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Landscape Architecture

( Article Type: Explanation )

Landscape architecture is a diversified and creative design profession that integrates ecological, social, functional and aesthetic aspects of everyday life into designing places to improve people’s quality of life.

The increasing demand for the professional services of landscape architects reflects the public’s desire for better housing, recreational and commercial facilities, and its expanded concern for effective environmental management.

Clear differences exist between landscape architecture and other design professions. Architects primarily design buildings and structures with specific uses, such as homes, offices, schools and factories. Civil engineers apply scientific principles to the design of city infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and public utilities. Urban planners develop a broad overview of development for entire cities and regions.

While having a working knowledge of architecture, urban planning and civil engineering, the task of landscape architects is to integrate elements from each of these fields to design aesthetic and practical relationships with the land.

A diverse profession
Landscape architects are therefore involved in designing the built environment while also guiding the management of the natural environment A variety of interwoven specialisation exist within the profession, including:

Landscape Design, the historical core of the profession, is concerned with detailed outdoor space design for residential, commercial, industrial, institutional and public spaces. It involves the treatment of a site as art, the balance of hard and soft materials in outdoor and indoor spaces, the selection of construction and plant materials, infrastructure – such as irrigation, and the preparation of detailed construction plans and documents.

Site Planning focuses on the physical design and arrangement of built and natural elements of a land parcel. More specifically, site design involves the orderly, efficient, aesthetic and ecologically sensitive integration of man-made objects with a site’s natural features including topography, vegetation, drainage, water, wildlife and climate. This may also include the field of urban and town planning that deals with designing and planning cities and towns and the places within them.

Regional Landscape Planning merges landscape architecture with environmental planning. Landscape architects working in this area require a knowledge of real estate economics and development regulation processes, as well as an understanding of the physical and ecological opportunities of developing and working with the land. The challenge is to integrate economic factors with good design and thus create high quality environments.

Ecological Planning and Design studies the interaction between people and the natural environment. This specialisation includes, but not limited to, analytical evaluations of the land and focuses on the suitability of a site for development. It requires specific knowledge of environmental and development regulations. It includes preparation of environmental impact statements, visual analysis, landscape reclamation and coastal zone management. Landscape architects also develop plans for extensive natural areas as part of national parks, forests, or wildlife refuge systems.

Historic Preservation and Reclamation of Sites such as farms, parks, gardens, grounds, waterfronts, as well as wetlands involves increasing numbers of landscape architects as growing populations lead to additional development. This field may involve preservation or maintenance of a site in relatively static condition, conservation of a site as part of a larger area of historic importance, restoration of a site to a given date or quality, and renovation of a site for ongoing or new use.

The profession of the future
The years ahead promise many new developments and challenges to the ever-broadening profession. With environmental concerns becoming increasingly important, landscape architects are increasingly being called upon to help solve complex problems relating to farmland preservation, small town revitalisation, landscape preservation, and energy resource development and conservation. Advances in computer technology have opened the field of computerised design and geographic information systems, which has become a significant tool in support of well-informed and complex environmental decision-making.