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Thread: Landscape Architecture and Urban Design?

  1. #1
         
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    Landscape Architecture and Urban Design?

    When one hears definitions of Urban Design as "the design of spaces between buildings" it often makes the stomachs of Landscape Architects squirm. The overlaps between the 2 disciplines are enormous.

    An acute case of identity crisis pervades Landscape Architecture and, to a lesser extent, Urban Design in the UK today. From birth Landscape Architects are continually required to fight the perception by many that they "just do the green bits" whilst it is, infact, spatial design that forms the core of their training. Therefore, the continued strengthening (with government backing) and potential professionalisation of Urban Design bemuses many Landscape Architects who feel that the new breed of "Urban Designers" (mostly from planning backgrounds) are under qualified in the design good quality places.

    As a Landscape Architect myself currently submersed in a masters degree in Urban Design (JCUD, Oxford Brookes Uni) - I'd be really interested to hear your perspective on this discussion. It is on going between several students and staff here on the course this year and to quote "it's making me dizzy and my head is spinning."

    What do you think? Is Landscape Architecture and Urban Design the same thing? If not how do they differ? Is this debate uniquely (quaintly?) British or is it relevent to the US and other countries?

  2. #2
    maudit anglais
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    Straight answer: Yer both wrong!

    I'd say the LA-UD debate is just as big in North America. Friends of mine from Planning School thought they'd be urban designers once they graduated, but were told they needed LA experience. After getting a Masters in LA, they were again stymied (architects only, thank you).

    Unfortunately, I think most people tend to think of LA's as "doing the green bits". The emphasis in those programs seems to be on landscaping, tree species, open spaces, etc.

    [off-topic] I did a six-week exchange program at Oxford-Brookes back in '95. Great times...[/off-topic]

  3. #3
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    LA&UD

    Urban Designers seem to be much more closely associated with architects from my point of view. Kind of the opposite of interior designers (exterior designers), whereas architects oversee both aspects, including the nuts and bolts of a project (see engineering). We should all just consider ourselves part of one big disfunctional (yet sometimes happy) family. We all like to horn in on the others realm of primary interest;
    Planners to Landscape Architecture and Urban Design
    Urban Design to Architects and Landscape Architects
    Architects to Engineers and Interior Designers

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Howard Roark's avatar
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    Greetings from a JCUD alumnus, and architect. MA UD 2002

    Until grad school my experience w/ LA was about the same it was w/ interior designers (instead of "hey, pick the carpets", it was "hey, pick the trees") The first thing you have to recognize is that though we are all in the same family there are lines of expertise that all of us have that the others must respect (and I can tell you as an architect we are plenty guilty of thinking that we control the show)

    That being said my perception of the relationship between LA and UD is that LA can sometimes exist in a vacuum, or be about broader experiential issues in street life. UD is about the flawed symphony (pardon the bad metaphor) that exists between the buildings in which we work, shop and dwell and the larger context of street, neighborhood, city and eventually countryside. No on branch can lay claim to this relationship on its own, for it involves, land use, streetscape, and building design all working together, hence the emergence of UD as a separate entity.

    I think the conflicts (as mild as they are) arise because this is essentially the recognition of a new entity in design and civic life, though it has been practiced for years by landscape architects, architects, and urban planners, each a blind man with our own bit of the elephant.

    Tell Roger, Graham, Georgia, Linda, Ian, Allen, John and Sue that Rob “the American” says hello, and is doing well.

    Wishing I was at the Head of the River
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  5. #5
    Cyburbian Doitnow!!'s avatar
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    "Urban Designers" (mostly from planning backgrounds)
    Well out here almost all Urban Designers are from Architecture Background.

    respect
    I quite agree here but also feel that respect is the culmination of
    1.realisation of one's own field( whatever it may be) and this take s a lot of time and eefort to do,
    2. Admiiting what one 'does not know'.
    3. Willingness to allow other experts to fill in the gap.
    4. Then comes respect.
    5. The project happens.


    The debate rages on in India too. Well known Architects do site planning and larger planning projects, Urban designers toa lot of architecture becquse there are no nice and big urban design projects, etc etc.

    I think its should be this way:
    Planners to Urban Design & Landscape Architecture to Architects to Engineers to Interior Designers.

