The Master of Landscape Architecture is a professional or academic degree dealing with the shaping and management of land surface. It is a program that is typically informed by architecture, planning, and design, and is usually housed in an architecture or design school.
A wide variety of specializations exist within the academic discipline of landscape architecture. Some of the most well-known areas are:
- Landscape design
- Urban design
- Social/behavioral aspects of landscape design
- Ecological planning and design
- Heritage conservation
- Site planning
- Regional landscape planning
- Park and recreation planning
- Land development planning
- Landscape reclamation and restoration
- Consulting services, expert testimony
Landscape design, the historical core of the profession, is concerned with detailed space design for residential, commercial, industrial, institutional and public areas.
Urban design deals with the design of cities and towns. This field also involves the development of open public spaces, such as plazas and streetscapes. As urban designers, landscape architects set standards, development guidelines and create designs.
Social/behavioral aspects of landscape architecture focus on and understanding how people interact with the physical landscape. Researchers in this discipline explore the ways landscape form can enhance urban experience, or shape human behavior.
It involves site analysis, development of design concepts, the shaping of spaces, the balance of hard and soft surfaces in indoor and outdoor spaces, the selection of construction and plant materials, and the preparation of detailed construction plans and contract documents. It may also involve maintenance planning, supervision of construction, and post-construction analysis.
Site planning focuses on the physical design and arrangement of the built and natural elements of a land parcel. It deals with a wide range of technical aspects such as circulation patterns, utility layout, siting of buildings and creating areas for human use. A site planning project can involve designing the land for a single house, an office complex or shopping centre, or an entire community. Sensitive site design produces developments that minimize both environmental impacts and project costs, while adding value to a site.
Regional landscape planning has emerged as a major area of practice for many landscape architects since the rise of environmentalism in the 1970s. In this field, landscape architects deal with the full range of planning and management of land and water, including natural resource surveys, creation and protection of habitats, wetlands, and other natural environments.
Park and recreation planning continues to be a mainstay of practice for many landscape architects involved in creating or redesigning parks, recreation and open space in cities, suburban and rural areas. Other landscape architects are involved with plans for golf courses, waterfront developments including marinas, and for large natural areas like provincial/national parks and forests.
Land development planning involves undeveloped land and provides a bridge between policy planning and individual development projects. Landscape architects working in this area have a knowledge of real estate economics and development regulation processes, as well as an understanding of the constraints of working with the land. Landscape architects often head multi-disciplinary project teams that integrate economic factors with good design to create quality environments for human use.
Ecological planning and design studies the interaction between people and the natural environment and is concerned with the formulation of design policies, guidelines and plans to ensure the suitability of a site for development and to guide environmentally sound development, including bio-engineering practices.
Heritage conservation provides a link between past, present and future uses of land and historic sites. Landscape architects working in this area undertake historical research, analyze contemporary needs, and recommend stabilization, restoration, adaptation, and interpretation of landscapes to accommodate human use and ensure protection of cultural resources.
Landscape reclamation and restoration is a growing area of practice for landscape architects. This field involves reclaiming disturbed landscapes such as gravel pits and landfill sites, creating habitats, wetlands, and other natural environments, or public open space for recreational or other uses.
Consulting services, expert testimony, and facilitating project implementation including the approvals process and public participation are other areas of landscape architectural specialization.