An Introduction to Landscape Architecture

A Landscape Architect at Sebago Technics working on site design and layout for a project.
A Landscape Architect at Sebago Technics working on site design and layout for a project.

What a Landscape Architect Does

Landscape Architects are licensed design professionals, similar to engineers and architects, who work in the private and public sectors to plan, design, and preserve built and natural landscapes. Their education and experience provide the ability to design incredibly diverse types of projects such as:

  • residential landscape design;
  • public parks and trail systems;
  • school and corporate campuses;
  • commercial and industrial developments; 
  • residential and mixed-use neighborhoods; 
  • streetscape and complete street planning; 
  • scenic inventories and open space planning; 
  • green infrastructure such as solar fields;
  • and stormwater management systems. 

Landscape architects often collaborate with numerous allied professionals such as surveyors, wetland and soil scientists, civil and transportation engineers, architects, and urban designers.

Morse High School – Bath, Maine

Where Landscape Architects Work

In Maine, Landscape Architects can be found in the public sector working for city and town planning and parks departments, regional planning authorities, the Maine Department of Transportation, and the National Park Service. However, most landscape architects work in private consulting firms or multi-disciplinary firms such as Sebago Technics, Inc. 

Scarborough Public Safety – Scarborough, Maine
Scarborough Public Safety – Scarborough, Maine

Where the Term “Landscape Architect” Originates

The term “Landscape Architecture” was first used in the winning entry for Central Park’s design in New York City by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in 1863. Olmsted and Vaux used the term to describe the combination of sculpting landforms, water bodies, and plantings for both aesthetic and engineering functions while also thoughtfully integrating structures and pavement to provide social, emotional, and physical health opportunities for people. Olmsted and his firm also designed numerous prominent Maine landscapes, including Portland’s Eastern and Western Promenades, the governor’s mansion, State House and Capitol Park in Augusta, and the motor roads of Acadia National Park. Arguably, the profession’s routes stretch back to ancient times, but there isn’t enough time for a proper history lesson!

Bowdoin College – Schiller Center for Coastal Studies – Brunswick, Maine
Bowdoin College – Schiller Center for Coastal Studies – Brunswick, Maine

Landscape Architecture Education

To become a licensed landscape architect, a candidate typically attends a four- or five-year accredited landscape architectural program and then completes the necessary work experience under a licensed Landscape Architect. There are 72 Accredited Landscape Architectural programs in the US, the closest to Maine being the Boston Architectural College, Harvard Graduate School of Design, University of Massachusetts Amherst, and the University of Rhode Island. Pathways for licensure also exist for candidates who receive a degree in architecture or civil engineering from an accredited program. Landscape architecture programs prepare students with a curriculum focusing on graphic/visual communication, advanced design methods integrating cultural and natural systems, landscape history and theory, ecology and horticulture, construction and engineering technology, urban and regional planning, and professional practice. 

landscape architecture

Landscape Architecture Licensing 

After graduation, a candidate must typically complete two to five years of diversified landscape architecture work experience. Upon completing the education and experience requirements, candidates take the Landscape Architecture Registration Examination (LARE). The LARE includes four parts and tests the candidate’s knowledge in project and construction management, understanding site inventory, analysis, design process, grading, drainage, and construction documentation. Passing the LARE ensures the candidates possess sufficient knowledge, skills, and abilities to provide landscape architectural services without endangering the public’s health, safety, and welfare. Once licensed, a candidate can practice and call themselves a Landscape Architect!

Boothbay Harbor Country Club – Boothbay, Maine
Boothbay Harbor Country Club – Boothbay, Maine

This has been a brief introduction to Landscape Architecture authored by Amy Bell Segal, RLA, Senior Landscape Architect/Senior Project Manager, Sebago Technics, Inc. If you want to learn more about Sebago Technics Landscape Architecture services, please contact Amy or our other landscape architecture professionals at (207) 200-2100.

Congregation Bet Ha’am – South Portland, Maine