For many people not working in the design world, landscape architecture may be a difficult profession to describe. It’s not a term they see in the spotlight often and therefore their assumptions are often woefully inadequate. We have all had someone, when hearing that we are a landscape architect, default to inquiries about designing their front yards and while that is a part of what some of us do, we all know there is so much more to the profession. In Thinking about Landscape Architecture: Principles of a Design Profession for the 21st Century, Bruce Sharky, a professor at Louisiana State University, comprehensively dissects the history and place of the landscape architecture in the modern world. His new book gives a complete overview of the discipline and might greatly serve those that are new to the profession or students who want to learn about what their future career may be like.
Admittedly, if you are already a practicing landscape designer, much of Thinking about Landscape Architecture will not be earth shattering to you – and it isn’t supposed to be. Sharky aims to “provide those new to the subject with the foundations for future study and practice.” With this targeted audience in mind, the book launches into a general, but comprehensive look at the structure of modern day practice. Questions are explored and answered such as:
How do I become a professional and why is that important?
What is a design studio like?
Why is sustainability important?
This guide paints a picture for a future career in landscape architecture as well as the realities of what may be expected of you in a modern design firm. Our profession is very different from many others and it is helpful to the uninitiated to lay out the ground rules early.
After a very brief turn at history, Thinking takes a pass at explaining the general governing concepts of design. The design process is probably the most important aspect of practice and Sharky explains the major points without getting lost in the weeds. While the text comes from a scholarly source – and reads as such – the passages are very approachable which is much appreciated given the intended audience.
Probably the most enjoyable part of the book for me was Chapter 6: Gardens, Communities, Parks, and Urban Design. This clearly shows the breadth of the field and how similar design principles and process can be applied in a wide range of projects. This range allows designers to work within a niche that they find enjoyable or perhaps to shift focuses while maintaining a core set of skills.
There is a chapter on the finer points of planting that includes considerations like seasonality, regionality, growth and survival, as well as aesthetics. Following that is a brief exploration of materials such as metals, woods, and aggregates.
The final chapters outline the process of bringing a design to fruition, sustainability principles, and then the future of the profession in general. The last of these is where I found the text to be more of general trends rather than better exploring the optimistic future of landscape architecture through a topic like landscape urbanism.
Bruce Sharky is a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects and a professor at the Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. He is also a registered professional landscape architect. Other great books by Bruce include Ready, Set, Practice and Landscape Site Grading Principles, the first of which is a staple in most professional practice classes.
Benjamin Boyd is a landscape architect practicing in Baltimore, Maryland. If you would like to check out what books he is reading or reviewing currently, check out his profile on Goodreads.
Though the title may beg otherwise, there is nothing “general” about Charles Waldheim’s newest book, Landscape as Urbanism: A General Theory. For many, landscape urbanism is a realm of theoretical design thinking that they believed might never breach into their daily practice. Those unfamiliar with the movement might have once thought Landscape Urbanism was perhaps a new style of design and even might have written it off altogether after seeing the so called Landscape Urbanism Bullshit Generator a while back. I believe, as does Waldheim it seems, that these folks are in fact at the cusp of a evolution of the field and that the urban issues of today are actually often best addressed by the skill sets of those same landscape architects.
Those who have kept up with the development of the theory, from James Corner’s Landscape Imagination to Chris Reed’s Projective Ecologies, understand that it actually advocates for landscape architects – not planners, urban designers, or architects – to become the focal points of a new era of designing the world around us. Even more boldly, Waldheim surmises that “the fundamental assumption that planning is the medium through which public policy and community participation are brokered may also be open for debate.”
And while it is very empowering to discuss the possibility that landscape architects may be the new leaders in urban design, development has not been without its doubters or naysayers either. New Urbanism’s champion Andres’ Duany asserts that the competing theory’s application as more “practical” in Landscape Urbanism and its Discontents. This is a drum that is continually echoed by those who are working within the current status quo of planning commissions, form based code, or architectural led projects. While there are many examples of this regime shifting, it is important to note that even getting to our current state of green or sustainable awareness has taken decades to push through. The question of whether it is the right method is a case that Waldheim is making it rather thoroughly in this newest book.
LANDSCAPE URBANISM’S CASE
A General Theory walks you through the history of planning, architecture, and landscape architecture and makes a case for landscape urbanism’s necessity and, perhaps, inevitability. Waldheim surmises that the impetus to derive a new form of urban thinking came from planning’s focus on a social science model and away from physical design over the past half century. This while urban design “committed to neotraditional models of town planning” (a clear reference to New Urbanism).
