Landscape Architecture

Landscape architecture is the professional discipline involved with planning, designing, analyzing and overseeing construction of all aspects of the built environment except buildings (including, e.g. landforms, water features, vegetated plantings, paving, small structures such as pavilions, bridges, retaining walls, et al.) Considered a ‘sister’ discipline to (building) architecture, landscape architecture was codified in the late 1800’s by the pioneer Frederick Law Olmsted, noted for the design of New York City’s Central Park. The landscape architect Ian McHarg articulated in his seminal 1961 work ‘Design with Nature’ a basis for spatial decision making at many scales based on detailed understanding of natural systems, such as geologic and hydrologic processes, and encouraged active integration of built systems (from houses to cities) with natural systems, to the benefit of both. McHarg also championed and illustrated a process of overlay mapping for suitability analysis as part of design.

Landscape architects are sometimes distinguished from ‘land planners’ by their emphasis on built features, rather than just zones of suitability, and scale (planners generally are concerned with a broader scope, smaller scale; while landscape architects with a small scope, larger scale.; though these distinctions are blurred in practice). The term ‘landscape urbanism’ has been used to describe an approach to environmental design that takes landscape, rather than architecture or engineering, as the most suitable basis for human settlements. Related disciplines, from which ideas and methods, as well as formal training, may be taken by landscape architects, also include civil engineering, landscape ecology, regional planning, and city planning,

As landscape architecture is considered to be both science-based and art-based, a wide range of spatial decision making is employed, ranging from systematic overlays and multi-criteria optimization, to intuitive and visual-based decisions, based on ill-defined concepts such as ‘balance’ , ‘proportion’, ‘interest’, etc...

The emergent discipline of Geodesign owes much to the traditions and techniques of landscape architecture.

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