Next Big Things in Landscape Architecture

ASLA 2016 Student General Design Honor Award. Bendway Park / image: Eric Arneson, Student Affiliate ASLA, Academy of Art University

When we asked Professional Practice Network (PPN) members about the next big thing in landscape architecture, some were too cautious to speculate about the future, answering with “I have no idea,” while others had a decidedly more self-confident answer ready: “Me.” A few members took issue with the question itself, feeling the focus on what’s next to be misguided—the next big thing in landscape architecture is “realizing we shouldn’t be looking for ‘the next big thing’ but should be paying attention to the little things.”

Given that there is so much happening right now that deserves our attention, imagining what the future may have in store is nonetheless an interesting (and pretty fun) exercise. One statement summed up a central theme of the majority of responses: “Landscape Architecture IS the next BIG THING!”

Highlighted below are the key topics that appeared most often, outlining the next big things to look out for in landscape architecture. Keep in mind these responses are from 2015—let us know in the comments what’s come up since then as the latest next big thing.

ASLA 2016 Student Communications Honor Award. Porous Public Space: People + Rainwater + Cities / image: Roxanne Lee, Associate ASLA, and James Wohlers, Student ASLA, University of Washington

Adapting to a Changing Climate & Water Constraints

“Drought tolerance, micro-climate control, climate change mediation.”

“How to design with lack of water in the West.”

“Lawn replacement plantings with native plant material.”

“Managing water resources.”

“Restoration of dysfunctional land caused by human development at an international scale.”

“Xerophytic landscapes and irrigation design—without water conservation within every LA project, our profession is in serious trouble of surviving.”

ASLA 2016 Professional General Design Honor Award. Eco-Corridor Resurrects Former Brownfield, SWA / image: courtesy of Tom Fox

Sustainability, Resiliency, and Beyond

“Bio-retention design.”

“Brownfield Restoration/Redevelopment.”

“Complete multidisciplinary approaches; ecological design as the only option; there is no one size fits all formula.”

“Green infrastructure.”

“Holistic integration of natural systems with the built environment.”

“Integration of sustainability as the ultimate in Historic Preservation.”

“Pervious pavements.”

“Productive landscapes, energy, food, etc.”

“Sustainable carbon neutral replacement for concrete.”

ASLA 2016 Professional Residential Design Honor Award. Chilmark: Embracing a Glacial Moraine, Stephen Stimson Associates Landscape Architects / image: Roger Foley

Back to Nature

“Continuing visibility of improving our connection to nature on every level.”

“I hope, a trend away from trying to grow things on roofs and bridges and vertical trellises. It would be nice to see plants being grown where they don’t need special help. Naturally.”

“Innovative, nature-focused open space design (de-emphasizing man-made materials).”

“Integration and understanding of urban wildlife.”

“Natural planting design ‘patterns’ using combinations of local natives and their cultivars for added color and bloom time. This creates the architectural/organized look that is ongoing currently: visual/ textural planting styles.”

“Natural swimming pools.”

“SOIL! What we do with soil and our understanding of the processes that must take place in that dynamic system is essential to making healthy places and superior performance. Influencing what engineers, architects and contractors do on-site with soil. Every sq inch we affect could help mitigate climate change. The single biggest factor in storing carbon in soil is healthy fungal mass. We should be in the lead on using every site we design as mitigation to control the coming effects of climate change. Resilient Design, Regenerative Design, Performance Design, and Green Infrastructure should all start with understanding soil and how we regain soil health.”

ASLA 2016 Professional Analysis & Planning Award of Excellence. The Copenhagen Cloudburst Formula: A Strategic Process for Planning and Designing Blue-Green Interventions / image: Ramboll and Ramboll Studio Dreiseitl

Landscape Architects as Leaders

“Civilian and municipal recognition of the importance of our contribution.”

“Landscape architects leading real estate and development deals.”

“Landscape architects being more in control of drainage system design.”

“Maybe landscape architects leading city planning at an EcoDistrict scale?”

“Shifting to project lead. Having the architecture follow the site.”

“Taking over urban planning.”

“That landscape architecture might be recognized as the important design profession that it is to help solve our complex and troubling social and environmental problems.”

