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April 26, 2017

The Future of Landscape Architecture

As World Landscape Architecture Month comes to a close, we sat down with our team to get their take on where the profession has been and where it’s going. You can find their insights below.  

How do you think landscape architecture will grow and evolve over the next 10 years?  Where do you see the profession heading?  

Kelly Van Elders: As more and more people, particularly developers, see the success that well-designed projects by landscape architects yield, I believe we will become more of a key team member or even the project lead on work. Often, we are the sub-consultant, but we can offer so much more. For example, the movement toward building healthy, living communities is growing, and most of these facilities require thorough integration of building and site design, which is something at which we excel. 

Mitch Zeller: There will be more emphasis placed on the outdoor design, as both the public and municipalities want to have quality outdoor spaces. With greater competition in the field, the overall quality of new and renovated projects will continue to improve. In the future, there will also be a stronger partnership between the design professions at the front end of a project, so the impact and opportunities offered by the site can be explored.

Rachel Fox: I hope in the next 10 years landscape architecture will become a greater advocate for social equality, environmental stewardship, and livability. Our training enables us to understand systems and communicate our ideas to catalyze change.

Shannon Gordon: I see the profession going toward a knowledge based, political platform, as opposed to the traditional plans and sketches. Although I don’t necessarily agree with this approach, education is now in that vein. Bridging the gap between today's graduates and the older landscape architects will be a challenge. 

How did the recession affect the field of landscape architecture?  

Kelly: The quality of experienced professionals still practicing is much higher now in my opinion. During the recession, many landscape architects had to make a choice to get out of the profession or find any opportunity to keep themselves in it. This broadening of experience in venues is something many would have not have otherwise had. It has helped to diversify overall experience and helped us gain further appreciation for quality projects and clients.

Mitch: For a longtime, funding was not available for projects. Now, people are excited about what can be created again with a renewed rejuvenation for all aspects of design.

Shannon: The recession was hard on our profession. It caused many professionals, as well as quality students, to leave the field. Now, we are faced with a shortage of landscape architects, leaving many opportunities for new and experienced candidates. 

Which services would others be surprised to learn landscape architects perform? 

Kelly: Roles within sectors, such as public safety, mining, shoreline and streambank restoration, transit, signage master plans, wildlife management and habitat restoration, cemetery design, ski resorts, skate parks...I could go on and on. 

Mitch: When I explain some of my collaborations or ongoing projects, I always find people are constantly surprised and excited by what I do. From detailed courtyard design to massive land developments, there is a large range of projects in between.

Rachel: I think people would be surprised to learn landscape architecture is more than just designing gardens. Our profession excels in finding ways to improve people's experience out in the world. Sometimes this is done through a beautiful garden, but often it is achieved by designing streetscapes that create safer conditions for pedestrians, improving the water quality of our streams and rivers, and ensuring all people have access to free, quality recreation.

Shannon: In addition to designing everything outside the building walls, in many cases, some landscape architects also provide the design direction for the external aesthetic of the buildings as well.