Landscape architecture has been a recognized design discipline for more than 100 years. Championed by its most well known practitioner, the visionary designer Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903), the profession has grown from the design of a few specialized public spaces to affecting the majority of communities in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Professional registration is obligatory by 42 U.S. states for professionals qualified to seal design plans, with similar licensing requirements in Canada and Europe.
In the early days, landscape architects worked with major cities almost exclusively since that is where the money and interest lay. Today's portfolio of work is just as likely to include a single neighborhood association that is interested in providing a relaxing and nurturing spot for their residents or a retail developer looking to add some place of peace to the newest community shopping Mecca.
Contemporary landscape architecture is involved with many types of projects beyond park planning. The planning and design of urban neighborhoods and communities complete with traffic patterns and pedestrian access, campus master plans and enhancement projects, community recreation complexes, bike and pedestrian greenways, celebratory plaza and memorial parks are typical projects for the profession. Many municipalities employ landscape architects to oversee the community's public space and perform project management service for new projects under development.
Concern for the environment and sustainability of municipal, commercial, and residential projects has lead to an increased interest in landscape architecture. The practice has embraced environmentally sound design practices throughout its history. By incorporating native plants, ensuring proper grading and placement of ponds for storm water collection, using grassed swales for natural filtration of storm water runoff, selecting pervious pavers for hardscapes, landscape architecture is often the component that makes a development truly sustainable.
Landscape architects work primarily in the public sector. Olmsted maintained that landscape architects are tasked with creating inclusive outdoor space useful to calm the public psyche - to provide a soothing escape from everyday life for people from every level of society. This philosophy is still one of the primary tenants of the practice of Landscape Architecture.
For more information about the discipline, visit the Professional Societies in America, Europe, Canada, and Japan. At most American universities that offer the course of study, the degree is a demanding five-year program that blends technology with artistic design and hands on horticultural knowledge.