    Only Urban Designers realise the Planners role in the whole process. But most of them suffer from the Architects Syndrome( I don't want to explain this really). They know it but don't express it explicitly.
    The land scape architects get the those bits of interstitial spaces, incidental spaces to later on design in detail and they are expected to integrate that design with the already designed and many times already executed built forms.
    Last month I asked a prominent Land Scape Architect ( who claims to have done more than 2000 small, medium and large projects in teh past thirty years of working) whether he still gets those intersititial spaces to design( thos bits of places left out). He found that tough to answer.
    I think in a project getting it is very rare that the LA gets to the client first or vic-e-versa so that the whole site plan and the building design is based on the primary landscape plan/design, open space/built up ratio.

    At least in private sector projects it is my experience that unless the client has a formed vision of the project it is the professional he interacts with first who directs the final output on the whole.

    That's where both Planners and Urban Designers should have a basic training about LA and also respect it to hte extenbt that they do neither try to design those spaces themselves nor direct the LA consultant. ( of course interactions and coordination is very important).

    I am doing a site plan for a small township( the client/developer has given me a free hand and in a rare case allowed me to give emphasis on open spaces( even if it affects the business plan a weee bit ), where I am leaving a huge 4 acre lot right in the middle of the township, a couple of existing water bodies and all road side greens, tot lots and all other sub projects of school, club house, small hospital to them LA( he enters later into the project).

    This is the order that will be followed in that project:
    Planner-LA & Architect( simultaneously)

    The LA and Architect combine will be tough one to coordinate for me but I will try my best. This will be so because most probably the Architect who designs and details the built up area will have his own ideas about the Landscaping plans and may even come up with his own designs.
    "I do not fear computers. I fear the lack of them".
    -Isaac Asimov

  6. #6
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    I started out as an LA major, and changed over...

    As it was explained and illustrated so skillfully, the reason that there is an overlap in the two paradigms is because landscape architecture is a significant aspect of Urban Design. But, UD also deals with a larger interaction of places and people, and deal significantly with architectural idea if not design.
    "A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. Time makes more converts than reason." - Thomas Paine Common Sense.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian H's avatar
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    I would say my view is that they are very very similar fields with LA leaning towards architecture and UD leaning towards planning, to echo.

    I also have to admit guilt and say that even though I have worked with many LAís I am not sure as to what they do beyond pick out the trees, bushes, color of the side walk, "the green bits" etc.... I have never worked with a person that called themselves an Urban Designer, although I did take a few classes in school.

    In all the above listed fields there is way too much overlap, that is why we must constantly make fun of and discredit each other, so that we (whatever we are) look better.

    I donít think we (planners (public and private), archs., LAs, UDs, engineers, developers, investors, politicians, etc..) will ever truly get along. Is this too many cooks in the kitchen or a good check and balance? I dont know.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    LA vs LD Florida License Rules

    Distinction made in Florida License Rule:

    "Landscape design" is often confused with landscape architecture. Landscape design means the consultation for and preparation of planting plans, including specifications and installation details for plant materials, soil amendments, mulches, edging, gravel, and other similar materials. Unlike landscape architecture, landscape design is not a licensed profession that is regulated by the State of Florida.

    The term "landscape designer" (unlike the term "landscape architect") is available to any and all persons who choose to use the term. Use of the term "landscape designer" has no specific state requirement for education, testing, or experience. There are no specific state required professional qualifications, or regulatory restrictions or controls on "landscape designer" performance and conduct. For scope of practice that is allowed by unlicensed individuals (whether they are called "landscape designer" or some other title) please review Chapter 481, Part II, Florida Statutes.

    Licensed professionals, including Landscape Architects are issued an identifying license number at time of licensure. A number preceded by "LA" is a license number for an individual landscape architect. A number preceded by "LC" is a number for a licensed business entity that is licensed to practice landscape architecture.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian H's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by The One
    Distinction made in Florida License Rule:

    "Landscape design" is often confused with landscape architecture. Landscape design means the consultation for and preparation of planting plans, including specifications and installation details for plant materials, soil amendments, mulches, edging, gravel, and other similar materials. Unlike landscape architecture, landscape design is not a licensed profession that is regulated by the State of Florida.

    The term "landscape designer" (unlike the term "landscape architect") is available to any and all persons who choose to use the term. Use of the term "landscape designer" has no specific state requirement for education, testing, or experience. There are no specific state required professional qualifications, or regulatory restrictions or controls on "landscape designer" performance and conduct. For scope of practice that is allowed by unlicensed individuals (whether they are called "landscape designer" or some other title) please review Chapter 481, Part II, Florida Statutes.

    Licensed professionals, including Landscape Architects are issued an identifying license number at time of licensure. A number preceded by "LA" is a license number for an individual landscape architect. A number preceded by "LC" is a number for a licensed business entity that is licensed to practice landscape architecture.
    And I am guessing you are a LA?

  10. #10
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Not an LA

    H:

    I'm one of those Geographer/Planner types, not an LA, not that there is anything wrong with being an LA...

  11. #11
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    my 2 cents

    In South Africa Urban Designers are seldom used. I'm a planner who at one stage used to work for an Architecture company who also did urban design. We had to do so many projects on risk and eventually we closed the department. Architects and LA's are designers by far - they have a different aptitude to creating forms and organising space than planners have. I see my role as a planner in the private sectore much more as a facillitator of land development. Not even a process like a rezoning or subdivision should be the domain of the planner - it shouldn't even have to part of a planner's job description - it should be as simple as click and paste on the internet to apply for a different land use. The planner should be used for more important strategic planning work where comprehensive analytical studies are performed. I say leave the design to the designers - 'cause if they didn't study A or LA they would probably have become graphic artists or engineers...

  12. #12
          arvindil's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by spatium
    I say leave the design to the designers - 'cause if they didn't study A or LA they would probably have become graphic artists or engineers...
    Couldnt agree with you more . Urban planning has nothing to do with spatial design and should be left to architects urban designers and landscape architects . I would say that that there is a lot of overlap between the scope of work for all the aforementioned three but each has his area of specialisation . Here in Israel most urban design is done by architects and sometimes archiects are unable to bridge the gap between a planner's landuse zoning plan and the spatial plan . Same way an urban designer is not equipped to fill in the 'green bits' .

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Doitnow!!'s avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by arvindil
    . Urban planning has nothing to do with spatial design and should be left to architects urban designers and landscape architects
    That wouldn't be wise at all.


    The planner should be used for more important strategic planning work where comprehensive analytical studies are performed. I say leave the design to the designers
    Planners have many roles and HAVE TO don many hats depending on the situation and the requirement. While planners do need to work out the analytical studies there is a very important need to draw up the macro level spatial plan ashtye understand the larger issues not only from the spatial point of view but also the socio-economic and the physical infrastructure point of view.
    Their ability lies in having that critical interrelation between all these.
    Dumping these clearly defined tasks and roles on urban designers, architects and landcsape architects may cause imbalance.
    Planners are trained for the job they do like other professionals do theirs.

    But yes! I do believe that a good urban designer can play the most important role of giving the city/settlement an image( translating vision into reality).

    Its important to understand the deep interlinkages between the Planning-Urban Designing- LAndcsape Architecture- Architecture flow.
    Just because the planner comes at the beginning of the link doesn't mean that he is supreme.( I can understand a planner thinking so but most Urban Designers and Architects think so, and if they do then why do they get this feeling??).

    Doesn't the difference in scale of work actually deifne the perimeters of the professions.
    Having disrespectis easy and having respect for related professions requires maturity,understanding and patience( I'm not proffesing expertise here BTW )

    I do subdivision planning/layout and yes I agree that a lot of it can be handled just by an urban designer/architect.
    But they would require a good understanding about the planning standards, guidelines and the regulations.

    End Note:
    Yes! Even I say "leave the design to the designers".
    "I do not fear computers. I fear the lack of them".
    -Isaac Asimov

  14. #14
    undefined I am curently in school to become and Urban Deisgner. My degree is planning with the empahsis towards design. Many of my studio classes are in the landscape architecture field due to the fact that at Iowa State the landscape architects actually design the entire space....benches, sidewalks, public artwork, reflecting pools, playgrounds....not just the firs, evergreens, and tullups. So my experience suggests that no matter what field of study you have (ie your title)...if you are or were in a design field you should have the practical visual applications to envison what an open civic/public space could potentially be. I do have to say that even in school architects think they control it all, but many of them lack the skills to relate the interactions of people and space (NOT BUILDINGS!). I look at LA, Arch, Planning, and other forms of the latter as designers with various talents which non of them should be taken lightly. The best projects I have worked on incorporate all the design fields together working together, while somtimes this is more difficult.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    While planners do need to work out the analytical studies there is a very important need to draw up the macro level spatial plan ashtye understand the larger issues not only from the spatial point of view but also the socio-economic and the physical infrastructure point of view.
    My LA education included courses to give us an understanding of socio-economic and infrastructural contexts, but I confess that many LAs seem to forget this once they are out of school.