ASLA 2016 Student Collaboration Honor Award. Seeding Sideyards / image: Carlos Flores, Associate ASLA; Dongying Li, Student ASLA; Fatemeh Saeidi-Rizi, Associate ASLA; Mamata Guragain, Student ASLA; Pongsakorr Suppakittpaisarn, Student ASLA; Xiangrong Jiang, Student ASLA; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Shaping Cities & Strengthening Communities

“Environmental justice—who gets the benefits of our work, who makes decisions with us.”

“I hope it’s infill and densification of cities and spaces….walkability. I live in the Midwest…I want to walk but everything is badly sprawled.”

“I think it is going to continue to be urban design.”

“Infill or redesign of existing high-impact development.”

“Integration of LID and other sustainable principles in urban areas.”

“Landscape architects being advocates for design policies that promote social equity.”

“Large urban parks designed to serve the renewed interest in living in the city rather than the suburbs.”

“Making the most out of smaller urban spaces.”

“Making trashed downtowns liveable again.”

“Neighborhood-centered parks.”

“To design for the 21st century, to do a lot of research about the relationship of landscape architecture, urban design, and humanity. To insert humanity, morality, and righteousness into design works.”

“Urban agriculture, connection to land in urban environment.”

“Urban farming / planting for bumblebees EVERYWHERE.”

“Urban farming that goes beyond “community gardens”—smaller scale farming operations in cities that are easily accessible to all.”

“Urban sketching.”

“Urban streetscapes that include room for tree roots and children’s experiences. Transit stops that are interactive, warm, cool, music, and have charging stations.”

ASLA 2016 Student General Design Honor Award. The Digital & The Wild: Mitigating Wildfire Risk Through Landscape Adaptations / image: Jordan Duke, Student ASLA, University of Toronto

Digital Technology & Metrics

“Analytics of landscapes (i.e. broader use of social and natural science metrics to evaluate the spatial impacts of design).”

“Apps for monitoring, informing, specifying, etc. We’ve barely scratched the surface.”

“Augmented reality.”

“Landscape/engineering/architecture systems integration in 3D design, modeling, and construction.”

“Monitoring landscape sustainability with electronics, just like FitBit for humans.”

“More technology linked to ecological design and solutions.”

“Using 3D technology to authentically depict proposed landscapes and corridors.”

ASLA 2016 Professional Residential Design Honor Award. Water Calculation and Poetic Interpretation, Arterra Landscape Architects / image: Ron Jones

Aesthetic Appeal

“A revival of the beautiful.”

“Aesthetics overcoming strident functionalism.”

“Balancing aesthetics, environment, and ecology.”

“Creating art from pragmatic projects.”

“Becoming less enamored of sexy technology and returning to fundamentals.”

“Using knowledge of ecological strategies and operations to come back to link to the other arts in gorgeous site design.”

“Vernacular, quirky, whimsical gardens are coming back.”

At the start of 2015, a questionnaire was sent out to members of ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs). The theme: creativity and inspired design. As you can imagine, responses were varied, and included many insightful comments and suggestions. Synopses of the survey results were originally shared in LAND over the course of 2015, and we are now re-posting this information here on The Field. For the latest updates on the results of the annual PPN Survey, see LAND’s PPN News section.

4 thoughts on “Next Big Things in Landscape Architecture

  1. Frank Edgerton Martin August 24, 2017 / 10:31 pm

    Completely vacuous as usual. Does anyone on staff at ASLA have any background in the profession? Does any landscape architecture degree program teach critical thinking or value the liberal arts? This dreck is what happens

  2. Renz Path October 25, 2018 / 2:46 am

    I do agree with you that thinking about what the future has for a landscape architecture is an interesting exercise, especially for the landscape architects. In my case thinking how to improve our lawn is what makes me preoccupied most of the time as I was assigned to do that for the lawn we are to renovate next year yet still have no idea until now. Maybe the help of a landscape engineer will save me the trouble of having to worry about that as time is fast approaching.

  3. WATERFORM DESIGN March 3, 2019 / 11:27 pm


    It’s great!! Thanks for sharing such importance information.

  4. March 11, 2022 / 7:33 am

    Thank you so much for the amazing ideas about how to improve architectural plans for landscaping projects. By the way, we are also an affordable landscaping company based in Orleans, ON. You can check our website.

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