Moving beyond its origins, Waldheim argues for a “new understanding of landscape as integral to urban design and planning.” He asserts that, “…landscape thinking enables a more synthetic (derived of observation rather than logic) understanding of the shape of the city, understood in relation to its performance in social, ecological, and economic terms.”
Waldheim’s examples, and some of the more useful bits of information for those not keeping up with global projects, was a chapter that spotlighted projects reflecting the emerging nature of the theory. Collectively these projects represent “the landscape architect as the urbanist of our age.”
All encompassing and thorough, Waldheim’s synthesis is as comprehensive as much as it tends to fall flat for it’s apparent intended layman readers. And while there were moments I felt as if the people over at the Generator were on to something, I also happily found that the vagueness of my ideas surrounding Landscape Urbanism were beginning to clear and my understanding of the big picture was beginning to sharpen, despite some of the verbiage and vocabulary.
While I understand the academic origins of this text and the need to clearly define and structure a theory, plugging every possibility and nuisance with information and assertions, the structure Waldheim text is, in my opinion, sometimes bloated and unnecessarily difficult. Having the word ‘general’ in the title and then exasperating the language left me feeling that either I wasn’t versed enough for something “general” or perhaps the intended audience wasn’t “general.”
The future of landscape urbanism, if it remains to be called that, is in the hands of those out there putting work in the ground. As a landscape architect, I found myself finding a lot of parity in my work with what Waldheim was presenting as design principles. The big difference however, is that often by the time the project makes its way to the landscape architect, the benefits of landscape forward planning have been either compromised or neglected. Therefore, the theory’s assertion that LAs have a larger role to play earlier in the process is both as valid as it is a challenging goal to set.
Benjamin Boyd is a landscape architect practicing in Baltimore, Maryland. If you would like to check out what books he is reading or reviewing currently, check out his profile on Goodreads.
The Canadian Society of Landscape Architects (CSLA) has recently announced the winners of its National Awards of Excellence. 11 projects received a national award and one project, Lasdowne Park was selected for the Jury’s Award of Excellence, “given to one project per year which best demonstrates the CSLA’s vision of advancing the art, science and practice of landscape architecture.”
Per the CSLA, winners were selected by a national jury of landscape architects. The principal criteria applied by the jurors were:
Peace Garden at Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto City Hall
PLANT Architect Inc.|Perkins + Will Canada in Joint Venture with Hoerr Schaudt Landscape
Architecture and Adrian Blackwell Urban Projects
Contact: Lisa Rapoport
Category: Public Landscapes Designed by a Landscape Architect
YUL/MTL: Paysages en mouvement
Chaire en paysage et environnement et Chaire UNESCO en paysage et environnement de
l’Université de Montréal
Contact : Philippe Poullaouec-Gonidec
Category: Research | Communication
Benjamin Boyd is a landscape architect practicing in Baltimore, Maryland and very much enjoyed that one time he went to Canada so much so that he proposed to his wife there.
When I was a student, I had the wonderful opportunity to take a school field trip to south Florida and tour some of it’s most iconic landscapes. We embarked with the intent of inspiring our young minds with the possibilities of unique and prolific tropical flora as well as the colors, sights, and sounds of South Beach. Though I was struck by the breadth of Fairchild Gardens and the charm of Lincoln Road, the most wonderful part of the trip was a private tour of a sprawling residential landscape by the designer who had actually led the project. I found myself in disbelief that the plants and rocks before me had actually be set there with intent. Everything looked so natural! My classmates and I were dumbfounded and many of us hoped (and still hope) that one day we would have the skill to craft such seamless landscapes. A professor once told me that the greatest compliment he ever received was someone saying he “hadn’t had to do much” on a project that was, in fact, extensive. He knew that though you can’t replicate the complexity of nature, a deft approximation is nevertheless impressive.
All that being said, if anything, Ray Jungles’ third and most recent monograph, The Cultivated Wild, seeks to exemplify the best of his most recent work without simplifying him as only the talented protege of famous Brazilian landscape architect, Roberto Burle Marx. While the project he toured us through was wonderful, this books seems to show off some of Jungles’ projects in more varied locations and plant typologies. The landscape architect’s last book was published in 2008 and named The Colors of Nature: Subtropical Gardens by Raymond Jungles. It was mostly residential, mostly modernist, and mostly in Florida. This book is a “geographic expansion and typological broadening.”
