What Is Landscape Architecture?

The profession of landscape architecture is extremely broad and varied, and includes the design of everything outside. The scope of work is diverse in form and scale, from residential design to urban planning to wilderness management. Types of projects include public parks, plazas, streets and parkways, college campuses, trails and campgrounds, backyards, playgrounds, shopping centers, and environmental restoration, to name just a few. The profession is multi-disciplinary, incorporating elements of natural and social sciences with the creative arts and design.

The profession is geared towards holistic, big-picture thinking, and responding to key social and environmental issues such as water scarcity, air and light pollution, sustainable building, public health and active living. Landscape architects are trained to have knowledge and understanding of many disciplines including ecology, hydrology, geology, botany, sociology, engineering and design.

Successful landscape architects are creative visionaries and are skilled at communication and collaboration. Depending on the size of the project, landscape architects may work closely with architects, engineers, surveyors, horticulturalists, planners, scientists, and contractors. They perform professional work in planning and design of land for human use and enjoyment. They produce master plans and landscape designs for site improvements based on analyses of environmental, physical and social characteristics, and economic considerations.

The Process

Projects commonly begin with an in-depth conversation with the client, a site analysis and then envisioning the potential of a site. The landscape architect will typically prepare a concept plan and sketches that present an idea of how different spaces will function, how circulation flows and other elements that address the client’s or site’s needs.
After the concept plan has been approved by the client, the landscape architect may prepare a set of construction documents that can be given to multiple landscape contractors for bidding purposes, allowing the client to compare “apples to apples” regarding costs. Construction documents for a residential project may consist of the following types of drawings depending on the needs and budget for the project:

  • Grading and Drainage Plan
  • Layout Plan
  • Construction Details
  • Irrigation Plan and Irrigation Details
  • Hydrozone Plan
  • Planting Plan and Planting Details
  • Lighting Plan
  • Specifications

Depending on the type of project, the landscape architect may also prepare technical reports, manage projects and lead interdisciplinary teams.

Qualifications and Licensing

Landscape architecture is a state licensed and regulated profession overseen by the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards (CLARB) and the Landscape Architects Technical Committee (LATC) respectively. Obtaining licensure requires advanced education and work experience plus the passing of rigorous national and state exams.
 A college degree in landscape architecture alone does not qualify one to practice landscape architecture unless they are working under the direct supervision of a landscape architect.


For detailed information regarding state regulation of the practice of landscape architecture, click on the link below.

For a summary of who is allowed to prepare different types of plans, click on the link below:

For a list of professionals licensed to practice landscape architecture in the state of California, click on the link below: