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Thread: Architecture vs landscape architecture

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Architecture vs landscape architecture

    Hey guys,

    How would architecture be different from landscape architecture in preparing me in the practice of urban design?

    I see many arch and landscape architecture programs both offer courses in urban design, how are they different?

    thanks

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    Architecture is going to give you a more technical understanding of buildings (walls, ventilation systems, construction, etc.) compared to landscape architects; LA will give you a stronger understanding of plant material.

    IMO, the following types of professionals are most capable of urban design projects (with particular emphasis on construction documentation and administration):

    1. Architects
    2. Landscape architects
    3. Planners specializing in site design
    4. Other planners (current, long range, transportation, etc.)
    5. Everyone else.

    In practice, it is far easier to architects to learn and practice landscape architecture and planning than LA's and planners. LA's reach a limit on what they can do on architecture projects because they lack the technical coursework on buildings. Architects just have to learn how to use plant material.

    I also think it is far easier for landscape architects to practice planning than it is for planners to practice landscape architecture. LA's still have a high level of technical experience in site design and can pick up a lot of important aspects of planning by observation or reading books. Planners reach a limit on what they can do on landscape architecture and a much bigger limit on what they can do in architecture because of a huge disparity in the level of technical skill.

    Let's focus on one type of urban design: streetscapes. Architects wil probably focus on the micro aspects of the design, with emphasis on the buildings. LA's will also focus on the micro aspects of the design (pavers, benches, landscaping, lighting). LA's are also more likely to focus on the overall design (the several blocks/miles of the overall project site). This is not set in stone, however, and there may be a lot of overlap between the two.

    Hope this helps-
    Last edited by nrschmid; 02 May 2007 at 4:28 PM. Reason: forgot stuff

  3. #3
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    In addressing the design of PUBLIC space, I would say that the Landscape Architects are staging something of a silent coup. In fact, I would suggest that traditional architecture disciplines are having a hard time defending and expanding their niche as urban designers. These days, Landscape Architecture degrees cover a lot more than plant material. Here at UNM they get a strong background in building materials, public space design principles, budgeting for large projects and so on. They end up designing a lot of parks, public squares, plazas, streetscapes, etc. These are things that, at least in my neck of the woods, provide more job opportunities than designing buildings which, depending on what you are dealing with, may not require hiring a regular architect. Architects have historically been more focused on the buildings themselves and the degree to which their communication with surrounding forms help to establish good places for the public. That being said, there are many great public space deisgners that are architects, so I don't mean to be knocking them. Hey, some of my best friends are architects...(4, to be precise)

    If that all makes any sense...
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    I agree with that. I tried to carefully word my first sentence (I guess it was overlooked)...

    Architecture is going to give you a more technical understanding of buildings (walls, ventilation systems, construction, etc.) compared to landscape architects; LA will give you a stronger understanding of plant material [compared to architects]

    I didn't mean that LA's only work with plant material, if anything they are diversifying the types of projects, but I think there are limits to what landscape architects can do. Architects and project engineers (PE's) have similarities but both of those disciplines also have limitations.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Just remember....

    As a planner, I've never had to "practice" architecture or landscape architecture to justify my redlines on their plans I let the code do my talking, and when we're talking about PUD's, let the red ink FLOW
    I've never met a chief building official with a degree in architecture, or even heard of one....hmm...... This is just a plug fro public sector grunts like me

    I see all of these professions as related and on the same level. Then again, I'm still a little idealistic and Kum Ba YAish in my outlook.... I only bleed on their plans when #1 there is a problem with a code, #2 I think I have something to contribute towards the design or #3 someone else brings a problem to my attention....engineers, contractors or park horticulturalist.

    Of the two choices and since you didn't mention Planning I would only say that Landscape Architects do seem to be able to adapt to LEED and Comprehensive Planning ideals a little easier than traditional frumpy architects. I remember in grad school there being very little or almost NO interaction between the architect students/faculty and planning classes, but at the same time a big interaction between landscape architects/faculty and planning classes. Obviously a dated qualitative view, but one that I found very interesting anyway The other qualitative observation I had in school was the amount of time those people spent hunched over a model....kinda gives the impression of a narrowly focused study
    Skilled Adoxographer

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    The One, I think you brought up a lot of good points regarding comprehensive planning and code enforcement, but i thought the original question was asked regarding urban design. I think bozerwong was on the money asking about architecture and landscape architecture programs focusing on urban design.

