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Landscape Architecture vs. Architecture

May 6 '13 13 Last Comment
thinkgreen
May 6, 13 3:59 pm

Hello friends, 

Despite my research I am having a hard time getting a handle on Landscape architecture's full scope. I have been accepted into a M.Arch program at a school up north (non ivy) and have been accepted into Cornell for a MLA. I want to make sure I am not turning down a great opportunity at a great school. Could someone explain the two scopes comparatively  I have done a lot of research and still feel that LA's descript is pretty vague. That, or it would be better named  civil architecture. Any thoughts?

 

queen
May 6, 13 8:29 pm

I know this is not absolute and I could be totally ignorant, but I found in most cases, landscape architecture and architecture leads to different type of jobs,e.g. MLA holders deal with planting, paving material, gardens, outdoor futniture etc,more on a 2D level, while MA holders design buildings, structures and other 3D objects

In my experience, the two professions work together in urban design, and landscape architects didn't seem to the best leaders when dealing with urban conditions. They probably rose to manager positions when traditional subdivision development were still common practice and things to be worried about then were grading and green field preservation.

I am kinda leaning towards doing architecture for the sake of flexibility but yeah, going to a brand name school itself could be a major event in life

observant
May 6, 13 8:58 pm

I love all these questions.  I've got opinions.  I'm not sure if they're answers.

My attitude is that, if you were a kid, and drew buildings or floor plans, or went to movie theaters, for example, just to ogle their grandeur or layout (something I did), you should go for architecture.

However, if you were a kid, and marveled at parks and gardens, and also drew plans for them  - the paths, the water features, etc. (and I did that, too), then you COULD be a landscape architect.

I think I might have liked being a landscape architect.  While I didn't apply, it's generally easier to get into a good MLA than it is into a comparable M.Arch.  LA is a smaller and more niche-oriented field.

In the end, the question always comes down to this:  "What can you see yourself doing for 8+ hours a day?"  That is the NUMBER ONE question one needs to ask themselves.

marisco
May 6, 13 11:03 pm

I'd like to think of it with the analogy of the architect designs the clubhouse, the landscape architect designs the golf course. 

Looking back, and admittedly still, I think I could have enjoyed LA. Then again I ran my own landscaping firm during summers for a few years during school, so I enjoy landscaping and landscape/hard scape design. Too late now, got to pay off loans and get established in my architectural career (or get my business actually making money). 

Think about where you want to work and what you want to do, I would think that landscape architecture might hold better prospects at the moment, but only due to the smaller numbers of practitioners; however, by the time you graduate things may have changed. 

observant
May 6, 13 11:13 pm

Another thing is that, for some reason, it seems that, like civil engineers, a greater proportion of landscape architects are employed in the public sector than architects.  It's probably not the most creative of venues, but I've seen several go that route (and civils, too) and they seem to be content with their jobs.  Someone has to manage the planting and forestation along the freeways and parkways.

Landscape architects have some liability issues, too.  I wonder what it stems from - is it subsequent behavior of a slope, erroneous choosing of plants for that specific environment, or the damage that has been done by root systems, among other issues?  How many times does one walk down a sidewalk that has "buckled" because of some ginormous tree's "behavior" in the adjacent lawn strip between the sidewalk and the curb?  Frequently.

krisha
May 9, 13 2:21 am

But if you have a M.Arch can you still work in landscape architecture? 

accesskb
May 9, 13 5:44 am

^ sure you can but there will likely be someone educated in LA who'll be better versed than you xP

Stephanie BraconnierStephanie Braconnier
May 9, 13 7:32 am

This...

My attitude is that, if you were a kid, and drew buildings or floor plans, or went to movie theaters, for example, just to ogle their grandeur or layout (something I did), you should go for architecture.

However, if you were a kid, and marveled at parks and gardens, and also drew plans for them  - the paths, the water features, etc. (and I did that, too), then you COULD be a landscape architect.

...is oversimplified and, I believe, patently false.

I have an M.Arch and have been working in landscape architecture/urban design since I graduated in 2011. Some of the primary factors in becoming a good designer are spacial & material experience. It's not a dichotomy between 'interior vs. exterior' or 'parks vs. buildings'. 

I work on master-planning, urban design, interior installations, green roofs, rainwater run-off & bio-swales, urban public spaces of all kinds, parks, (from large city parks to small courtyards), urban furniture and lighting, playgrounds, memorials, markets, waterfront redevelopment, and adaptive reuse of defunct open areas (like airports and amusement parks) from private to public.

I don't know how to identify trees, grass, or flowers. I didn't grow up in a city that was known for its public outdoor spaces. I drew houseplans as a kid.

The first firm I worked for called themselves 'open space planners' and this I found to be a pretty accurate description. Most buildings in competitions we did were only schematically designed by the architects, but the open space around it had to be detailed to a level where you could see each individual plank in a bench from a 1:5000 plan. Because that is what the public & municipal leaders cared about most - the details of the public spaces around the buildings.

My opinion on choosing a direction is more based on the degree of impact you would like to have on your environment and whether you want to cater to private (limited) use or public (unlimited) use.