    In the NE U.S., the spatial design for many projects falls in the hands of civil engineers, and then LAs are brought in to "landscape" the plan, a constant source of frustration for many LAs, including myself. When your training is heavy on spatial design, and you take the time to learn the intricacies of grading and drainage, being limited to the task of shrubbing up a plan is insulting. Yet some developers are realizing that LAs make better spatial planners and are more qualified to create the aesthetic features they want to see to sell their projects, so maybe the future looks bright. I've heard that in the Southern and Southwestern US, the LAs often have more say in the spatial layout of a project and are often the lead in teams. Yet another reason I'm thinking of moving.

    Many of the architects I've worked with have a limited understanding of ecological principles, hydrology, natural systems, etc. so as those factors influence design more as legislation for it comes into play, it should also mean more work for LAs

    [off-topic]salomon, I'm a fan of Lewis Black too![/off-topic]

  16. #16
    I run into LA designers once in awhile that are working on the overall enginnering of a project besides just the foliage!!! They are really cool projects, one of them is here in Aspen where I am currently working where they are turning a bike trail/marshy area into a multi-use recreational facility and building into it natural wetland water treatment...with a spin....the designer is incorporating water features and brick leaping stones that kids and adults can play on. It is one of the best examples I have seen of a private LA working with a Parks and Rec department to complelety plan and engineer this type of environment. From what I have learned the city engineers were looking to do the same old generic water managments system with no creative elements.


    Quote Originally posted by boilerplater
    My LA education included courses to give us an understanding of socio-economic and infrastructural contexts, but I confess that many LAs seem to forget this once they are out of school.

    In the NE U.S., the spatial design for many projects falls in the hands of civil engineers, and then LAs are brought in to "landscape" the plan, a constant source of frustration for many LAs, including myself. When your training is heavy on spatial design, and you take the time to learn the intricacies of grading and drainage, being limited to the task of shrubbing up a plan is insulting. Yet some developers are realizing that LAs make better spatial planners and are more qualified to create the aesthetic features they want to see to sell their projects, so maybe the future looks bright. I've heard that in the Southern and Southwestern US, the LAs often have more say in the spatial layout of a project and are often the lead in teams. Yet another reason I'm thinking of moving.

    Many of the architects I've worked with have a limited understanding of ecological principles, hydrology, natural systems, etc. so as those factors influence design more as legislation for it comes into play, it should also mean more work for LAs

    [off-topic]salomon, I'm a fan of Lewis Black too![/off-topic]

  17. #17
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    Not the same - overlap yes, identical no.

    The "landscape" in landscape architect is one key. Landscape architects are in a better position to avoid botching the plant placement. Although too many have mostly office experience when granted the priviledge to start designing.

    If an urban designer is not trained in the needs, diseases, habits, forms, and influences of trees and other plants, they don't stand a chance to do decent planning of spaces in-between.

    Landscape architects do get schooling for that usually - the plants that is.

    And tables and charts won't make a good crutch, either.

    What tree will drop cones that turn ankles?

    What tree drops fruit that causes skidding?

    Causes slipping?

    What tree's roots heave concrete?

    Clog drains?

    Which trees drop 14 pound cones, and should not be over benches or tables?

    You ever see a landscape architect or desiger place a hedge in a parking lot right next to the curb? Because they don't do maintenance, they don't notice that 20% of vehicles back in. And the vehicle protrudes more in the back - hence crushed hedges from rear bumpers and hitches.

    Always design for vehicles to pull in forward or in reverse.

    Enough ranting for today !

    Mario Vaden
    Certified Landscape Technician
    Certified Arborist
    www.mdvaden.com
    Beaverton, Oregon

  18. #18

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    This conversation does seem to ignore the fact that engineers do more "urban design" than all of the other professions combined, but setting that aside, as well as the fact that most architects should not be allowed to design buildings, much less the spaces between . . .

