written by:
May 26, 2009
Originally published in Before & After

The profession of landscape architecture is very much rooted in the European tradition of garden design, and it didn’t germinate as a distinct profession in the United States until the 19th century.

Illustrations of a California-style residential landscape design (left), and a 13th century Mudéjar-style estate garden (right).
Illustrations of a California-style residential landscape design (left), and a 13th century Mudéjar-style estate garden (right).
Illustrations of a California-style residential landscape design (left), and a 13th century Mudéjar-style estate garden (right).
Illustrations of a California-style residential landscape design (left), and a 13th century Mudéjar-style estate garden (right).

In conjunction with the field of urban planning, designers 
like Frederick Law Olmsted set out to shape the municipal American landscape alongside garden designers such as Beatrix Jones Farrand (the niece of the great American novelist 
Edith Wharton) and Warren H. Manning. These designers, among 
others, had a hand in designing many of the great estate gardens throughout 
the country. Farrand was the only woman among the 11 founding members of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). In 1899, the group set out to “establish landscape architecture as a recognized profession in North America, develop educational studies in landscape 
architecture, [and] provide a voice 
of authority in the ‘New Profession.’”

As the landscape architect Thomas Dolliver Church explains in his book Gardens Are for People: “The Columbian Exposition in 1893 ushered in the greatest wave of ‘copyism’ since England discovered Palladio.…While this resulted in some fine reproductions of old-world gardens, it proved the hollowness of imitation without reason.” Church, who created some 
of the most iconic California-style 
domestic landscapes of the 20th 
century, stated that what was needed was for “modern” to be “revived as 
an honest word”—–that designers must “realize that modernism is not a goal but a broad highway.” This, of course, is true for any medium, but perhaps particularly so for one that deals so directly with our surrounding environment and our public spaces.

Today’s landscape architect or 
designer must work within a number of social and climatic parameters. The disappearance of natural and rural space—–not to mention environmental imperatives stemming from climate change—–are shaping the field 
dramatically and encouraging practi-
tioners to do more than simply create 
aesthetically pleasing landscapes. 
Most contemporary practices do a combination of public and private design as well as large-scale restoration and redevelopment projects. No matter the scale, the process always involves organizing and shaping a landscape for a desired effect and function. Incorporating elements of spatial division through fencing, planar manipulation, built-in seating, water features, and hardscaping allows land-
scape architects and designers to 
create more fluid spaces. Today, most trained practitioners are well versed 
in sustainable applications and are able to create environmentally sensitive landscapes through xeriscaping (drought-tolerant planting), native planting, smart irrigation, and the 
incorporation of green roofs.

Though domestic landscapes may not possess the grandeur of some large-scale corporate and municipal commissions, they serve as a succinct encapsulation of how a landscape 
architect works. A successfully designed 
landscape will not only be more useful, it will also be more beautiful.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

45 dva 2270 persp1 cmyk 0
The prospect of retirement doesn’t just signal the end of a career; it offers the chance to recalibrate and re-prioritize in life.
July 25, 2016
You don’t have to choose between sustainable energy and curb appeal.
July 19, 2016
jakemagnus queensland 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
July 06, 2016
content delzresidence 013 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 29, 2016
abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016