Buildings (even very good ones) have a very limited impact on a city - and if you don't think that's true, look at the museum in New York by Tod Williams Billie Tsien. Less than 10 years old, a gorgeous contemporary building, and it's being considered for demolition because it doesn't match the current style of MOMA. 

I worked on a competition for the redesign of the Hauptmarkt in Nuremberg that has been the centre point of the city since 1000 AD. All the buildings around it were bombed out in 1945. The first thing the city rebuilt was the main market square - it was the spirit of the city and so the most important to them as a landmark and orientation point. 

What I'm getting at is that the public realm is a very interesting and fertile place for design. A person may visit a fancy museum, music hall, opera house or library once a year and it may impress design magazines for a year or two. But people walk up and down the streets, visit parks and meet at squares every day. So in terms of impact on how people view their neighbourhoods and ultimately their city, open space planning is the far more engaging route.

If you take an M.Arch instead of an MLA, you will bring a very different view to your work in open space. But I don't know how many programs there are that would encourage you to focus on public space as opposed to designing a building. It would depend on the background and interests of your instructors, I suppose. As far as working - it doesn't make a huge difference what your title is if you have good design ideas. 

Anyways, best of luck!

Saint Rest
May 9, 13 1:03 pm

well Stephanie, I enjoy great landscape architecture a lot, but I'm afraid we entice thinkgreen into landscape with arguments not sufficient enough for decision making. E.g. Once could also argue that architecture provide shelter like no others. Landscape has impacts, for sure, but if one's in a career for impacts, maybe she/he's better off in politics. Actually, all jobs have influence on other's life.  Landscape architecture is strong in impact, long lasting, beautiful, it's just not architecture... 

thinkgreen
May 9, 13 3:22 pm

I've grown to realize that I have come to appreciate architecture in context of landscape. I'm sure many can say the same. If there was a way to do both (and I know there is academically but in practice I've heard from practicing professionals in both fields that it is near impossible) I'd be all for it. But I suppose I would have to choose. I was given good advice to say what would I rather do on my worst day. Design backyards or a strip mall. I'd take a strip mall at this point. I guess that partially answers the question?

manoverde84
Sep 10, 13 6:29 pm

I am reviving this thread for a few if ya guys don't mind. Now can someone with an MLA or LA focus work on matter involving interiors, buildings, etc? Stuff an M.Arch would normally do? I am going for the LA because I am more passionate about it and also love urban design, planning, etc. But if I do not find a job I may have to work for my father in law's or one of his competitor contacts construction firms and they mostly deal with interiors, buildings.

But I keep hearing from people that LA is a safer route with more prospects. I also hear that getting a general M.Arch will always be better because you get the best overal grasp.

What do you guys think of all this?

observant
Sep 10, 13 7:25 pm

...is oversimplified and, I believe, patently false.

Well, oversimplified, possibly.  However, patently false, no.  Anybody I've talked to about their choice made the distinction along those lines - that they wanted to enclose space, as in designing and documenting buildings, or that they wanted to plan open spaces, such as working with natural elements, as well as man-made ones, such as pavings, retaining walls, benches, tables, and even built objects which provide shelter.  So, the commonality is the emphasis on design, making landscape architecture a viable option for some who might be interested in architecture.  However, let's face it, when you walk through an l.a. studio at university or see a l.a. professional's drawings, the product is very different.

Larchinect
Jan 25, 14 2:09 am

Thinkgreen--ive designed more strip malls, commercial centers as an la than i ever wouldve dreamed possible years ago. Ive designed like two backyards in my entire career--just to give a little perspective.

As far as the golf course/clubhouse analogy--i find myself often designing where the clubhouse goes, but neither the course itself nor the clubhouse, lol.

Queen made a comment about la's being poor project leads on urban projects--not so sure about that, though i dont want to start an argument on larch vs arch--each are populated by many designers with varied skill sets--you may meet a larch that can design a better building (at least from a planning standpoint) than an arch, but also an arch who designs great sites. Admittedly the latter being more prevalent. The only sentiment i might offer in defense of la is the argument that bldgs exist within the larger landscape :)

Still there are so many facets to la and i would disagree with the notion that arch is by definition all encompassing. If for no other reason than being naive to say that any o e title or degree affords a designer the skill and knowledge to effectively design everything under the sun.

3tk
Jan 27, 14 3:52 pm

Generally Arch are the boxes, LA the spaces between boxes.  Urban planning / design is supposed to be a coordinate effort.

Having done both, there is a distinct pedagogical influence that is hard to shake off - you can do either with either degree, but for the most part an LA designs for their projects to grow in, Arch for the completion date (and yes there are exceptions).

Work wise, a building set may have hundreds of pages, while the site set a fraction of that - that isn't to say it's less work, or less relevant; it's the nature of the material LAs work with - you can spec a tree but not really the individual components of a tree (though we often do go to the nursery to find 'the one').  Some firms do new cities, others parks, others residential yards, and others streetscapes - it is a broad field, but generally almost all outdoors (though there are the few that do commercial interiors like malls and atriums).

As with anything, each program is very different - schools with strengths in both areas and both fields under the same roof will give you a broader sense of the design fields (LA programs are often in the agriculture school relating to horticulture or forestry more than art/design).  Cornell is a great program.

Work prospect wise it's not all that different, trolling through land8.com will give you some of the same doom and gloom as here...

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