The Growing Importance of Landscape Architecture

If you thought we’d been talking about landscape starchitect Michael Van Valkenburgh a lot lately (and making up the new phrase “landscape starchitect”), what with his being a lead in both the St. Louis Arch re-do shortlist and the much-talked about new Brooklyn Bridge Park, winning an American Academy Arts and Letters Award, and designing the grounds for the George W. Bush Presidential Center, well, it’s because we have been. And the Boston Globe makes the case that that’s because, thanks to a heightened awareness of (and concern over) environmental issues and public space, landscape architecture is moving beyond its perceived function of just putting in the hedgerows and making sure the right kind of grass is put in, and into more of a central, important role when it comes to new projects. And at the forefront is Van Valkenburgh’s own part-time employer, Harvard, whose Graduate School of Design has been pushing for this particular type of ecologically-based architecture to expand. So if you’re a youngster thinking about a career in architecture, maybe that’s the most promising route. For us oldsters, it’ll be interesting to see how the field grows.

“There’s an increasing sense that landscape architects are really able to better manage complex urban change over time” than people in other professions, [department head Charles Waldheim] said. Landscape architecture “now ends up being a place where the arts, questions of urbanism, and questions of ecology can connect.”