    Based on my experience, LA's work more closely with planners, considering both are more likely to colloborate on larger scale projects.

    However, I think many of us planners are far too idealistic in assuming we can do every type of task. In reality, our planning education puts limitations on what we can and cannot do on the job. Students really do not know this until they have been practicing as planners. The majority of planners do NOT have the technical background to design the foundation of a building, how to design a parking lot, or which native plantings to use in a wet bottom detention basin. We compensate for this lack of coursework by time on the job and interacting with specialists (architects, landscape architects, wetland scientists, etc.). Planning schools in the US are slowly starting to fuse the disciplines together (architecture, planning, landscape architecture, etc.) into a more well-rounded, design-heavy planning degree or a separate urban design degree (see earlier posts).

    You can learn planning from osmosis: anyone can learn planning by reading some books (carefully chosen ones, of course), sitting in on meetings, and discussing these issues with planners. These are the opinions I have gathered from architects and landscape architects, and even as a planner I see a high degree of validity in this perspective.

    You canNOT learn architecture and landscape architecture from osmosis. Both fields require practice and constant redlining from professors and supervisors. It requires years of dilligent practice to refine these skills: how to draw well, how to communicate effectively through graphics, how to see a project built from beginning to end, how to understand bearings, loads, pressure, jousts, vendors, etc. All of these are skills that cannot be learned in a book.

    Until the planning, landscape architecture, and architecture professions allow more flexibility in who completes what on a given design project, planners come third in terms of the flexibility of required job tasks.

  7. #7
    BANNED
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    Ne plus ultra

    Quote Originally posted by bozerwong View post
    Hey guys,

    How would architecture be different from landscape architecture in preparing me in the practice of urban design?

    I see many arch and landscape architecture programs both offer courses in urban design, how are they different?

    thanks
    I would say LA's represent the ne plus ultra of Urban and Regional Planning - e.g., see Ian McHarg, Garrick Ekbo, etc. http://www.upenn.edu/gazette/0501/mcharg.html

    Frank Lloyd Wright's Broadacre City is an example of the combined skills of an LA, a Civil Engineer and an Urban Designer. The book about it, The Living City is catalogued in Libraries as Landscape Architecture - http://catalog.loc.gov/cgi-bin/Pwebr...03110857&SID=1

    I would say Urban Design seeks to extend the skill and discipline of the Building Designer AKA Architect (as coordinator of the building process) into the field of City Planning - for example, see Jonathan Barnett - http://www.tulsaarchitecture.com/Next100Barnett.htm
    Last edited by bud; 03 May 2007 at 11:11 AM.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    Abuse of the phrase "urban design"

    IMO, urban design is a specific type of site design focusing on public spaces: streetscapes, plazas, squares/circles, quads, boulevards, pedestrian malls, some types of non-recreational parks,etc. I think this can be separated from other types of site design such as PUDs, residential subdivisions, non-residential site planning, etc.

    However, the term has never had a universally accepted definition, which has led to multiple interpretations ranging from residential subdivision design (think of how many communities and consulting firms use images of residential developments as a backdrop for urban design) to land use planning (the general arrangement of land uses as in a neighborhood plan or comprehensive plan) to design theory (Keven Lynch, et.all).

    As I begin to look for high quality urban design and LA programs for graduate school, I am noticing that many programs promote an urban design. After scouring the course catalogs and course websites, the majority of them focus much more on theory or the study of urban design and physical site design, rather than getting into the nitty-gritty of actual design of public places.

    Going back to the original question, I think a key to finding a good urban design program is to carefully research the course offerings (not just reading the 1 paragraph abstract which can often be biased) but reading through the syllabus (or requesting one if it is not available online), searching through past projects (many courses will have archives of this), as well as striking up a conversation with the professor over e-mail. This approach, although more-time consuming, will work with any type of field of study, and will help potential students understand what to expect day-to-day in each course. If the professor does not dive into urban design issues (grading, building materials, hardscapes, etc.) but does more conceptual work (arrangment of land uses, FARs, etc.) then you will know that the course is more conceptual, so you cannot expect very technical teachings.

    Hope this helps-

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    very helpful information.

    thanks guys!

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