The new book features 21 gardens from his hometown Miami to the Bahamas, but also in less expected places like Mexico, Montana, and at the New York Botanical Garden. Each project is supported by stunning photos, a combination of handdrawn plans and digital graphics, as well as a wealth of descriptions and planting information. In this monograph incarnation, Jungles does a much better job providing scientific names for plants used that can be helpful for readers that are not well versed in tropical typologies.
After an introduction by the venerable Charles Birnbaum of the Cultural Landscape Foundation, Jungles leads off with his new Sky Garden at Lincoln Road. The space is above a parking garage but you would hardly know if from the pictures. The design was afforded some planting depth, hard to come by on roof designs, and the designer used every inch of it to sock in a varied palette of philodendrons, grasses, and hardy bromeliads and agaves. Despite what may be a difficult context, Jungles manages to create a naturalistic scene that balances with Herzog & de Meuron’s stark concrete forms.
Down below, Jungles’ most prominent project yet races down an alley of high end shopping and outdoor dining with irregularly shaped fountains and a very Burle Marxian paving pattern. 1111 Lincoln Road is the reimagining and revitalization of one of the most iconic streets in South Beach.
One of the real gems of the book are the hand drawn planting plans like that for the Naples Botanical Garden. Here you can really see the complexity of the plan and it’s something that a fellow practitioner really might find interesting.
My favorite highlighted project is the New York Botanical Garden’s exhibition Brazilian Modern where Jungles sought to design an orchid show that “reflects the spirit and tropical vibrancy of present-day Brazil.” The presentation space was very narrow, but allowed a proliferation of orchids to surround and overwhelm a visitor. Pieces of Burle Marx art were also included.
Jungles’ newest monograph is a well conceived and beautiful presentation of the landscape architect’s most recent work. More care has been taken to show process drawings and to identify planting, which is appreciated. I personally would love to have even more information to pair with all the wonderful photographs. Jungles still is able to amaze with his naturalistic designs and mastery of tropical flora. The book itself is a well situated hardcover with crisp, thick pages by Monacelli Press, the publisher of other notable books such as Hummelo by Piet Oudolf and The Authentic Garden by Richard Hartlage. I am very excited to see what the most applicably names landscape architect has in store for us next.
Benjamin Boyd is a landscape architect practicing in Baltimore, MD and sometimes misses getting to use more tropical plants in his designs.
Each conference’s book divides itself into panels of 4 individual and varied presenters. In a text format reminiscent of the now ubiquitous TED talks, each presenter gives a synopsis of their field of expertise and a statement of belief in what they see as crucial themes of the future of urban design along with case studies.
“The future of urbanism will look nothing like it did in the past.”
“Collaboration through alliances is key.”
Another indicator of success could be the 2015 ASLA Student Awards whose recipients by and large go to the schools below.
I found Infographics to be particularly useful in reflecting on my own process of graphic representation. Often, landscape architects are required to create seemingly simple diagrams to relate their process to clients – many of whom are not designers at all. One level of explanation is in the design’s final state. Another, arguably more important, are in the other layering elements that comprise the project. Program, circulation, ecology, etc need to be considered and related in a manner that all can understand. Architecture is for people, after all – even those that may never fully understand the complexities of your design. Infographics reminds us that even the smallest diagrams deserve thoughtful consideration and that there is a careful balance between too much and too little information.
One caveat, I will say, is that the book is image heavy. Many of the sketches are very interpretive, with maybe a sentence or two to describe the thought process behind them. That being said, it was a feat to gather all these process pieces when most designers may have just thrown process out. Some examples could have had a little more explanation.
The physical book is large and does a great job of presently rough and, some would say, “ugly” sketches in an attractive manner. The are numerous and varied examples which made leafing through it a fun task. Inevitably, some of the final products may not be to one’s taste, but the sheer number of entries will surely provide you with no loss of inspiration. Thick, full-color pages make the quality of the read enjoyable.
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.
Digital Drawing does an excellent job of stressing the important things about this form of graphic making – flexibility is key. You can achieve the same result a multitude of ways, however, your ability to adjust a graphic quickly down the road will vastly improve the efficiency of your overall project.
Some of the most seemingly mundane tasks that are part of a graphic’s construction are given entire chapters in Digital Drawing – and for good reason. Chapter 8 gives some quick but extremely useful directives for managing large files while Chapter 18 is 10+ pages on importing PDF line work. I believe that getting these mandatory techniques correct is very important because it sets the tone for the rest of your work on a given product. Better layer management, for instance, can be the difference between a quick, last minute edit and a sluggish, deadline missing revision.
