Studying Landscape Architecture In New England

Posted in Vol 13 No 3 by bsaab on August 4, 2010

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It’s a growing discipline, so to speak. Applications are up. Course offerings have exploded. A number of new programs have recently launched, or are about to. Is this just a fad, or is something more significant taking hold?

Sustainability, global warming, amplified environmental awareness — contemporary concerns may be prompting this increase, along with the building industry’s rising attention to a structure’s larger environment. In education as in the profession, landscape architecture is embracing the entire built world.

As in architecture, landscape architects in the US must hold a professional degree — a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA) or a Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) — from an accredited institution before taking registration exams. Many of these schools are consciously reconsidering what it means to educate landscape architects today, and retooling their programs dramatically.

In addition to the professional degree programs, there are many routes to serious study, including undergraduate liberal-arts minors, pre-professional programs, post-professional programs, and adult-ed night classes. Even institutions that don’t offer landscape “programs” — such as MIT, Wentworth, Mass College of Art and Design, and Connecticut College — are offering new landscape classes as well as expanded interdisciplinary courses on related topics like environmental justice or public horticulture.

It’s a lively time to be in school.

1900—Harvard Graduate School of Design, Department of Landscape Architecture

Charles Waldheim, chair

Degree: MLA

Harvard, the first institution to approach landscape architecture as an academic discipline, is still examining “design at the intersection of urbanization, environment, and contemporary culture,” with a strong new focus on landscape urbanism.

1903—University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning

Elizabeth Brabec, department head

Degrees: BSLA; MLA

UMass, with its long attention to “sustainable communities” and “protection of the land and natural resources,” now includes environmental justice, cultural accessibility and significant outreach initiatives in Holyoke and Springfield.

1942—Rhode Island School of Design, Department of Landscape Architecture

Mikyoung Kim, department head

Degree: MLA

Characterizing landscape architecture as a creative discipline bridging nature and culture, RISD emphasizes interdisciplinary collaboration and design across scales, from watersheds to material details.

1968 (began at Radcliffe College), 2002 (moved to Arnold Arboretum), 2009 (new affiliation with the BAC)—The Landscape Institute at the Boston Architectural College

Heather Heimarck, director

Certificates offered in landscape design, landscape preservation, landscape design history, and planting design. Through courses, workshops, and certificate programs, the Landscape Institute “stimulates creative design and stewardship,” and is soon to be expanded online.

1972Conway School of Landscape Design

Paul Cawood Hellmund, director

Degree: MA in Landscape Design

Conway is a 10-month, full-time, non-professional graduate program for those interested in “ecologically and socially sustainable design of the land.”

1985—University of Rhode Island, College of the Environment and Life Sciences Landscape Architecture Program

Will Green, director

Degree: BLA

URI emphasizes sustainable communities, materials, and practices, along with a growing attention toward the developing world.

1998—University of Connecticut, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture

Mary Musgrave, head

Degrees: BSLA; MLA

Though recently accredited, UConn has offered landscape design and planning courses for many years, grounded in a department with a 130-year history of plant science and horticulture.

2001—Smith College, Landscape Studies

Ann Leone, director

Degree: BA with LSS minor

The first of its kind at a liberal-arts college, Smith’s interdisciplinary Landscape Studies minor draws from art, engineering, the humanities, and the sciences “to investigate… how we shape our world.”

2010—Boston Architectural College, School of Landscape Architecture

Kevin Benham, head

Degrees: BLA; MLA (beginning fall 2010)

Though the BAC has long offered landscape courses, the new accredited professional degree programs focus on “research and education in the context of Boston and its surrounding areas” and follow its tradition of work/study education.

2011—Northeastern University, School of Architecture

George Thrush, director

Degree (anticipated): BLA

Beginning in September 2011, Northeastern’s new “urban landscape” program strategically creates curricular, research, and faculty overlaps with architecture — perhaps the first new program to be based on the principles of landscape urbanism.

One Response

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  1. Urban Choreography said, on May 9, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    Interesting times indeed – are we ready to gain our self respect back now?

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