Explore environmental careers.
Landscape architecture takes a holistic view of the design, planning, management, and stewardship of the land. Landscape architects often work as members of a multidisciplinary team, for example with planners, ecologists, and engineers, on projects that can range from designing residential yards and parks to constructing wetlands to treating polluted runoff from former industrial sites. Landscape architects use art and science to create a balance between the needs and wants of people and the limitations of the environment.
At a glanceImagine you are sitting on a bench in a quiet downtown park relaxing to the sound of a cascading waterfall under the shade of a leafy canopy of trees. You are a landscape architect and this urban oasis is your design. A few years ago, this area was an asphalt parking lot. Now it is a lush expanse of intricate paved pathways intersecting lawns of native grasses and stands of native trees. As the lead landscape architect on this project, you get a thrill each time you visit the completed park and see people strolling down the paths enjoying the fragrant greenery and calming effect of the park's natural space. As a landscape architect, you coordinated both design and ecological principles when you approached this project. When preparing your proposal for the rehabilitation of the former parking lot site, you focused on elements that would make the park enjoyable for its human visitors in combination with environmental conservation and sustainability. From a design perspective, you looked at the surrounding high-rise environment and analyzed how people moved through the area. This information dictated how and where the pathways would be laid out. Between the pathways, you wanted wide avenues for planting trees, shrubs, and grass. The choices of which species to plant were based on environmental considerations. For example, you had the soil analyzed for contaminants left over from the parking lot and chose species capable of filtering out some of those contaminants. You looked at the average amount of precipitation and sunlight the area received and chose species that wouldn't require extra watering. You also selected species that would contribute to the improvement of the area's air quality. Once you had evaluated all the factors affecting the park's design, you prepared a detailed construction plan for the work to be done. For the next eight months, you were on site daily supervising the building and watching the park come to life.
Job dutiesDuties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as a landscape architect:
- Prepare proposals for design projects and discuss with clients their project needs and goals, as well as budget and scheduling limitations.
- Gather site information on topography, soil conditions, hydrology, servicing, natural conservation requirements, and historical data.
- Carry out site inventory and analysis, verify information, and determine existing site conditions, for example sun and shade patterns, microclimate, slope, drainage, and buildings.
- Prepare preliminary concepts and cost estimates of options to address site conditions and client needs and goals.
- Consult on the programming and design of sites with owners, clients, users, stakeholder groups, and the general public.
- Contact review and regulatory agencies for necessary approvals, for example municipal site plan control and environmental site and design approvals.
- Prepare construction document packages, including working drawings and specifications for site elements, construction cost estimates, and tender or quotation documents for contractors.
- Review bids from building contractors and manage construction contracts.
- Inspect construction work as it proceeds.
- Prepare reports for various types of studies, including recreation master plans, heritage or design guidelines, and environmental assessment.
- Write competitive proposals for clients outlining scope of work, qualifications, experience, and quotes for services.
Work environmentLandscape architects work in a variety of locations, including: In the office:
- Doing paperwork, administering contracts, and preparing proposals and reports
- Developing plans and construction details, cost estimates, and schedules and coordinating with other disciplines
- Communicating on the phone and in meetings with clients, stakeholders, government departments, colleagues, consultants, and suppliers
- Conducting background research
- Travelling to and conducting field inspections of sites for inventory and general conformance with construction documents
- Making presentations to stakeholders, clients, contractors, and the general public
- Responding to requests from clients
Where to workThere are a number of places landscape architects can find employment. They include:
- Architecture firms
- Federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal government departments
- Colleges and universities
- Private consulting firms
- Construction firms
- Non-governmental organizations, for example professional associations and environmental organizations
Education & requirementsIf you are a high school student considering a career as a landscape architect, you should have strong marks or an interest in:
- Computer Science
- Landscape Architecture
- Environmental Design
- Environmental Planning
- Environmental Engineering