I've seen lots of great discussions concerning portfolios, but most have been geared towards people with a background in design/arch/la. Does anyone in a similar position have a portfolio they wouldn't mind sharing, or advice on how to get a competitive portfolio together? I'm looking into taking community college classes for studio courses, but I would love to hear what classes/preparations other people felt were really great for putting together a portfolio, or were just nice to have under their belt.

I'd also love recommendations on a few books: landscape architecture histories to set the stage, and current theories/trends.

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Hi Erica,

Great topic!  Thanks for using Land8 as a resource.  Check out Jennifer de Graaf's blog... she has written several blog posts on the subject here on Land8.  Also, New School or Architecture + Design created a video, that I wrote about here, with some tips that are useful for folks without design experience.  

Hope this helps!

Thanks, Andrew! The New School's fun video definitely helps takes the edge of the whole process!

Indeed... sometimes we forget that the process of designing should be fun!  

You might also take a look at this thread if you haven't already:


Yes, another great discussion on the topic!  Thanks for sharing @Chris...

It's about creative potential as much as interest: photography, botanical sketches (stuff from your basic community college arts classes).  Lay them out in a graphically thoughtful manner with a short paragraph on your thought process/post-production analysis of each work and it'll be competitive.  The essay/letter-of-intent/letters of recommendations can often way more heavily for first professional degrees anyway.

Reading lists would differ depending on why you want to do LA but:

The Basics:

"Landscape Design: A Cultural and Architectural History" - Elizabeth Barlow Rogers

"Theory in Landscape Architecture: A Reader" - Simon Swaffield

"Recovering Landscape: Essays in Contemporary Landscape Architecture": - James Corner

"The Language of Landscape"- Anne Spirn

For more fun:

Any of the collections of essays by John Brinkerhoff Jackson (cultural geographies), "Design for Ecological Democracy" by Randolph T Hester Jr


I wonder about Corner's book, I feel that it is a bit turgid for a newcomer. I fought like hell to get through it and to understand what they were saying.

Here are a few more titles that Erica may enjoy:

modern landscape architecture: a critical review--marc treib

the death and life of great american cities-- jane jacobs

modern landscapes for living, garret eckbo--treib/imbert

daniel urban kiley, the early gardens--william s. saunders, editor

a pattern language--alexander

I choose these books for price and they did influence me.

Henry: Yeah, I'm not a fan of corner's but it does get you knee deep and force you to learn the lingo (for better or for worse) and it does cover contemporary (albeit a decade old now) theory in a more general way than some of the other recent publications.  I did have a few classmates who did read it (backgrounds and strong theoretical interest in LA) prior to attending grad school, and I have to say they got more out of school than me.

I do like Treib (as a writer and lecturer).


Theorists, well like I was told in school, we need em. Sorkin is a prolific and very good writer, but doesn't get built.

Story about Corner. I went to lecture by Schwartz at Penn. I know her a little from a lecture she gave at City College in New York and then had dinner with her. So I went to see her at Penn, same lecture she gave at city. There was a reception after, wine and finger food etc.

She was hanging with Corner, I went up to her said hello and chatted a bit. Thought that this would be a good time to speak to Corner about the book. Mentioned that I thought it was a bit turgid. I received a look from him that if looks would kill, I wouldn't be writing this now. He replied with "ah not so, it's really quite understandable". I walked away.

And where are those folks who you felt got more out of school then you? I'm sure you're in better shape at this point in your life.

I gotta say they're doing quite well - they got more of the theory than the attitude out of corner's writing :)

I do love Martha, learned a lot in the short internship I had there.

Thanks Henry- especially for the note on price as a lot of books on LA are not cheap!

Tosh, thank you for sharing your perspective on the portfolio aspect & for the book recommendations.  I should probably start off with Rogers, but after reading the comments about Corner I'm eager for the challenge :)


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