Landscape Architect

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Landscape Architect


A house can be the most beautiful, magical building, but if it's surrounded by nothing but mud and dead grass, no one will want to live there. It takes careful planning of both the building and the surrounding trees, gardens, and lawn to make a home truly wondrous.

Landscape architects are the people who design the lawns and gardens of private homes, but they also put their skills to work at hospitals, resorts, city parks, industries, conservation grounds, playgrounds, golf courses, malls, and even highways. Landscape architects use their artistic flair, their knowledge of engineering, and their understanding of plants, trees, and soil to create, manage and conserve environments that are both functional and attractive. They try to harmonize clients' needs and wishes with the existing environment, land features, and surrounding architectural structures.

A landscape architect may be hired on a project just as a building is being initially planned, or they may be called in years after the region is filled with structures. They will most likely be working alongside architects, construction crews, and developers. Before the landscaping can begin, the landscape architect will give the area an environmental assessment, determining which plants and trees can be used and which changes can be made while still maintaining an ecological balance.They make maps and take notes about the land slope, the conditions of the soil, and the drainage patterns. These findings will help determine the landscaping plans.

Once the land has been scrutinized, the landscape architect begins working with a team of technicians, as they draw sketches, make models, and create detailed images with computer programs. This includes planning not only for trees, grass, and other natural changes, but also the positioning of statues, bridges, fountains, benches, and walkways. The landscape architect meets with those involved with the project, like the clients, the architect, and the construction crews regularly, to discuss the plans. It is important for them to meet with the clients in order to ensure that the budget is being met. Once the landscaping is underway, the landscape architect coordinates the work of the teams, including documenting each step towards completion.

Landscape architects often specialize in one area. These specializations range from golf course design, historic landscape restoration, residential development, or resource management. Most every kind of work a landscape architect chooses to do, however, involves the same basic tasks: planning, designing, supervising others, working with clients and the community, and managing technical and financial concerns from the beginning to end of a project.
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  Interests and Skills  
First and foremost, landscape architects need to have a good imagination and a lot of creativity. They have a flair for design and are comfortable working with computers. Landscape architects should be interested in art, nature, environmental issues, and construction. They need to be good communicators, able to express complex artistic ideas simply to others. They are able to work independently, but also alongside other people. Those planning to operate their own agencies will need some business sense, as well.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Survey and assess proposed sites
  • Develop designs based on sites' landscape features, buildings, climate, and clients' budgets
  • Prepare or oversee the preparation of detailed drawings for sites
  • Prepare detailed progress reports
  • Supervise landscape construction work
  • Meet with clients, architects, planners, and crews regularly
  • Look after business details, like promotion, contracts, and office management
  • A landscape architect's day will involve a lot of different activities. Some days will be spent in the office, working on plans and proposals for existing projects, but some time will be spent traveling from site to site, surveying the area, making sketches and taking relevant notes. There will also be a lot of meetings, held in their offices, the clients' offices, or even outdoors under the hot sun. A landscape architect can expect to spend quite a bit of time both indoors and outdoors, in all kinds of weather.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • They generally work for large firms or agencies, and are contracted out to governments, development companies, homeowners, or the government. They work long hours during a project, in a variety of work environments, dividing their time between comfortable offices where they meet with clients and work on plans, and outdoors, inspecting the site before, during, and after the landscaping process. They may get to travel if they work for a reputable firm which has clients all over the world.
  • They may be employed not as landscape architects but as environmental consultants, land use monitors, or historic landscape advisors for different levels of government.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Landscape architects who work for a firm can, with enough experience, open their own firm. They can always return to school to specialize in one area, like environmental design or resort planning. They can also teach in universities, write gardening books, or leave the field and take up art, or urban and rural planning.

  Educational Paths  
Landscape architects are required to have either a bachelor's degree in landscape architecture, or a master's degree in landscape architecture. In order to get into these competitive programs, they need a strong showing in arts and sciences courses, as well as a portfolio demonstrating their skill with sketches, drafting, and writing.

There are two types of masters' degrees, a three-year program for people who have a bachelor's degree in another area of study, and a two year program for those who has completed the landscape architecture undergrad program, but want to specialize in an area like environmental landscaping, or golf course design.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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