    I taught in an LA and environmental planning program where people learned to work at the landscape as well as the site scale and the best of those students were better prepared to work as urban designers than anyone. They knew enough about land use planning, wildlife habitat, site reclamation, hydrology, etc. to function at all scales. Too few LA programs are that broad-based, but if I were hiring an "urban designer" right now, I would look for someone with a BLA and master's in planning or vice versa.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Howard Roark's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Lee Nellis
    This conversation does seem to ignore the fact that engineers do more "urban design" than all of the other professions combined, but setting that aside, as well as the fact that most architects should not be allowed to design buildings, much less the spaces between
    OK, I never have gone after anyone on the internet, but that is one of the most narrow minded blanket statements I have seen, I am sure you don't mean to offend but if you are fimilar w/ the building process, which I assume you are, then you know this is not true. Yes, there are bad architects, i use to work for one, most are quite good though, we are hamstrung often by budget and clients desires, not to mention cities desires, residents and self styled armchair critics whose knowledge of what we do is superficial at best.

    Don't like the way things look?, try undestanding the flaws in the process before picking a scapegoat.
    Last edited by Howard Roark; 17 Jun 2004 at 6:47 PM.
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  20. #20

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    I apologize for making a blanket statement, one should always admit exceptions. I am fully aware of the constraints of the process, as determined by economics, but having recently plunged back into the world of plan review, I have to say that I am simply astonished at how many buildings have no relationship whatsoever to their natural or built context. I also note the assumption that I am concerned about how they "look." I don't have much time to worry about that, I'm just worried about how they work.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Lee Nellis
    I also note the assumption that I am concerned about how they "look." I don't have much time to worry about that, I'm just worried about how they work.
    Forgive me if this is completely out of context (it probably is), but I feel the need to say that when things work well, they usually have an appeal to the eye and a good "feel" about them. It is something I have said about GIS/maps before: while the purpose of a map is to convey information effectively and effeciently and how it works should be one's primary concern, a well-designed map will have a certain elegance to it that will generally draw the label of "beautiful" (or some similar label).

    Another example:
    Yesterday, my husband asked my opinion on a website he was working on for a class he is taking. He was very time-pressured so after I made suggestions about layout and font-size, etc, one of his comments to me was that because of the time pressure, "pretty" was going to be the first thing to go. I acknowledged his issue with time-pressure and made it clear that I was not offended if he didn't take any of my suggestions but it wasn't just a matter of 'pretty', it was a navigabibility issue because it was about what the eye goes to first.

    I am not into "art for art's sake", generally speaking. But aesthetics are important to me. Yet, practical considerations often outweigh 'pretty' for me. Nonetheless, I consistently find that things which are well-designed and highly functional have an appeal to the senses, even if they are not highly polished in appearance.

    Not in any way intended as "criticism". My apologies that it is almost certainly OT. :-}

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Howard Roark's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Lee Nellis
    I apologize for making a blanket statement, one should always admit exceptions. I am fully aware of the constraints of the process, as determined by economics, but having recently plunged back into the world of plan review, I have to say that I am simply astonished at how many buildings have no relationship whatsoever to their natural or built context. I also note the assumption that I am concerned about how they "look." I don't have much time to worry about that, I'm just worried about how they work.
    I concur many site plans do not work well w/ surrounding context or even building function. Before i got my masters, I worked as a drone in a large firm that did a lot of spec office buildings and warehouses, site plan and even building layout was generally not part of scope of work, by the time the backgrounds got to us the real estate brokers (who have more power than any other player in the building process, from my experience) had determined building layout (we had to modify it all to meet life safety codes) and the civil engineers had determined the site plan. We were often left to make sure the thing meets welfare and saftey codes, get it through P and Z, and make it look as best we could.

    The architect at fault was my boss at the time who enjoyed his 6 figure income and the relative stress free enviroment that comes with doing said developer work for larger real estate firms, most of the rest of us hated everything we cranked out, though it payed well which is the reason we all held on. There are few jobs at firms that both treat you right, provide a good work enviroment and insist on doing high quality work.
    She has been a bad girl, she is like a chemical, though you try and stop it she is like a narcotic.

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