21C Landscape Architecture Curriculum by rlmyers


									       The purpose of a landscape architecture curriculum is to train the future
generation of landscape architects. This role has a narrow, legal definition as well as a
broader interpretation with ever-evolving requirements. Narrowly interpreted, an
accredited landscape architecture curriculum must train students in technical skills,
such as site analysis and engineering, construction documents, code requirements and
materials. However, landscape architecture has long been associated with a larger
social mission and current practice requires a set of thinking, collaboration,
communication, facilitation and leadership skills that aren’t tested on the LARE exam.
Landscape architects practice large-scale design and influence decision making in the
construction and real estate development industry. Choices and actions taken by
landscape architects result in real ecological, economic and social consequences for
communities and systems. Increasingly, the generalist, large-scale systematic view of a
landscape architect allows her to be the lead designer on construction projects and
enables her to effectively collaborate with planners, architects, engineers, builders and
environmental consultants.
       The structure of an undergraduate program in landscape architecture should
progress from small-scale, tangible projects and the acquisition of technical skills to
large-scale, abstract projects requiring critical thinking and interpersonal skills. Content,
skills and learning environments can all be combined to create strong and successful
student work. An example of a beginning studio might combine hand graphic
techniques with a small-scale residential design problem where students visit homes,
meet and design for clients. An advanced studio would combine a site of 40+ acres for
a large public entity requiring interdisciplinary teamwork, GIS analysis, stakeholder
interviews and complex system design.
       The program’s content should include those technical landscape architectural
skills, core design and collaboration skills, as well as an opportunity for specialization in
the advanced stages of the program. The following list of content represents a brief
overview of topics that should be introduced in a curriculum dedicated to producing
graduates with relevant and adaptable skills.
I Context and breadth of the landscape architecture discipline
(history, methodology and current events)

II Process, inquiry, thinking tools and disciplines
(theory, prototyping, research, analysis)

III Modeling / mapping, analysis
(GIS, financial proforma, markets)

IV Communication / presentation
(written, graphic, verbal)

V Technical standards and how-tos for a deliverable project
(codes, standards, professional practice, budgets, development process)

VI Basics of systems in which we operate
(ecological, economic, social, policy)

VII Techniques for rapid learning and skill acquisition: learn how to learn
(software, codes, plants/building materials)

VIII Specialization
(stormwater, brownfield remediation, development, urban design, etc.)

IX Teamwork and Leadership

       The power and value of design lies in its ability to analyze problems, synthesize
information, create and prototype solutions. The tools and techniques designers use to
achieve this will vary depending on technological advances and disciplinary expertise.
In the case of landscape architects, it is not enough to design a solution, but that
solution must be defensible and persuasive or it will never get built. The scope of the
problems requires a breadth of expertise larger than any individual’s capacity.
Therefore, landscape architects must be generalists in ecology, finance, engineering,
horticulture and sociology and experts in facilitating and leading a complex,
collaborative design process.

Rebecca Lea Myers, MLA ‘10
5 May 2010

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