Landscape Architecture: Profession on the Rise?

Landscape architects occupy a unique niche among designers – their work can be seen surrounding typical architect-designed structures, such as homes and buildings, and also in spaces devoid of structures, such as parks and gardens. The profession is a bridge between the built and the natural.

And now it seems demand for their services is rising.

“In recent years, landscape architects have seen their profile rise. The discipline has gained stature in the public’s imagination, as well as among the allied disciplines of architecture, planning, and even civil and transportation engineering,” said Alan G. Brake in an editorial last December in The Architect’s Newspaper.

Indeed, the numbers back up this growth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a 16 percent rate of employment growth between 2010 and 2020, compared to 14 percent for all occupations. The National Endowment for the Arts places the growth of landscape architects as third among all artist occupations, behind only museum technicians/conservators and museum curators.

 Three Reasons

What is causing an increased demand for landscape architects? It appears that three key factors are fueling the need: the growing prominence of parks and open spaces, the continued interest in “green” issues, and the obesity epidemic.

The growing prominence of parks and open spaces is evidenced by high-profile projects such as Millennium Park in Chicago, New York’s High Line, and the new Grand Park in Los Angeles. These spaces have attracted a lot of attention for their respective cities, and raised the image of outdoor spaces in general. The crowds at these parks – and the potential increased tourist revenue – is not lost on municipal leaders seeking to improve their cities.

The value of adding landscaped green spaces to buildings and homes is certainly nothing new, but the rise of environmentalism, and how even small things can affect the environment, has increased the perceived value of quality landscape architecture. And there’s no doubt that a landscape architect increases that quality of a home’s or building’s landscaping.

But the issue of green design goes much further than just the bushes planted around a new house, of course. As Brake notes in his editorial, many landscape architects have taken on a larger civic role and now work to influence the environmental nature of a community’s infrastructure. As cities, especially on the coasts, face more pressure from rising sea levels and global warming, the potential role of design professionals who can help with those issues will only increase.

“Climate change has provided a much overdue wake up call to all professionals dealing with the built environment,” according to the 2012 employment statement of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA). Read the whole document here.

Finally, the well-documented obesity epidemic is pushing more children outdoors, and they need green spaces to play. The NFL’s Play 60 Campaign, which encourages children to play outside for an hour each day, is just one example of the movement to drag chubby kids away from their video games and out into the sunshine. Nicely landscaped parks, play areas, and sports fields play a role in that movement.

Altogether, these issues should continue to influence the demand for quality landscape design. In their employment document, the AILA noted: “It is indeed a great time to be dealing with place making. It is the right time to be a landscape architect.”

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