How often, when introduced to a stranger as a Landscape Architecture student, do we receive the following query; “I have been in need of advice about my backyard, can you come over this weekend and give me some ideas?” Obviously, there’s nothing inherently offensive about such a proposition (unless of course the stranger assumes that we would do so on our own time – free of charge.) The conflict here is not one of title and ego, but a confused perception amongst the general public of the fundamental differences in practical knowledge between the “small picture” private realm of Landscape Design, and the “big picture” public realm of Landscape Architecture
This is not meant to classify one or the other art forms as having any more inherent value than the other, but merely to point out the contrasts in practical training. It is true that some students have come to the study of Landscape Architecture with prior experience in gardening and ornamental horticulture, but for many of us, we have come as admirers of Nature, healthy public spaces, and concerned members of the global earth. We aspire to affect the world in ways that ensure environmental health for the greater good, not just affluent suburban neighborhoods. The training that Landscape Architects receive is not often concerned with flowers and miracle-grow. We are taught to look, think, and design in more holistic ways, and in some respects, beyond aesthetics.
In his keynote speech entitled The Art of Survival – Positioning Landscape Architecture in The New Era, delivered at the 2006 ASLA Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, MN., ASLA member and one of China’s pre-imminent Landscape Architects Kongjian Yu proposed that “Landscape Architecture is now on the verge of change in the world, and especially in China. It is time for this profession to…position itself to play the key role in rebuilding a new Land of Peach Blossoms for a new society of urbanized, global, and interconnected people. In order to position itself for this sacred role, landscape architecture must define itself in terms of the Art of Survival, not just as a descendent of gardening.” Ian Mcharg expressed the role of the architect as a means of survival in this way: “We’re going to tell you thereafter where to live and how to live there. Where to live and where not to live. That’s what Landscape Architecture and regional planning is all about. Don’t ask us about your garden. Don’t ask us about your bloody flowers. Don’t ask us about your dying tress. You can do something quite vulgar with all of them. we are going to talk to you about survival.”