Landscape Architecture Books

Looking for essential books for your design library? This collection of popular Landscape Architecture Books is hand-picked by fellow Land8 members, ranging from some classics to recent titles covering the latest landscape architecture practices and design techniques. We will be updating the list on the regular, so check back often for new titles that will keep you informed and inspired as you perfect your craft.

Happy Reading!

Digital Drawing for Landscape Architecture by Brandley Cantrell & Wes Michaels

Review by Benjamin Boyd

The advent of the digital age has long been upon us. For most practices, this has created an interesting mix of skill sets within an office. Recent graduates have a great handle on the most current programs while those that have been in the industry for a little longer are finding themselves playing catch up. More often than not, a general amount of knowledge and appreciation is present, but the ability to produce the most striking of visuals is usually not there. Digital Drawing for Landscape Architecture is a comprehensive presentation of easy to follow tutorials and guides to help the digitally aware become the digitally adept.


Design With Nature by Ian L. McHarg

Review by Adam E. Anderson

I have to admit my first attempt to read Ian McHarg’s Design with Nature while in school was haphazard to say the least. But there was drinking, tomfoolery to be had, and skirts to chase, what concern did I have with the environment and my impact on it as a designer.

Well now that I’m older, wiser, and MUCH more mature (pronounced MU-T-OOR) I’ve been revisiting icons of landscape architecture literature. After reading Design with Nature I felt an immediate connection to McHarg’s belief’s and amazed by his teachings, written in 1969, are the very principles which some landscape architects today hale as “New Trends” in landscape architecture known as sustainable design. Well it’s certainly not new, and isn’t sustainable design synonymous with the practice of landscape architecture? Its unfortunate that some of us our having to re-adapt our practices to the concepts of design with nature due to climatic and market driven necessities. But regardless of the motives, it’s a positive adaptation and one I think McHarg would approve.

Growing up in Glasgow McHarg experienced serenity in the natural environments of the Scottish countryside. After returning from soldiering in the British Parachute Brigade in Italy during WW II, he returned to Glasgow to find it different as he remembered, his natural playgrounds now replaced by the stark effects of industrialization. It was then McHarg began his commitment to bringing the natural serenity he found as a child to the city.

A natural dissident, McHarg wrote what many consider to be the ecological design classic in a very personal, very untextbook-like style. A native genius, he refuses to be constrained by traditional categories that separate self from others, civilization from ecology. It is this very personal touch that keeps Design With Nature as essential to any landscape architects library forty years after its inception. No one expresses the essence of his work better than McHarg himself:

"This book is a personal testament to the power of sun, moon, and stars, the changing seasons, seedtime and harvest, clouds, rain and rivers, the oceans and the forests, the creatures and the herbs. They are with us now, co-tenants of the phenomenal universe, participating in that timeless yearning that is evolution, vivid expressions of time past, essential partners in survival and with us now involved in the creation of the future.

Our eyes do not divide us from the world, but unite us with it. Let this be known to be true. Let us then abandon the simplicity of separation and give unity its due. Let us abandon the self mutilation which has been our way and give expression to the potential harmony of man-nature. The world is abundant, we require only a deference born of understanding to fulfill man's promise. Man is that uniquely conscious creature who can perceive and express. He must become the steward of the biosphere. To do this he must design with nature."

McHarg's book might be criticized from a modern perspective. Design with Nature does not describe complete cyclical ecology and focuses mostly on patterns of land use and the transitions of human settlements. This may be a cause of the time which it was written; suburban sprawl was seen by many as the principal threat to the natural environment in the late 1960's. As did many of his contemporaries, including Frank Lloyd Wright, McHarg views the automobile as a permanent fixture, and discusses how highways can be better situated in the landscape, not eliminated or scaled back.

Design with Nature does not aspire to be a textbook of ecological design as way we currently understand the field.  As a book of preservation and the reintroduction of nature back into the city, you might not find a better a better replacement. I strongly encourage those who have yet to read it to pick up a copy, and if you have and it’s been a while, dust it off for another go.

Natural Architecture by Alessandro Rocca

Comment by Andrew Spiering

Where does landscape architecture stop and landscape art begin? The artists and architects in Natural Architecture have transformed the act of building into an art form capable of sparking new relationships with nature, landscape, and the environment. Natural Architecture presents sixty-six site-specific installations that use raw materials such as twigs, pebbles, and straw found on the site to create truly green architecture that is as organic as the materials with which it is created. Projects by Olafur Eliasson, Patrick Dougherty, Nils-Udo, Ex. Studio, Edward Ng, nArchitects, and many others are shown together for the first time. Selected for their commitment to the use of raw materials, manual labor, and natural inspiration, these works are vividly displayed in photographs, drawings, and models. As raw as the materials with which they are built, these creations allow the changing landscape to naturally overtake each structure until it finally decomposes.



