High School Architecture Programs Need Landscape Architects

by Barbara Peterson, ASLA

Student final project presentation
Fourth-year student final project presentation in front of design professionals, former program students, and fellow classmates. / image: Chris Carson

When did you first hear about landscape architecture? Was it before, during, or after college?

When I asked fellow landscape architects that question, their answer was frequently while in college, often in an architecture program, or after they had graduated with a degree in business, finance, horticulture, art, interior design, or, like me, biomedical science. But their common interests included art, nature, the outdoors, working with their hands, and creating things. So, why didn’t someone suggest landscape architecture before they went to college?

Perhaps because most people don’t understand what a landscape architect is or does: landscaper—yes; but landscape architect—no. Participation in workshops, summer programs, and the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) Landscape Architecture Merit Badge help spread the word to youth, but what about high school architectural design programs?

Wait…you didn’t know that some school districts offer architecture as part of their high school curriculum? I had no idea either, until flipping through a course catalogue with my son when he entered the ninth grade. He liked architecture and wanted to try the program to be sure.

The four-year program is taught by a registered architect. Students from the district’s five high school campuses are bussed to a central Career Center for a half-day, studio-style class. They learn drafting, hand-lettering, sketching, AutoCAD, Revit, and SketchUp; make cardboard, basswood, and 3D models; and research, design, and learn critical thinking. Projects focus on architecture but each has a landscape design and, sometimes, a planning component.

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