On the origins of landscape architecture

How many of us, landscape architects, endured the battle of explaining what we do? What is landscape architecture? What does a landscape architect do?

The most common response to “Hi! My name is… I am a landscape architect.” is: “oh an architect” or a raised eyebrow “?” Many people tend to hear only ‘architecture‘ and because they understand the word, they focus on it, somehow omitting the ‘landscape‘ bit. The cluster of words ‘landscape architecture‘ has no common understanding in the general public.

It is no better in the design/construction field. The profession is often limited to to ‘filling in the in-between building spaces‘ or our work is called ‘landscaping‘, ‘greening‘ ‘gardening‘. It bothers me: one would not describe an architect’s job as ‘architecting‘ so why ‘landscaping‘?

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Landscape architecture at different scales:

streetscape with tree planting, sculpture garden, cycle network, neighbourhood park 

Different cultures have different experiences with landscape architecture. The anglocentric approach is the one I am currently working within and in my quest to understand landscape architecture better, I have come across publications from UK and USA, that try to respond to above questions and propose some answers.

Charles Waldheim’s article exquisitely explains the origins of the profession and the struggle with its name: https://lnkd.in/defdGit

the land­scape architect was originally conceived as a professional responsible for divining the shape of the city itself, rather than pastoral exceptions to it.



1870 Vaux and Olmstead Map of Central Park, New York City – Geographicus https://www.geographicus.com/mm5/cartographers/olmstead.txt


Tim Turner offers a comprehensive explanation of the different definition of  Landscape architecture and proposes his own: https://lnkd.in/dEpYJb8

Landscape architecture can be defined as the art of composing landform, vegetation, water, buildings and paving to create good public space.


Damian Holmes presents an answer, which is my favourite,  illustrated with examples from across the globe: https://lnkd.in/dWJ6Hh8

Landscape architecture is the study and practice of designing environments (outdoors & indoors) of varying scale that encompasses elements of art, environment, architecture, engineering, and sociology.


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Variety of public spaces:

city main plaza, cultural memorial, cycle pathway with a wildflower meadow, a smi- private plaza with active play and sport 


The extent of our work is so wast that Landscape Architecture is, in fact, an umbrella term and professional bodies like ASLA and LI come in handy offering information and inspiration: https://lnkd.in/eAi9DfE https://lnkd.in/d9suwxJ

Yes, it is a comprehensive discipline covering a high number of different areas. A landscape architect might plan, design and/or maintain urban and/or rural spaces, outdoors, indoors. We can create LVIA document, and public ream accessibility strategy, create a playground and a green roof for a tower block. We understand nature and people, combining ecology and sociology in our designs.

In my short carrier, I have built a community orchard and water recycling reed beds, designed private gardens, a park, residential masterplan, retail park and biophilic interior office space; I advised on public realm projects, assisted with the street regeneration and fen wetland masterplan projects, and so on… The variety of different projects makes the profession so exciting.

Our work is not one dimensional. Plans unfold into a net of overlapping layers that affect each other and influence the final experience of users. We carefully arrange the spaces considering its accessibility and inclusivity, biodiversity and plant communities, social life and wildlife; the list is not exclusive.



Elements of Masterplan for Sustainable and Walkable Neighbourhood in East London

CSCO 00#CSCorchard planted January 2020


With such accessible explanations (please refer to the links I shared), it should not be easier to grasp the idea of ‘what landscape architecture is’, and ‘what does a landscape architect do’. So please, let me repeat the definition I find most accessible and accurate, by Damian Holmes:

Landscape architecture is the study and practice of designing environments (outdoors & indoors) of varying scale that encompasses elements of art, environment, architecture, engineering, and sociology.    



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