“Wow, interesting. So, what exactly do you do as a landscape architect?”
This is the most common question I’m asked when I meet someone outside the architectural field. I’m never really sure how to satisfyingly answer this question (and apparently I’m not alone), since our work is multidisciplinary, and touches upon so many parts of everyone’s daily life (even if they don’t know it). Explaining the entirety of our expertise can be confusing for the layman. Sometimes it is more simple to show, rather than tell: a decorative garden, the tree-lined streets following the sidewalk, a public park, or even a college campus. Since an overhead perspective is rare, most of the time the general public will only notice a small portion of a landscape architect’s vision, but landscape architecture is all around us.
So, back to the question of, “who we are and what do we do?”.
The ASLA‘s definition – as my colleague Gary Lai noted – states our profession of 22,500 professionals in the United States has “a significant impact on communities and quality of life”, and that as a whole, “Landscape architecture services in the U.S. are valued at $2.3 billion per year, according to the National Endowment for the Arts.”
The latest data, which cover up to 2012, show landscape architecture services accounted for 14 percent of total architectural services. Residential design is the largest market sector. Most of that work consists of single-family homes, but also includes multi-family and retirement communities.
Back when I was in college I never expected I would have such trouble explaining what I was studying so hard to become, but maybe that is because what I do is not just one thing, but many.