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Thread: Planning vs landscape architecture

  1. #1

    Planning vs landscape architecture

    I'm planning to attend graduate school in either planning or landscape architecture. I'm trying to decide between the two. The sources I've found seem to describe each field at its most conventional, but I know that especially in relation to environmental planning, they tend to overlap.

    I'm most interested in helping small communities integrate with their natural environment, especially in developing areas. I'd like to have the skills to do the design/planning side, but I'm also really interested in helping communities begin using appropriate technology (like constructed wetlands to filter sewage, rather than, say, dumping it in the river).

    Anyone have input on which field is more appropriate, good graduate programs, or helpful sources of information?

    Thank you,

    Carey Knecht

  2. #2
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
    Feb 1998
    Greensburg, Kansas
    Find a way to do both. If you have a solid goal, it can be attained. Many graduate programs offer dual degrees. It may take some additional time, but a good goal is worth the effort. You didn't mention your undergrad training. A BS in landscape architecture and M in planning could serve you well.

  3. #3
    Nov 2004
    Washington, DC
    I must agree with doing both! It took me an extra year, but it was well worth it. Even if there is no formal joint planning-la programme established, it can still be done.

    If you want more details on my experience, feel free to send me an email.

  4. #4

    May 1997
    Williston, VT
    There are landscape architecture programs which provide a good background in environmental planning as well. I recommend you take a look at Utah State University's program in Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning. Many USU graduates work in less than conventional aspects of landscape arch or in planning.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
    Aug 2001
    The Cheese State
    The UW-Madison has a joint M.S. degree program between Urban & Regional Planning and Landscape Architecture. (I'm sure there are others, too, but like to plug Wisconsin.) Your topic of integrating the natural into the built environment is my interest as well.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  6. #6
    I would love to hear about the experiences of people who combined the two programs or found an program that was somewhere in the middle, especially one with emphasis on environmental issues.

    I have to admit, my idea of the difference between the two is still a little hazy. At first I thought the difference was just one of scale. Now my impression is that planning is more about planning over a period of time, dealing mostly with policy and regulations, while LA is more time-static, spatial, and hands-on. Does that sound like I have the right idea?

    I'm going to check out UW and USU, and any other suggestions like those would be definitely appreciated.

    The update is that I got into UC Berkeley, in the Planning Dept. (It was the only place I applied this year, since I started the process very late.)

    Berkeley will be a tough school to do the dual program at. They say they won't let you do a dual masters unless your undergrad study was in one or the other. So, now I have to decide whether I can address my interest well enough through this single department, or whether I should wait one more year.

    Thanks for all your help.


  7. #7
    Berkeley is the number one planning school in the nation. People will disagree with me, but every PHD wants to teach there, it is the most difficult to get into, the students have the highest test scores, gpa's, much modern planning theory was based there. (P.S. I have absolutely no affiliation with the school.) You could do much much worst. Since the Planning school is integrated with the Arch school, you probably can take landscape arch classes too. Afterwards you can always get a degree in landscape architecture if you are not satified with the planning degree. Plus its relatively cheap so your career decisions won't have to be influenced only by financial concerns.

  8. #8
    Most Masters planning programs are very theoretical and really do not give you skills for assisting communities in the areas on which you are focused. Most MLA are much more skill oriented. If you ever intent to form your own consulting firm, I would recommend an MLA with a minor in business. I wish I had done that instead of an MUP with no business training.

  9. #9
    Feb 2002
    BC, Canada
    I am a registerred as both a professional landscape architect and a planner. I was an LA first. The main thing that I found that has stood me in good stead is the design knowledge from LA.

    In LA you learn how to think in a nonlinear way and how to carry out a process from beginning to end.

    One of the big laments I hear from planners is that they learn the nuts and bolts of a linear process but don't have a "feel" for process. They lack that intuitive understanding of the options of what you can do with what you know in order to get to an end. How do you design a process that will work in a given situation? How do you adjust a process in response to the information attained through the process itself (an integral part of design thinking)? How do you determine how to word a question you will ask the public? I guess that all sounds a bit nebulous. LA teaches how to design and how to think in a nonlinear way. It isn't the fact that you will learn, for example, how to design a trail system in consideration of environmental factors that is important. The important thing that you will learn from LA is how to design period. That way of thinking will give you a real boost as a planner. If there is one thing that LA's are comfortable with its "process".

    I would, however, not get an LA degree alone. I would get a planning degree with an LA component. The harsh reality is that more people in the real world recognize and see value in a planning degree than an LA degree. If planning is an undervalued profession I would say that LA is even more so. Some people out there might disagree but I think more doors will be open for you as a planner than an LA.

    It also depends on what you want to do. If you want to do hard design on the ground then go for LA. Planners generally are ...how do I say this... about one or two design steps away from the hands on of actually designing the site. A planner might help determine why, where and perhaps how a site (or larger area) is developed but it is more likely an LA will actually determine what that site will look like. What is a better way to say this? Hmmmm. It is a difference in scale and level of detail.

  10. #10
    You ARE your education. Planning or L.A., it doesn't really matter. Read. Read the classics, read Mumford, Unwin, Wright, read Corbusier,Alexander and Doxiodus...read new stuff, old stuff and understand what worked and what didn't.

    And then be aggressive. Don't settle for a position as a zoning technician or in a design firm, listing plant species. Find a job that integrates and go for it. My city, as well as most cities, would beg for that knowledge. As a planning director, I am tired of landscape architects who only want to design parks and planners who only want to catch the loophole that an applicant is seeking.

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