Private Landscapes: Modernist Gardens in Southern California

Review by Benjamin Boyd

Modern landscapes are a dime a dozen these days, but have you ever wondered how they got started? "Private Landscapes" by Pamela Burton and Marie Botnick explores the development of modernist gardens in this updated paperback reprint of the 2003 original. The book profiles twenty significant homes and landscape gardens created by celebrated architects such as Richard NeutraRudolph SchindlerGregory Ain,Raphael SorianoHarwell Hamilton HarrisA. Quincy Jones, and John Lautner. Although the Southern California modernist style has been abundantly covered by architectural books over the years, "Private Landscapes" shines the spotlight on the landscapes that helped create a harmonious relations with the home design.



The Colors of Nature: Subtropical Gardens by Raymond Jungles

Review by Andrew Spiering

One might think that a person with the last name of “Jungles” would be destined either to be a wilderness explorer and nature-lover or a master landscape designer who creates lush tropical gardens. With Raymond Jungles, we have both.



The Original Green and the Mysteries of True Sustainability by Stephen Mouzon

The Original Green is all about architecture and urbanism. But it’s also about reflection, living, inspiration, and delight. We can achieve sustainable living only when we “want to” or “love to” instead of feeling that we “have to” or “ought to” balance the needs of our society, economy and environment. 

Read the Book Review >

The Green Collar Economy by Van Jones

Review by Jessica Wolff

In The Green Collar Economy, Jones stresses the importance of recognizing America’s two biggest hurdles to tackling the climate crisis which are radical socioeconomic inequality and rampant environmental destruction. Jones recommends a more inclusive message when teaching Americans sustainable practices since it is evident from examples like Hurricane Katrina that the poor are the first to suffer in an environmental catastrophe.



Second Nature Urban Agriculture: Designing Productive Cities

Comment by Louise Fox

The long awaited sequel to "Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes: Designing Urban Agriculture..." by André Viljoen is here.

"Second Nature Urban Agriculture", coauthored by André Viljoen (Author), Katrin Bohn, updates and extends the authors' concept for introducing productive urban landscapes, including urban agriculture, into cities as essential elements of sustainable urban infrastructure. It reviews recent research and projects on the subject and presents concrete actions aimed at making urban agriculture happen.

As pioneering thinkers in this area, the authors bring a unique overview to contemporary developments and have the experience to judge opportunities and challenges facing those who wish to create more equitable, resilient, desirable and beautiful cities.


Landscape Architecture - A Manual of Environmental Planning and Design

For landscape architects, John Ormsbee Simonds’ book entitled, Landscape Architecture - A Manual of Environmental Planning and Design, is our bedside book. It has not been just a manual for me; it is the book of landscape architecture theory. It has been a reference in my profession since I was studying and nowadays is also a reference for teaching.



Landprints: The Landscape Designs of Bernard Trainor

Landscape Architect Bernard Trainor designs pastoral and coastal projects on the California coast and countryside. His projects use native plant palettes and recycled materials. His appropriately titled book, LANDPRINTS, takes us on a tour of Trainor's ten most ambitious projects. The landscapes are indeed beautiful and reflect how working with nature, instead of imposing a strict design, can ultimately yield a wonderful result.

Read the Book Review >


Earth Architecture by Ronald Rael

Ronald Rael is an Architect, Author and Assistant Professor of Architecture at The University of California, Berkeley. In his book titled, Earth Architecture, Rael provides a history of building with "dirt" in the modern era. His primary focus is on projects constructed in the last few decades that used building techniques such as rammed earth, mud brick, compressed earth, and cob. Earth Architecture showcases more than 40 projects that will inspire any designer to find new and creative uses for the oldest building material on earth.

Read the Book Review >


Writing About Architecture by Alexandra Lange

Review by Adam Regn Arvidson 

If you haven’t read any Herbert Muschamp (the late architecture critic of the New York Times and elsewhere) consider it.  And Jane Jacobs, too. And Lewis Mumford. These are a few of the best writers on urbanism this nation has ever produced. Through their assessments of cities, buildings, and landscapes they illuminate not only the stories behind specific works, but also the broader context.  They ask big questions. What does design mean? Why does design matter? How can we see our surroundings more vividly.

So they’re great reads for design professionals—part of the canon, if you will, besideDesign With Nature and Gardens Are for People.  But don‘t necessarily rush out and buy Muschamp’s collected works, or Jacobs’s Death and Life.  Instead buy this book: Writing About Architecture by Alexandra Lange. Lange, who blogs for Design Observer and teaches at NYU, has collected six critical essays ranging across about a hundred years of American design history. Joining the three mentioned above are Michael Sorkin, Charles W. Moore, and Frederick Law Olmsted (who was a journalist before plunking some little park down in Manhattan).

