Landscape architects do more than design outdoor space for homes and businesses.
Landscape architects are involved in planning parks and communities, in historic preservation and in solving environmental problems. Landscape architects were leaders in planning the cities of Greenbelt, Columbia and building the Inner Harbor in Baltimore. The National Park Service hires landscape architects to improve its holdings. Municipalities hire landscape architects to design playgrounds, athletic facilities and picnic areas. Highway departments hire landscape architects as well as engineers for building highways.
There’s more to designing landscapes than drawing lines on paper. It requires advance planning including detailed studies of the uses and topography of land, environmental impact, soil conditions, budget limitations, zoning restrictions, opinions of neighboring home owners and much more. It requires maximizing the planned facility and minimizing the environmental impact. A landscape architect is often the coordinator of projects, responsible for their smooth and successful completion.
In addition to many engineering skills, landscape architects must also be familiar with plant species, growing requirements and soil conditions. They must be capable of visualizing how the landscapes they design will look like in the future. Great examples of well-planned design are Central Park in New York City and Yosemite National Park, both designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.
My wife Clara is a certified landscape architect. Employed by the Howard County Dept. of Recreation and Parks, she has been involved in design and construction of athletic fields, picnic areas and hiking trails as well as the restoration of historic buildings and outdoor designs for public buildings. I am continually impressed with the diversity of projects she becomes involved with.
While I served as chairman of the Department of Horticulture at the University of Maryland, we renamed the department to Horticulture and Landscape Architecture. In designing the new Plant Science Building, an entire wing of the building was devoted to teaching landscape architecture. Each class has its own studio equipped with state-of-the-art computer equipment and drafting facilities. The wing has an exhibit room where students display their designs to be critiqued by faculty and fellow students. The Landscape Architecture program attracts so many students that it has a waiting list because of limited studio space.
I have been involved with landscape architectural firms in solving environmental problems such as vegetating abandoned gravel pits, establishing green roofs and roof gardens and constructing rain gardens. There are times landscape architects are required to design plans and specifications that require growing plants in almost impossible conditions. A well-rounded landscape architect is a designer, engineer, plantsman, soil specialist, community organizer and leader.
The demand for such people exceeds the supply.