportation corridors.
Often, the goal is to create an environment that speaks for itself or exists in active conversation with its surroundings. That can mean adding native plantings to a stormwater detention basin, creating an interpretive trail around a well house or lift station, or thoughtfully disguising a wastewater treatment facility on a barrier island like Casey Key.
As a student, you’ll learn how to incorporate these aesthetic features into your work, even when working on utilitarian projects. CED assistant professor Jessica Fernandez, for example, has her students design sculptural pieces for garden walls and fences.
While beautiful, well-kept yards may be attractive to homeowners, many of the tools needed for landscaping are bad for the environment. For example, lawn equipment releases gases into the air that are harmful to both plants and wildlife.
Using native species, on the other hand, allows for more biodiversity and reduces the need to use harmful equipment. A native garden can also reduce the need for irrigation and help with soil erosion and flood control.
A ‘xeriscaping’ garden is another way to reduce the need for water. These gardens rely on drought-tolerant plants and are less reliant on power landscape equipment.
Another option is to harvest rainwater, which reduces household water usage and prevents pollution from entering our local water sources. And finally, composting yard waste and organic materials like food scraps provides nutrients for the soil and shelter for helpful wildlife! Taking these steps will make your garden the healthiest it’s ever been. You’ll work less, spend less and see more.
Landscape architects are increasingly working on climate change projects, and helping communities to adapt to its impacts. These can include building natural defenses against future storms, floods and long periods of drought.
These defences may include rooftop gardens, green streets, open space and urban trees. These can also reduce the urban heat island effect, which raises local temperatures, and help with air quality and carbon reduction by cooling the city.
The loss of biodiversity due to climate change is another major challenge that landscape architecture addresses. Changing temperature patterns, new rainfall cycles and the conversion of biodiverse habitats to monoculture plantations can push species to migrate and seek refuge in urban centres or rural areas.
Landscape architects can make a positive impact on the world by using their skills and training to help with the fight against climate change. This may be as simple as planting trees, but the choice of plants, their design and how they’re maintained will have an impact on how much carbon they can sequester over their lifespan.