Although there is certainly overlap, these are distinctly different levels and kinds of professionals. We will consider them in the order listed. First we will give a general description, list the strengths and weaknesses, then a comparative analysis will follow. Finally, we will examine how to evaluate any given individual within each of the professions.
A landscape architect has a minimum of a four year Bachelor’s degree and may have or more years of higher education landscaping job description laborer. To be thoroughly certified she must also have three years of internship in a landscape architectural office. The following paragraph is taken from the United States Department of Labor.
“Persons planning a career in landscape architecture should appreciate nature, enjoy working with their hands, and possess strong analytical skills. Creative vision and artistic talent also are desirable qualities. Good oral communication skills are essential; landscape architects must be able to convey their ideas to other professionals and clients and to make presentations before large groups. Strong writing skills also are valuable, as is knowledge of computer applications of all kinds, including word processing, desktop publishing, and spreadsheets. Landscape architects use these tools to develop presentations, proposals, reports, and land impact studies for clients, colleagues, and superiors. The ability to draft and design using CAD software is essential. Many employers recommend that prospective landscape architects complete at least one summer internship with a landscape architecture firm in order to gain an understanding of the day-to-day operations of a small business, including how to win clients, generate fees, and work within a budget.”
Landscape Architecture is a thorough and serious discipline aimed at providing aesthetically satisfying solutions in the creation of spaces inhabited, visited or seen by humans. The study involves design theory, engineering, planning, aesthetics, history and the sciences. The scope of the education is both broad and deep and consequently the scale of the projects a landscape architect can undertake is essentially unlimited.
The landscape architect has a sound education in all practical considerations – proper building codes and techniques, legalities and so on. He can provide a detailed plan with material specifications, quantities, sizes and so on, from which contractors can give accurate bids. Because of their degree they are qualified to apply for a broader range of projects, for example government projects, which are not open to non-licensed designers.
The term landscape architecture was first used By Frederick Law Olmstead in the late 1800’s. At that time there was no specific academic discipline for it so it began to be taught and studied under the roofs of the architectural schools and has been stamped with that mind-set. – That is to say, with many notable exceptions, landscape architecture, by the views of this author, is characterized by a quality of architectural rigidity and over- reliance on structure. As mentioned, there have been notable exceptions. Tommy Church and Russell Page, to name two, and there are many exceptions practicing today.
Typically, landscape architects are not taught horticulture so their plant recommendations are frequently unreasonably limited. More importantly, a degree in landscape architecture does not signify talent as the qualities, or lack of, in the designs produced do not guarantee or prevent a degree. In fairness it should be said that no degree of any kind in any of these categories signifies talent – it only signify the successful completion of a curriculum.
Many landscape architects spend most of their time in offices and have little field experience. Too often they are not able to communicate in a real fashion with various trades people, such as masons as their knowledge may be largely theoretical, not based on hands-on experience. Before hiring a landscape architect, ask to see a portfolio, even if only of school assignments and make certain that she is capable of understanding your aesthetic and working within your budget. If possible, get references.
A landscape designer may be certified through one program or another (of which there are many), or may not. These programs are usually associated with an educational institution but there are various individuals and other organizations which also offer a certification program. In addition, many botanic gardens have ongoing master gardener classes (which is not landscape design), as well as design courses which individuals may take toward certification or simply for the education.
The landscape designer works with site analysis, cost estimates, practical considerations such as drainage, light availability, elevations and all other facets of designing an implementable and sustainable landscape. He also usually works with hardscape elements such as walkways, patios, walls and so on. The following is a course description for a Landscape Design Course from a University in California.