These six masterworks alone would be worth the price of admission, but Lange accompanies each with a stunning essays of her own. The purpose of the book, as she puts it in the introduction, is to educate a new wave of citizen critics “equipped with the desire and the vocabulary to remake the city.” To that end, she takes apart each essay (referencing others on the same subject) and tries to discover why the piece works and how we might apply those lessons—to our writing, yes, but more importantly to our seeing.

The book grew from Lange’s architecture criticism classes, so each chapter also includes a few simple exercises. This is hardly a textbook, however. It is an historical slideshow of excellent design writing coupled with fun and enlightening critiques of the criticism. There is nothing out there like this book. It seems a specialized subject, but think of it not as a primer on actually writing design criticism, but on understanding design. Lange concludes with: “The ability to write about architecture…is relevant to more than criticism.” This book both inspires and teaches the use of the critical eye, a useful tool for any designer.


Tree Gardens: Architecture and The Forest by Gina Crandell

Review by Benjamin Boyd

Tree Gardens: Architecture and the Forest, written by Gina Crandell, is a sweeping exploration of projects that changed the way we think about trees in the landscape. Beginning with the wooded defense embankments of Renaissance Lucca, Italy and reaching to the powerful Memorial Forest of New York's 9/11 Memorial, Tree Gardens examines not only the experience of each garden, but also the hidden story of care and nurturing that they have endured. The gardens of the book tell a story of an artistic statement whose success is measured not by the fashion of the day, but by the ever changing effects of time.

Tree Gardens outlines 15 projects that exemplify the idea that trees and their arrangements can become the architecture of a garden. Crandell explores the different impetuses for the gardens construction - defensive fortifications in Lucca, vanity in the case of Versailles, and the adaptive reuse of a airport in Munich.



Materials for Sustainable Sites by Meg Calkins

Review by Jason King

It's rare to find a must-read book for the profession of landscape architecture. This is not to say that there aren't a bunch of amazing books to highlight a diversity of works - including projects, theories, styles and interests. It is, however, rather uncommon for the topical nature of a text to be able to contribute to understanding and knowledge of most, if not all landscape architects - regardless of how and what type of work you do. I know this sounds like a sales pitch, and a bunch of hyperbole... but the new book Materials for Sustainable Sites by Meg Calkins delivers...



Dirr's Encyclopedia of Trees & Shrubs

Most landscape architects are likely already familiar with horticultural reference book author Michael Dirr, a professor of horticulture at the University of Georgia and author of the seminal Manual of Woody Landscape Plants. In many ways, that book is the gold standard for a plant reference book and many landscape architects likely already have a copy on their bookshelves.  So, if that’s the case, is a copy of Dirr's Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs truly necessary or simply redundant?

Read the Book Review >


Lawrence Halprin's Skyline Park

Former Landscape Architecture editor William Thompson wrote in 2005 that, “Built works by modern masters have been dropping like nine-pins all over the country.” Thompson is quoted in the recent book with the Google-friendly title Lawrence Halprin’s Skyline Park by Ann Komara. She's a landscape architect who teaches at the University of Colorado at Denver. The book is a post-mortem on the titular Denver landscape, which was built between 1972 and 1975. Komara is joined by some heavy hitters: there’s an essay by Laurie Olin, an epilogue by Halprin himself (his final published essay), and a foreword by TCLF’s Charles Birnbaum. Yes, this is a TCLF vehicle: the first in a series called “Modern Landscapes: Transition and Transformation.”

Read the full Book Review >


Freehand Drawing & Discovery: Urban Sketching and Concept Drawing for Designers

After nine months of writing and another six of book design and production, the book, Freehand Drawing and Discovery: Urban Sketching and Concept Drawing..., has been released by John Wiley and Sons.  The book's Amazon page and the reviews sum it up pretty well...please check it out.  Keep dreaming, and keep drawing!

Read the Announcement >


Rendering in SketchUp by Daniel Tal

by Daniel Tal

If you have ever met Daniel Tal, or attended one of his workshops or webinars, you know that he has a wealth of information and will freely share it with anyone who wants to learn. Ask him a question and he responds thoroughly, thoughtfully, and without holding back any of his trade secrets.  His latest book, Rendering in SketchUp (Wiley), continues his philosophy by sharing his wealth of knowledge on the subject through step-by-step how-to's, well thought out graphics, explanations of the rendering process, and countless resources.

Read the full Book Review >


Geodesign: Case Studies in Regional and Urban Planning

So is geodesign something new or is it simply old wine in a new bottle? The answer, according to a recent books published by Esri Press, is a little of both. Shannon McElvaney’s Geodesign is something of a “best practices” book that provides an overview of some recent/cutting edge projects in which Arc software has been used to achieve sustainable results in the built environment.

Read the full Book Review >


A Framework for Geodesign by Carl Steinitz

Carl Steinitz’s A Framework for Geodesign: Changing Geography by Design provides an elaborate (possibly visionary) framework for how the process of design should best be conceived.

Read the full Book Review >


Do you have a book that you would like to suggest adding to the list?  Feel free to let us know via email at

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