To say that landscape architecture is a growing field would be an understatement. Landscape architecture is the design of outdoor spaces and the improvements thereon to achieve environmental, behavioral or aesthetic outcomes.
The practice involves research and investigation of existing social, ecological and geological conditions and processes in the landscape, and the design of interventions that will produce the desired outcome. Concepts in the field include urban planning and design, site planning, environmental restoration, development of parks and recreation, and environmentally conscious infrastructure planning and development.
Within the past 20 years, the profession of landscape architecture has seen a tremendous increase not only in visibility, but in the realm of educational as well. LSU’s Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture continues to be a leader in the industry, through its efforts in education and community involvement.
According to information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook for 2010-11, landscape architects held about 26,700 jobs as of 2008, which is the most recent year of employment information available. The statistics show that about 51 percent of landscape architects were employed in architectural, engineering and related services, while about 21 percent were self-employed and state and local governments employed approximately 6 percent of landscape architects.
Employment of landscape architects is expected to increase by 20 percent during the 2008–18 decade, bureau statistics show, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment is forecast to grow as the planning and development of new construction, together with the continued redevelopment of existing buildings, creates more opportunities for landscape architects.
Van Cox, current interim director of the Reich School and a professor in the school for more than 35 years, said that the work of landscape architects can be seen practically everywhere.
“It’s found in multiple urban spaces, housing communities and many other places where people work, play and live every day,” he said. “The more we do, the more people see what we do and the more they want to have it done.”
Cox said he feels that renewed interest in environmental issues as they pertain to quality of life is partially responsible for the current boom in landscape architecture.
“There was a brief spurt back in the 1970s when our enrollment went up to 276 people, and we only have maybe 200 now, at most,” he said. “Back then, there was the big Earth Day movement. But as time went on, it was dropped as a fad. Now, due to the interest of not only the environmentally aware activist, but now the everyday citizen and federal government is cleaning up the environment in general, and you’re seeing a renewal of interest. From our standpoint, specifically, the visual environment is certainly a primary concern.”
When he was a student at LSU in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Cox said, landscape architects were beginning to become more popularly known in the realm of urban design. Now, he said, all of the major cities around the world have public spaces that are designed by landscape architects. This includes New York City’s famed Central Park, which was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, who many recognize as the founder of American landscape architecture. Now, even Baton Rouge can boast of their new “town square,” created by landscape architecture alumni from the Reich School.