What is the difference between Landscape Architecture and Landscape Design?

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums GENERAL DISCUSSION What is the difference between Landscape Architecture and Landscape Design?

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    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    That sums it up perfectly.


    Here in Australia Landscape Designers normally do residential and small commerical jobs where Landscape Architects normally do larger commercial jobs, parks and council park areas. Public areas are also Landscape Architects as a lot more documentation is required. Landscape Designers normally have more practical designs for family residential backyard designs.

    lance millward

    What a hairy one. I’ve worked in both types of business. I wouldn’t like to pigeonhole myself in either profession personally. Urban design seems to be the new catch-cry in New Zealand. Especially in a recession, different professions are trying to grab more of the pie and doing all sorts of work they wouldn’t normally and probably shouldn’t.


    Wow…there are several different takes on the subject. I always understood that a LD is more focused on Landscape Specific projects and is more into the asthetic and horticultural end of design (more plant based). Where as a LA is a licensed professional who has a broader scope of eduacation that covers LD and many other aspects of Site Planning. It is broad in the sense of understanding good planning practices of communites, urban design, residential, commercial, institutional master plans, as well as grading, stormwater, hardscape design, CE, SE, with the bigger picture in mind. How does it a project fit into the fabric of it’s surroundings with the an understanding of it impacts on the overall. Plus as an LA you essentially take on a greater liability with a license.

    lance millward

    Not as simple as that actually. In New Zealand the Institute of Landscape Architects does not have rights and protection over the term ‘Landscape Architect’ so any landscape designer could still call themselves one. We also don’t have the same 5 year programme that north american universities use. You need to submit a portfolio of work and have an interview after 2 years of practice to become an associate, but not all landscape architects are even members of the Landscape Institute. Also there are many older professionals who don’t have the degree that other practicing professionals have, but are still LAs. Urban Designers, Environmental Designers, Project Managers and other related professionals all start to blur the boundaries of practice.

    The way many have described it, you wouldn’t even see design as a subset landscape architectural practice. There are many landscape architects who focus on residential design and even interior design.

    John Gordon

    JT: I don’t know this person personally but…. In the Spring/Summer Sav-a-Tree mail-out, in the ‘My Favorite’ section, a Barbara Paca, PhD, ASLA, notes that her favorite tree is Fagus sylvatica ‘Atropunicea,’ and signs herself as a “Landscape Designer,” employed by (owner of?) Preservation Green, LLC (NYC).

    So there’s at least one LA who is confident enough of her qualifications and expertise to announce to her potential clients that she’s a Landscape Designer. The website shows a dignified logo that proclaims “Gardens, Parks and Rooftops.”

    Which actually proves your point that LA’s who practice in the residential realm are, in fact Landscape Designers. So what’s the difference between Preservation Green LLC and Belvedere Landscape Design LLC? The former charges a whole lot more than I do and has an office in NYC rather than suburban Maryland.

    lance millward

    A lot of you seem to be missing the point here. Landscape design is being referred to by many as a small part of what the landscape Architect does. The Urban designer and city planner would also probably think of landscape architecture as a small part of what they do. Sociologists have it over all of us in that sense as they are concerned with all aspects of the health and welfare of the public and we can only claim to practice in a few areas.

    Scale of projects is not a valid argument either – I know many landscape designers who rarely do residential work. Regardless of scale or budget landscape is designing place for people.

    As mentioned previously not all countries have licensing of the term landscape architect – I just had a reply to a tender from a project manager / Quantity surveyor who called himself a landscape architect, but has had no landscape training of any kind.

    Many architects do their own landscape design. One of our better NZ Architects told me ‘ he is just as good at designing gardens as anyone else’. It is all about perceptions, relationships and respect. Pigeonholing and expecting respect based purely on qualifications and license are not good roads to go down… in my view.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I think you are exactly right James. This is the only point of fact. The rest of the opinions, although many are not necessarily wrong, are based on perception or generalization rather than quantitative fact.

    Claudia Chalfa

    Sorry, I haven’t read the whole thread here, but read enough to get the gist of the conversation…

    There are several problems with the distinction between a landscape designer and a landscape architect.

    1) There are many highly qualified people out there who are not licensed or even trained as landscape architects. I had a background in art and an enthusiasm for plants, and ran a successful design business from my home for many years. I did some pretty decent designs back then, too, if I may say so myself.

    2) There are many landscape architects with the education, experience and licensure to back them up, that know absolutely nothing about plants. No harm to them, but they kind of give LA’s a bad name if they attempt to do residential design work and use plants that fail. When I was doing residential design I fixed many a plan drawn by these types of landscape architects. I strongly feel that a landscape architect who isn’t familiar with plant material should consult with a horticulturist, and should not dabble in garden design.

    3) The vast majority of the general public doesn’t know the difference between the two terms. This is, in my mind, the single biggest problem we face as a profession. What’s worse is, many architects, engineers and planners don’t know what we do either.

    So, in summary, I think we need to figure out how to market our profession better, make people understand the value of the services we offer, and then allow landscape designers to fill the niche of garden design, small scale commercial and residential design.

    Jim Del Carpio

    couldn’t said any better!

    Jim Del Carpio

    I’ve know of LD’s that are extremely successful,however, they don’t have the background in drainage, Grading and specifying materials, So what they do to compensate is hire Landscape Architects to remedy those areas they will or cannot do. My 2 Cents worth.

    Michael Todoran

    Well said.

    luca frosini

    i supose (imagine) who is inside these pages know about Pietro Porcinai ( http://pietroporcinai.net/pages/1 ). he is one among the most important landcape designer, renowned as one of the most outstanding Italian landscape architect of the twentieth century.

    By his words:

    “Most architects have abandoned – out of cowardice or for money – the world of things built in harmony with nature, giving way to the birth of ugly towns and horrible suburbs. It’s up to the landscape architect to find a way of remedying this.But it requires a landscape architect capable of reflection prior to action. […]”

    my most important teacher was coming from the “school of porcinai” and his way to work in the landscape is really something of special.

    i think that the most important fact isnt the qualification (designer, architect, ing., professor, ecc ecc) but -simpler- the level of knowledge of the plants and theis main features and above all the passion and love for this job.

    in my experience i have met several time incredible wrong applications …

    … but the speech should become so long, too long…

    Rick Spalenka

    Yes, this is true. It’s similar to a military officers first walking in the shoes of the enlisted man, not necessarily essential but does develop a higher degree of professionalism. This discussion goes on and on about LAs and LDs. It’s the “A” folks. The “A”rchitecture, the hardscape, the construction not the scale. A landscape designer can be involved in a mega sized project of softscape arrangement. It’s when the projects calls for ponds, bridges, walkways, walls, changed watercourses, reclaimed meadows and forests, life support irrigation, safe and artistic illumination and on and on that the landscape designer becomes a landscape architect, thank you F.L. Olmsted. When a landscape designer can design and oversee a functional and successful urban pedestrian mall I will coronate you a landscape architect crown.

    Rick Spalenka

    If you can’t understand the hardscape (anything not softscape) you will never be a landscape architect. First you must be the “architect” part of Landscape Architect then you can become a great Landscape Architect. First you have to be able to write music then you can become a Mozart.

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