About the Authors:
Benjamin Boyd is a licensed landscape architect working Baltimore, Maryland and is a proud graduate of the University of Florida School of Landscape Architecture. He also writes at Landscape Invocation.
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 Neutra, Rudolph Schindler, Gregory Ain, Raphael Soriano, Harwell Hamilton Harris, A. 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 modernism movement is generally regarded as a European movement (see: Bauhaus), but there are many examples of modernist design in Southern California dating back to 1911, such as the works of Irving Gill. Gill was one of many American architects that contrasted European designers such as Mies van der Rohe in that they included the landscape as an integral park of their designs. The most significant leap in the modernist movement occurred with the arrival of Garrett Eckbo, who brought his work in and around Los Angeles between 1945 and 1965.
It’s been nearly three years since a right-wing extremist blew up a bomb in the city of Oslo and then attacked a summer camp on the coast of Norway. These horrifying terror attacks claimed 77 lives in total, marking the deadliest attack in Norway since World War II.
To commemorate the victims, Swedish artist Jonas Dahlberg was recently awarded the bid to design Norway’s memorial after a closed competition. Titled the “Memorial Wound,” the winning entry uses land art as a major component.
The first memorial will be located on the Sørbråten peninsula facing the island of Utøya. The memorial is designed to be a “wound or cut within nature itself,” says Dahlberg. “I noticed how different the feeling was of walking outside in nature, compared to the feeling of walking through the rooms of the main building. The experience of seeing the vacant rooms and the traces of extreme violence brought me—and others around me—to a state of profound sadness.”
Outside, however, the environment feels very different, as though nature was already in regeneration. “Although we stood directly on the very place where many people had lost their lives, nature had already begun to obscure all traces,” he explains.
The design concept slices the rocky promontory in two, creating a 70-foot wide channel between the two land masses. The names of the victims will be inscribed on one side of the gap and a viewing platform for visitors will be located opposite. “The names will be close enough to see and read clearly, yet ultimately out of reach,” says Dahlberg, “the cut is an acknowledgement of what is forever irreplaceable.”
To strengthen the connection between the two memorial sites, Dahlberg proposes using excavated material from the “wound” in Utøya as the foundation for the temporary–and later permanent–memorial in Oslo. Trees and plant life from the rocky island landscape would also be transported to the Oslo site as well.
Similar to the design at Utoya, the Oslo memorial will cut into the land to create another “channel.” One side of the channel is enclosed by a curving wall engraved with the names of those who perished in the attacks, a design reminiscent of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The other side would consist of seating or steps that connect to an elevated landscape planted with Utoya trees.
These “symbols of regeneration,” writes Dalhberg, “from the trees along with the inscribed names, will be transferred to the permanent memorial, carrying with them the patina and fullness that comes with the passage of time.”
LARE’s Section 4: Grading, Drainage, and Construction Documentation is, in my opinion, the hardest portion of the exam. It has the lowest passing rate of any section – before and after the change in format. You will find in your preparation for this section that there is a wide range of topics that need to be covered, most of which you have seen, but probably haven’t mastered.
For me, the most difficult of the 120 questions were those pertaining to grading and specific construction details. I would encourage everyone who is thinking of taking Section 4 to give yourself a few months of studying in order to cover the wealth of material out there. There is only one year’s worth of up to date practice tests, but there is a lot you can take from previous incarnations. If you have already taken Section 3 then you are going to be familiar with the advanced question types that are present on this section. There is a lot of detail in this section so I would just be patient and expect to learn a bunch of information that may not show up on the test. That huge list of fasteners that you have to memorize may seem like overkill, but you can expect it to help you on at least one question (it did for me).
Before moving forward – please take a look at CLARB’s LARE Orientation Guide if you haven’t already.
SECTION 4 ONLINE RESOURCES
Because of the difficulty and breadth of Section 4, there are more than usual online resources for it. The ASLA has put out study guides and examples as well as the aforementioned video.
ASLA LARE Prep Study Materials
ASLA has provided a good amount of examples and guides for your Section 3+4 studying needs. They pin point some of the more difficult and multidimensional questions on the exam. These are provided for free as opposed to the practice tests listed further down. I would also like to spotlight their Section 4 Review Materials as a good starting resource.
