Landscape Architecture Vs. Architecture

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums GENERAL DISCUSSION Landscape Architecture Vs. Architecture

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    Michael Krueger

    I am a High School Junior, and I have done a lot of research in the architecture fields. I know, this is a very basic question, but I want to know what an actual Landscape Architect’s opinion of this is. Which field is better, Landscape Architecture or Architecture (for a college major)? Career-wise, which field is more rewarding/enjoyable?

    Bryan Bailey


    I would start by asking yourself a different question.  What do you enjoy most in life and what are the things you are naturally good at?  If you enjoy strolling the park and find yourself sketching landscapes and waterfalls and loving it – then you might want to pursue Landscape Architecture.  That’s what I did.  And I enjoy being a Landscape Architect and find my work rewarding.

    Jason T. Radice

    I would highly suggest you contact a local LA and Arch office and tell them you are a student exploring career options and ask them if you could visit their office during lunch or after hours (not to eat in to billable time) to discuss the profession. Some areas have an organized ‘job shadow’ usualy arranged by the local ASLA or AIA chapter. You can contact your local chapter usually by e-mail to see if they have one.


    It is important to get the gist of what the profession is like, and to get the real dirt, you need to see it from the inside. I did this with a few different careers when I was early on in high school and somehow ended up an LA. Keep in mind that there is some overlap with the both careers, and both are very similar in many respects, but LA is a VASTLY broader profession that ranges from urban and regional planning down to very small scale and detailed residential garden design. From design functions like architecture and civil engineeing to the more scientific horticulture, ecology, and soil microbiology. Architects can specialize in things like structure and MEP engineering to facade design, space planning and preservation. We all spend vast amounts of time in front of the computer doing the not-so-glamorous stuff like submittals and construction documents.

    One disadvantage of LA is there are fewer job opportunities, as there are fewer LA offices and not as great a demand for LA services as there is for architecture. Mind you, neither is exactly humming along right now. And the salary is not always on par with architects for some reason.  

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    My belief through experience in dealing with many of both professions is that there is a major difference between how most of the successful people in each of the two fields are wired. Depending of which type of “wiring” you have, the better you’ll feel in one profession or the other.


    Architects are in a design field where they are in control of almost everything that fits within the building envelope. If the lobby needs to be bigger, they push it out a couple of feet. If there is a use conflict they re-arrange the spaces within the building to take it away. Most challenges are resolvable by changing things that they are in control of. They don’t have to do a lot of compromising.


    Landscape Architects are constantly dealing with variables beyond our control which force us to adapt at almost every step of the way. We deal with living plants that only grow under certain conditions as an example. They grow and are ever changing. We deal with meeting up with existing conditions along the perifery of our work areas that we can not change to suit our needs (ie, grading at property line, or water runoff from an abutter). We have to make things work around an architect’s building that we generally don’t get to alter.We have soil conditions to deal with whether for hardscapes or plantings. We have views to preserve, some to enhance, and some to mitigate,  …. You have to be wired to compromise   Part of that wiring is going to allow you to work better with other people involved such as the property owners, architects, or engineers involved.


    Bottom line: If you are a Type A that always likes to be in control, you will be miserable as an LA and probably not be a very good one. If you get excited about putting an ever changing situation in motion, you might not like the static results you’ll get as an architect.


    This is a bit exagerated, but the general idea is what I think is the big difference to those in the fields.


    Changed my major 3 times before I found Landscape Architecture. I love it but the best thing you can do while exploring all your options is know that it is okay to change your mind. College is a path and sometimes you take a turn you never even new was an option. 

    Jamie Chen

    How rewarding any given profession is depends on how much you love the profession outside of cash.

    I personally loved the outdoors before even knowing what landscape architecture was. I was drawn more towards the garden articles of lifestyle magazines like Better Home & Gardens vs the articles on interiors.

    I definitely loved the plant aspect; their alive qualities that drew in wildlife if you aimed for it.

    I like striking buildings fine the handling of volume and usage is interesting, but there just wasn’t as visceral a draw in architecture the way it is with landscape architecture.

