A simple definition of landscape architecture

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums GENERAL DISCUSSION A simple definition of landscape architecture

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    Claudia Chalfa

    I need a simple, one or two sentence definition of our profession. I know this is a real challenge, because we do so many different things, but I want that complexity and diversity to be encapsulated in this statement.

    Anyone want to have a go at it?

    Lime Green

    It might be more interesting to try to think of a cheap slogan or tagline.

    There were a few discussions on this recently here.

    Keven Graham

    a few years ago we did a team building exercise in our office which is interdisciplinary consisting of LA’s, planners and ecologists. We asked each group to write a definition of their profession and one of the other two. It is a real interesting exercise if you have time.

    For LA here is what we came up with:

    Landscape Architecture is the science and the art of creating organized solutions for the built environment in our outdoor world. This may be accomplished through long range planning, preservation, and responsible stewardship. The work of landscape architecture is the sustainable approach to creating livable communities.

    Claudia Chalfa

    yeah, that’s pretty similar to the ASLA definition, actually, which is:

    Landscape architecture encompasses the analysis, planning, design, management, and stewardship of the natural and built environments. Types of projects include: residential; parks and recreation; monuments; urban design; streetscapes and public spaces; transportation corridors and facilities; gardens and arboreta; security design; hospitality and resorts; institutional; academic campuses; therapeutic gardens; historic preservation and restoration; reclamation; conservation; corporate and commercial; landscape art and earth sculpture; interior landscapes; and more. Landscape architects have advanced education and professional training and are licensed in 49 states.

    I’m actually wondering if we can sum up that in one sentence or at most two, though. Maybe it isn’t possible, but I’d like to try.

    Claudia Chalfa

    a cheap slogan, that could be used for advertising our profession? Have you seen the architecture ads that show a screaming woman, and they say something along the lines of “the house is falling apart, everyone is fighting, we need to schedule an appointment for counseling…with an architect”

    I really wish ASLA would come up with something like that for us, that would not only promote the profession but also explain what we do. I work in a planning department, and we really need this right now, so that people will fit us into the economic stimulus environment. We are so often marginalized.



    I like the haiku.

    Terry Naranjo

    Landscape Architecture has the ability to stir the emotions and spirts of man by unlocking the ‘soul’ of a place through the dispersal of information on it’s culture, history, geology, and a variety of other systems uniquely inherent to that place.


    May I suggest that you look at the official definition of the profession by IFLA approved in 2003? That gives you a generalized idea of the recognized description of our profession for the International Labour Office – Geneva.

    This is how it sums up:
    “Landscape Architects conduct research and advise on planning, design and stewardship of the outdoor
    environment and spaces, both within and beyond the built environment, and its conservation and sustainability of development.”

    Of course it goes on, including the several tasks. Maybe you can give it a little twist and make it more appealing and not so formal.

    Take care

    Tanya Olson

    I had a professor say ‘we design everything outside the front door’. You could quibble with the specifics, but it certainly gets the idea across when someone asks!

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    Landscape architecture is the design of changes to the land.

    … anything else added is an attempt to elevate the status of the person practicing landscape architecture rather than to explain what it is.

    The only challenge to writing the simple definition is to avoid the temptation to elevate the status of the practitioner.

    Nancy Eastman

    I think this Is very well thought out and written. I think you said it all for what Landscape Architecture is.

    Tim Waterman

    I have recently wrestled with a cohesive definition, having just published “The Fundamentals of Landscape Architecture”.

    I began with a quote from Kathryn Gustafson – “If there’s sky, it’s mine”. I love that quote! For me, that defines it. Here is the first paragraph of my introduction for those who aren’t satisfied with a simple 5 word definition:

    “When asked where landscape architects work, many people might point out their back door to the garden. It would be more accurate, however, to look out the front door. The landscape is anywhere and everywhere outdoors, and landscape architects are shaping the face of the earth across cities, towns and countryside alike. Landscape architecture involves shaping and managing the physical world and the natural systems that we inhabit. Landscape architects do design gardens, but what is critical is that the garden, or any other outdoor space, is seen in context. All living things are interdependent and the landscape is where they all come together. Context is social, cultural, environmental and historical, amongst other considerations. Landscape architects are constantly zooming in and out from the details to the big picture the ensure that balance is maintained.”

    From Tim Waterman, “Fundamentals of Landscape Architecture”, Ava Books, 2009. Shameless self-promotion, I know . . .

    Claudia Chalfa

    I like that too!

    Claudia Chalfa

    I like this, it’s simple and elegant. There are so many things that fall under this guise, but this really is the core thing. I also love Kathryn Gustafson’s quote, that’s great.

    I guess we’ll just set aside for the moment the fact that there are some LA’s that practice “interior landscaping”. ­čÖé

    Rico Flor

    IFLA doesn”t have a definition for landscape architecture, but I;m sure this short version definition of the landscape architect could help:

    “Landscape Architects conduct research and advise on planning, design and stewardship of the outdoor environment and spaces, both within and beyond the built environment, and its conservation and sustainability of development.”


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