LARE Exam Google Group
One of the best places on the Internet right now to get study materials as well as feedback on questions that you might have about the exam is the unofficial LARE EXAM Google group. Here hundreds of test takers as well as test prep professionals exchange exam tips and study materials.
L.A.R.E. – ANYTHING GOES Land8 Group
If you haven’t already joined Brandon Reed’s Land8 LARE group, what are you waiting for? This is also another fantastic resource for members to swap study materials and ask questions.
Digital Flash Cards
Using flash cards is one of my favorite ways to study, especially if they’ve been pre-made. Many people – including myself – have created personal study material flashcards that are ready to use. Making your own flashcards is a great way to study however, so I still encourage you to create your own set tailored to your own preferences. I would also recommend installing a flashcard app that links to a site like Cram so you have your cards on the go.
PPI: Power to Pass Exam Reviews
PPI has long provided test prep materials including practice exams and study guides. The books are written by professors and professionals in the industry and are a good overall resource to study for the new exam formats. They seem to have retrofitted their older Section A-E materials into a new package for Sections 1-4, however which may make the materials a little less accurate than before.
Cheryl Corson Design Webinars
Land8 member Cheryl Corson is well known for her LARE webinars and her great advice for taking the LARE. Cheryl has a good focus on Section 4 and her personal experiences passing it.
SECTION 4 READING LIST
The Section 4 reading list has a few hold overs from Section 3, but adds one important text. Site Engineering is a very useful book that outlines a variety of topics that will be covered in the Section 4. All of the books on the below list are very large and, as with other tests, I would recommend a good study guide to accompany these. If you have given yourself enough time to go through each and take notes then you are ahead of the game. If not, then go out and pick up a study guide to help you outline your study targets.
Site Engineering is an essential book for understanding the actual construction of land forms. This book includes more recent details of green stormwater management options, a new focus of the test, as well as other complex construction concepts. Because of the new content of the 6th edition vs earlier editions, I would recommend picking up the newest book if possible. There is a more concerted focus on green infrastructure which coincides with the new versions of the test. Though I wouldn’t say the book is “intellectually stimulating” as the publisher does, I would say that the topics are important and this book is a must have for studying.
Landscape Architectural Graphic Standards | Hopper
While you should have a solid understanding of the contents of this book already. It never hurts to touch up on your graphical standards. For Section 4, the diagrams of common construction details can be very beneficial for studying. This book is also listed for Section 3: Design.
Time Saver Standards for Landscape Architects | Harris and Dines
This book is every landscape architect’s best friend. It will remind you of minimum turning radii, maximum slope on ramps, etc etc. However, it will also bog you down with a huge amount of information if you are not careful. As a former student, you should be familiar with this book. Pay careful attention to the topics provided by CLARB in the Orientation Guide and tailor your reading to it. If you don’t already own a copy then you should. Lest you spend over an hour searching the internet for angled parking standards. This book is also listed for Section 3: Design.
Landscape Architect’s Portable Handbook | Dines and Brown
Don’t let this book’s title fool you. At 400 pages and $65 the “portable” handbook is just as massive as some of the other books in this list. While if does do a nice job over quickly covering a variety of topics, I personally would not recommend it to those that are purchasing the above books. It outlines roughly some of the same things and doesn’t really add any sort of new material. At best, this book is a reduced version of Time Saver Standards. If are not able to get your hands on a copy of TSS, then this book may be a good substitute. However, if you are already covering the rest of this list then I would let this one slide.
RECOMMENDED STUDY METHODS FOR SECTION 4
Unlike Section 3, older vignettes are a good study resource for Section 4. The advanced type grading questions are roughly the same with addition of a possible answer bank and a computerized format. I would encourage you to take a look at the examples provided by ASLA mentioned in the “Study Materials” section. Section 4 is a monster of a test that covers the largest amount of material. For me, it was the only exam that I left feeling totally unsure of my result. As with other sections, you are only graded on the questions you get correct. However, there are many questions that require you to have solved a different question in order to answer it. Grading questions are one example of this. Take your time and try to no overthink your answers. You are inevitable going to come to a few questions that you don’t know the answer to. Take an educated guess, flag the question, and move on. Often there are clues in the rest of the exam that can help you go back and make a better choice.
This is part of an ongoing series spotlighting the Landscape Architecture Registration Examination (LARE) administered by the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards (CLARB). If you have any resources that you can add to this guide we would be happy to include you and give you credit. Please contact the author Benjamin Boyd if you have any additional resources that you’d like to share.