Bringing Landscape Architecture to New Places

by Arnaldo D. Cardona, ASLA

ASLA 2011 Professional General Design Honor Award. Manassas Park Elementary School Landscape. Manassas Park, Virginia. Siteworks. / image: Siteworks

The term “landscape architecture” can be associated with many fields, like construction, design, horticulture, etc. Finding books about architecture and landscape architecture in college libraries that have programs in architecture, landscape architecture, or even engineering will be the most logical place to look. However, can you find books related to landscape architecture in college libraries related to medicine, journalism, law, business, pharmacy, human resources, or education? How can landscape architecture be in places where it was not before?

Let me share my personal experience. I had the joy of writing two books: K-12 Landscape Architecture Education (2021) and K-12 Architecture Education (2022). These books are interdisciplinary STEAM curriculum guides that put architecture and landscape architecture at the center of curricula. Beyond presenting landscape architecture as a design profession, it presents our profession as:

  1. a problem-solving method,
  2. an ideal theme for interdisciplinary curriculum design, and
  3. an educational term defining “landscape architecture education” as a field of study that looks at the applications, behaviors, and cognitive gains that students can develop through the landscape architecture design process.

With these books, now part of the Teachers College Library, Columbia University, educators will be able to see landscape architecture as an ideal medium for curriculum design and instruction. Currently, there is a big trend in the pedagogical field in the areas of design education, STEAM education, and environmental education; now, K-12 educators and ASLA members will have a comprehensive interdisciplinary curriculum to develop these educational programs.

Presenting my journey as the author of K-12 Landscape Architecture at Teachers College, Columbia University, in New York City. / image: Dale Davis

On October 13, 2023, Columbia University’s Teachers College invited me to share my journey in publishing these two books. I had the opportunity to highlight the importance of landscape architecture to the educational world. I shared how these interdisciplinary K-12 STEM curricula put landscape architecture at the center of the curricula and present pedagogical definitions of educational terms not identified before. They also present landscape architecture as not just a profession but as a problem-solving method as well.

Last fall, the director of Teachers College Library invited me to do a talk about my K-12 landscape architecture book. During this book talk, I found out from some attendees that it is currently being implemented in Dubai, Hong Kong, in other parts of the nation and close to home (Chesterfield County, Virginia). As an ASLA member, with the mission to inspire the next generation of landscape architects, I felt honored that the term “landscape architecture” is present in fields where it was not before. Attempts to reach K-12 audiences have been done but usually as project-based activities; now, with my book, landscape architecture can be seen as a field of study that promotes interdisciplinary, critical thinking and cognitive skills.

I am a believer in diversifying the profession. That is why even though I hold degrees in Landscape Architecture and Environmental Design I am also proud to have won graduate scholarships in the fields of Art Education and Special Education. I am always trying to support scholars so that they see landscape architecture as an art discipline. By doing this, it opens the possibility of creating grants that promote STEAM and K-12 programs in landscape architecture.

It is my hope that my contribution to the field of landscape architecture can be seen as more than just as a designer of landscapes but also as a designer of landscapes of knowledge, curricula, and interdisciplinary learning experiences for K-12 and college students that will broaden the pathways of the landscape architecture profession.

Presenting landscape architecture as an ideal theme for interdisciplinary curriculum design and as a problem-solving method. / image: Dale Davis

I hope that sharing this event will inspire other ASLA members to continue believing in the importance of education in the growth of landscape architecture as an interdisciplinary cognitive field.

See the ASLA website for more on career discovery and tools for teachers. This related education session from the ASLA 2023 Conference on Landscape Architecture is also available via ASLA Online Learning:

Learning with the Land: A Case for Public Landscape Curricula – 1.5 PDH (LA CES/HSW)

Drawing parallels between two case studies in curriculum development in Memphis and New York City, this panel will discuss the benefits of forming educational partnerships to drive long-term social resilience in the communities where we design, work, and build, making a broader case for public landscape curricula.

Arnaldo D. Cardona, ASLA, is a retired landscape architect and educator, and has served on ASLA’s Committee on Education.

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