    There’s also the fact that the most mundane of landscape architecture, backyards, would give me far more pleasure to design vs. the most mundane of architecture (shopping centers? Office buildings?).

    Shavawn Coleman

    I suggest touring a few different firms. Each business is ran differently, so you can get a skewed perspective if you only visit one. What you ask is not a simple question, there are so many variables that go with it. I will tell you what convinced me to change, was seeing a project where kids were involved, and see their faces when they saw their park all designed out, I knew that was it. Another thing a professor in college told me, once a building is completed, that is the best it will ever be, all pristine and clean. With a landscape project it only gets better over time. If you go back to a landscape 5-10 years later the material is all grown in and looks great (with proper maintenance of course) and with a building, it sometimes tends too look older and used. Those are my thoughts. Good luck with your decision!


    3 reasons why I like la

    1. We work with nature and sometimes solve complex environmental issues

    2. We create outdoor public space, think of Bryant Park in NYC, or the Highline

    3. We work at many scales from small gardens to large masterplans


    Michael —

    The more I’m in this field the more I feel you should get two degrees: one in architecture and one in horticulture. Then you can do both.

    lucy maik

    Modified my significant 3 periods before I discovered Scenery Structure. I really like it but the best factor you can do while discovering all your choices is know that it is okay to convince you. Higher education is a direction and sometimes you take a convert you never even new was an choice.


    outside living concepts

    Jordan Lockman

    Figure out what you want your day to day life to be. Most firms have someone that you can talk to and ask for an informational tour of their office. This will give you a flavor of both. When I was in school they said something like half of the graduates will not ever be traditional Architects, so maybe you want to look at what related fields you could land in with a degree. The one question you have to ask yourself, is there anything else that I could or would rather do. Our field at times is under appreciated and can pay well and some not as much as other “easier” jobs will pay. So keep that in mind. I know that for me Land. the one career that captured my desires during my search.

    Landscape Architecture:

    Engineering Firms

    Arch. Offices

    Design/build Garden Centers(sales-design)

    Product reps

    City Planning Offices

    To name a few ask around grads end up in various spots


    Arch Firms

    City planning

    product reps

    city planners


    Hopefully, you’re smart enough to pursue another career!! Landscape architects are paid with peanuts, yes literally…with peanuts! You can be passionate about other things and still be paid well too. I’m giving you a harsh reality check. Too many people in here giving you advice with their rosy colored, romantic glasses on. You feel an itch to do outdoor designs? Do it on the weekends as a landscape designer within your neighborhood. There are boring building designs everywhere, but likewise for landscape design in public spaces. Buildings deteriorate over time, yes, but so do landscape by overgrown trees, shrubs and weeds. Very few landscape architects actually work on large scale projects that you see often on magazine covers.

    “Do what you’re passionate about and the money will follow. In reality, not all passions match up with the realities of the job market. If you’re passionate about poetry or painting, you’re going to find very limited job opportunities for those things. In fact, the people who get to do what they love for a job are the lucky ones; they’re not the majority. A better goal is to find work that you can do reasonably happily; it doesn’t need to be your passion.”

    As for architecture, its not very pretty on that side either. I can’t vouch for architecture because I’m not one or would try to be in their shoes. You should visit your local offices (Land Arch) and get a glimpse of this sad profession. Good luck. Aloha.…

    Alan Ray, RLA

    Which field is more rewarding/enjoyable?

    the answer to that question rests completely upon you…you’ll get out what you put in.

    if you have a crummy work ethic and no talant then don’t expect much. if you work

    hard and try to learn and hone your talents, you’ll probably do well, but again, it depends on you.

    another piece of advice I can give you is work toward being your own boss as soon as you can.

    unless you like low pay and others telling you what to do all the time….

    and finally decide if you’d like to design indoor or outdoor spaces. to me, that’s the difference

    between architecture and landscape architecture….

    many/most  try to complicate the definition of landscape architecture, or maybe they really don’t know what we do….I’ve always designed outdoor spaces and on occasion an atrium space or two…best wishes.

    Dei Jo

    if you haven’t already done so, go read this recent discussion:

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