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Landscape Architecture’s First Connection with Collaborative Team Projects

plant knowledgeIf you want to be included as a landscape architect in a large-scale, collaborative-team project, you must start with a knowledge of plants. Landscape architects are expected to be specialists in choosing plant material. Collaborative team members from civil engineering and environmental professional fields typically only learn the many other abilities of landscape architects after working with them on projects. They will invite a landscape architectural firm to join a project team for the primary purpose of hiring experts in planting plan design.

Even though landscape architecture firms concentrate on many things beyond horticulture—public infrastructure, stormwater drainage, sports facilities, roadside design, urban streetscapes, and environmental restoration—they are often required, on large projects, to provide good plant material choices for land designs done by others. If a landscape architecture firm ignores basic, good, plant-design skills they will disappoint the team, but if it excels in high-quality “landscaping,” it will gain respect and be asked to contribute to the team in other ways. A landscape architecture firm whose focus goes beyond planting plans should still include someone who understands how to use and choose vegetation wisely.

Part of this process of proving plant skills is the result of the history of the profession of landscape architecture. It has spent decades mired in an identity crisis. Early practitioners concentrated their efforts on magnificent, privately-owned estates, but taxes and an ever-changing world pushed landscape architects into other types of design—public projects, parks, and environmental planning. The market for outdoor planning and planting services is competitive among the other disciplines, and the world no longer needs new knot gardens and parterres.

The identity of the landscape architecture profession will always be tied to beautiful gardens. Even as the potential for the occupation evolves, it must embrace the instant association of refined planting design with the title of landscape architect. Having a strong understanding of local and native plant species and their botanical requirement to thrive, having expertise in using plants in successful and attractive spatial arrangements, and having the knowledge of how to grow and maintain landscape material are essential skills for the profession. Accredited schools who want hirable graduates must provide core training in landscape planting design, so landscape architects can live up to their reputation as garden design experts. It is the way for landscape architectural firms to claim a place on multidisciplinary team projects.

Start with Plants