The Landscape Guide

Landscape Institute LI

The Landscape Institute is the professional organisation for UK landscape architecture, equivalent to the Law Society for the legal profession and the RIBA for the architecture profession (see LI official website). The Landscape Institute upholds standards, oversees the qualifications of new landscape architects and promotes the landscape architecture profession.

History of the Landscape Institute

The Landscape Institute was founded in 1929 as the Institute of Landscape Architects (ILA). At first, the idea was to establish a British Association of Garden Architects with Thomas Mawson as first president. But Mawson had worked with Patrick Geddes and had undertaken work in North America, as had Thomas Adams. Anticipating the coming change from private patronage (of garden design) to public patronage (of town planning, urban design and the creation of other places with public access) Mawson recommended the change of emphasis from garden design to landscape architecture.

Changes to the Landscape Institute

The change from Institute of Landscape Architects (ILA) to Landscape Institute (LI) was made in the 1970s and divisions were created for landscape designers, landscape managers and landscape scientists. One disadvantage of this change was that no divisions were created for what proved to be the profession's major growth areas: landscape planning, urban design, environmental assessment and garden design. The Landscape Institute was granted a Royal Charter in 1997.

Criticism of the Landscape Institute

Although the workload of landscape architects has seen rapid growth and the LI has shown flexibility in changing its emphasis there are some concerns. Critics have suggested that:

  • changes to the name and divisional structure hint at a lack of clarity as to the Landscape Institute's aims and objectives
  • consequent upon the lack of clarity, the Landscape Institute has been less active than it might have been in making policy statements on matters relating to landscape planning, urban design, environmental assessment, sustainable design and garden design

The best solution is probably to treat 'landscape architect' as a generic title, like 'doctor' or 'lawyer' and then to promote alternative professional titles (parallel to barrister, coronor, surgeon, GP etc) which would include: landscape designer, landscape planner, garden designer, landscape assessor, urban landscape designer, landscape manager etc. They should be promoted as titles in the first instance and then, if it becomes necessary, as secondary qualifications. As with the law and medicine, practitioners would require a common basic qualification - which would also allow for specialisation choices.

See also