The Landscape Guide

Landscape architecture careers

The landscape architecture and garden design professions require an ability to compose with landform, water, vegetation, buildings and paving. This requires a blend of technical, artistic and professional skills. There are many routes to the acquisition of these skills, and many fields in which they can find employment. The following syllabus dates back 2,000 years.

The classical syllabus

Vitruvius Pollio, who wrote the first western treatise on landscape architecture, architecture and engineering, gave excellent advice on education.

  1. Students must be both naturally gifted and amenable to instruction. Neither natural ability without instruction nor instruction without natural ability can make the perfect artist.
  2. Designers must have wide knowledge.
  3. Knowledge is the child of practice and theory.
  4. Manual skill must be combined with scholarship.
  5. Practice is the continuous and regular exercise of employment where manual work is done according to drawings
  6. Designers must be educated, skilful with the pencil, instructed in geometry, know much history, have followed the philosophers with attention, understand music, have some knowledge of medicine, know the opinions of the jurists, and be acquainted with astronomy and the theory of the heavens.

Comparing the above with a design education in the twenty-first century, we can note that (1) Points 1 to 4 are as true  now as they have always been (2) Point 5 is accepted by wise students but only sometimes forms part of the wisdom of design schools and professional bodies (3) Re point 6, it is regrettable that philosophy, music, medicine and astronomy have dropped off the list. If landscape architecture is defined (see note on definitions) as 'the art of composing landform, vegetation, buildings, water and paving', then its principles are set forth in the first of Vitruvius' Ten Books. The art of 'relating architecture to landscape' is the exact sense for which the term landscape architecture was created.

The Tower of the Winds
(in Athens) is one of the
few buildings mentioned
by Vitruvius which
survives. It was useful
(giving information on
wind and sun), beautiful
and technically robust: a
model of the Vitruvian
design principles.