Landscape Architecture FAQ
Q. What is Landscape Architecture?

A. Landscape Architecture is a profession that applies scientific and artistic principles to the planning, design, and management of natural and built environments. Landscape Architects use their technical and artistic talents to plan and design the built environment. They are, in essence, "architects of the land". Practitioners of Landscape Architecture apply creative and technical skills, and scientific, cultural and political knowledge in the planned arrangement of constructed elements on the land, and integrate the resulting man-made systems into systems of the natural environment. The resulting environments serve useful, safe, aesthetic and enjoyable purposes.

Q. What types of work do Landscape Architects perform?

A. It is difficult to describe the work of Landscape Architects in simple terms; the scope of the profession is broad and the projects vary. A variety of often interwoven specializations exist within the profession, including the following:

  • Land Development Planning can be on large-scale, multi-acre parcels of undeveloped land and on smaller scale sites in urban, rural, and historic areas. By providing a bridge between planning policy and individual development projects, Land Planners integrate economic and political factors with appropriate design to create quality environments. Due to this blending of expertise, Land Planners often head multi-disciplinary design teams.
  • Site Planning and Design focuses on the physical design and arrangement of built and natural elements on the land. It can involve designing the land for a single house, an office park or shopping center, or an entire residential community. Site design involves the efficient, aesthetic and ecologically sensitive integration of man-made objects with a site's natural features including topography, drainage, water, wildlife, and climate. Sensitive site design minimizes environmental impacts, lowers project costs, and adds value to a project. Site Development Plans prepared by Land Planners include grading and dimensional plans, circulation (roads, paths and walkways) plans, drainage and erosion and sediment control plans, and planting plans.
  • Park and Recreation Planning involves creating and redesigning parks and recreational areas of cities, town, suburban and rural areas. Land Planners also develop plans for parkways, large natural areas as part of national park, forest and wildlife refuge systems.
  • Land Design concerns the detailed design of outdoor space for residential, commercial, industrial, institutional, and public spaces. It involves the balancing of hard and soft surfaces, the selection of construction and plant materials, infrastructure such as walkways, stormwater drainage structures, retaining walls, and the preparation of construction plans and documents.
  • Other work undertaken by Landscape Architecture includes: Historic Land Preservation and Reclamation; Urban and Town Planning; Ecological Planning and Design including, environmental impact statements, public and private lands management, transportation planning, and mine reclamation; Waterfront Design; Zoological Park Design; and Campus Master Planning.
Q. Are there examples of work by Landscape Architecture in the Mid-Appalachian Region?

A. There are many examples, large and small, of the work of Land Planners in the area. Two of the most well known are the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Biltmore Estate in Ashville, North Carolina.

The Blue Ridge Parkway was designed in the 1930’s by a Team headed by Land Planner Stanley W. Abbott. The result of this effort is the scenic touring highway which sits lightly on the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and North Carolina.

Fredrick Law Olmsted, the acknowledged father of American Land Planning, was the principal designer of the grounds of the Biltmore Estate. This work ushered in the era of romantic estate design that seamlessly merged formal garden design within a larger pastoral design. Other examples of Olmsted’s work nationally include New York’s Central Park, the grounds of the United States Capitol, the campus of Stanford University, and the community of Riverside, Illinois.

As well known as these works may be, most of the projects undertaken by Landscape Architects are much more subtle. Places people experience everyday such as the rest areas of the interstate highway systems; town outdoor recreation areas; towns themselves, such as Kingsport, Tennessee; and urban greenway trail systems such as that planned for Roanoke, Virginia by John Nolen have been designed by Land Planners.