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Where Have All the Beautiful Gardens Gone?

death of landscape architecture

Amazing gardens designed by landscape architects are not being created much anymore. There are several reasons for this.

∙ Designing gardens for an elite set of private clients is a career choice best made by someone who doesn’t need a steady income.

∙ Choosing a landscape architecture profession with its burdensome educational and licensing requirements indirectly proportional to pay is kind-of crazy.

∙ There is no glamour in tromping through muddy construction sites in the cold and doing all-nighters to meet last-minute deadlines when your work contribution is considered the unimportant “fluff” for a project.

∙ The interest in gardening is seasonal, awakening only a few days of each year, when temperatures outdoors match indoor thermostats.

∙ Competing with several different professions, like civil engineering and environmental science, fields with more respect than landscape architecture, for public projects is often futile.

∙ Smaller projects are shopped to volunteers willing to try out their design skills for free or given to contractors willing to actually install sod and plants, rather than merely draw pretty, rendered drawings of expensive ideas.

∙ No amount of awareness campaigning, reinvention, or self-examination of the profession can release landscape architecture from the perception the name imparts.

No wonder talented landscape architects who design extraordinary gardens are disappearing!

Most of my graduating class—those with a Bachelor of Science degree in landscape architecture after six years of study—are doing other things. They are selling antiques, flipping burgers, acting as a graphics flunky for other companies, or working for non-profit companies. Landscape architects are nice people with a desire to make the world a better place, but they were suckered into the idea of creating their own Olmsted legacy—an impossible thing to repeat in a modern economy and market. Landscape Architecture professors tend to de-emphasize plant knowledge, construction, and drainage design to focus on pet political causes, dooming the graduates to high unemployment rates.

It is time to retire the landscape architecture title and send eager, new students into professional studies with viable career paths. Landscape architecture was a lovely concept, well-fit for the 19th and 20th centuries. The profession is not misunderstood. It’s gone, winding down the curved and edged lawns of California-styled vintage modernism and wafting away with the fragrant, Gardenia-infused winds of yesteryear.

The Disappearance of Landscape Architecture