Landscape Architecture Integrates Man-Made & Natural Environments
From parks to streetscapes, educational campuses, and commercial developments, landscape architecture surrounds us. It integrates the built world into the natural environment, creating unique and inviting spaces with notable benefits including increased aesthetic appeal, stormwater management, and reduced energy costs. As we strive to overcome some of the most significant 21st-century challenges we face, landscape architecture is poised to help provide sustainable, environmental solutions.
Raising Landscape Architecture Awareness
As we honor and celebrate the landscape architecture profession, we’ve asked our landscape architecture team to reflect on career experiences, inspiration, challenges, and more.
How would you describe the role landscape architecture plays in the world around us?
I believe the most important role of landscape architecture is to protect and enhance the aesthetic environment of our outdoor world. — Tim West, PLA, LEED AP, Landscape Architect
With everything going on in our environment including climate change, landscape architecture is critical in helping to counteract these changes. We must focus on sustainability and create more green spaces for communities and future generations to enjoy. — Lara Guldenpfennig, PLA, ASLA, Landscape Architect
We design spaces that influence how people experience places. — Clay Schneckloth, PLA, Landscape Architect
Look around and you will see the impact of the landscape architecture profession. Whether you’ve walked on a trail or attended a concert in a downtown plaza, chances are that a landscape architect played a role in making that area a reality. That is what makes the profession so important to society. — Monte Appelgate, PLA, Senior Project Manager
Landscape architecture is a fairly young profession and I feel many people have little understanding of the scope of our profession. In one day, I may address questions on bridge aesthetic enhancements, community recreation goals, and best management practices for addressing stormwater. Our breadth of work is often much more vast than many realize. We are often challenged to create something visually appealing yet technically sophisticated. We’re also challenged to provide solutions that require a strong understanding of art, architecture, and engineering elements combined with a knowledge of natural and social sciences. — Diane Witt, PLA, Landscape Architect
What is satisfying about being a landscape architect?
I like seeing a project start from an idea and grow into a real space. It’s really satisfying to see a space being used the way you designed it to be after it’s built. — Tim West, PLA, LEED AP, Landscape Architect
Working with great people whether it’s a client, community leader, or co-worker. — Monte Appelgate, PLA, Senior Project Manager
The diversity of projects I have the opportunity to work on and the real impact they can have on the livability of a community. Visiting a finished project and watching people enjoy the place I helped create. — Diane Witt, PLA, Landscape Architect
What challenges do landscape architects face?
There can be short deadlines that are challenging to meet. — Clay Schneckloth, PLA, Landscape Architect
Working with new clients whether it’s a developer or community. Understanding their needs, goals, limitations, and how to best achieve a successful project. — Monte Appelgate, PLA, Senior Project Manager
I think for myself and many designers, an important challenge to overcome is taking yourself out of the design. The most effective design provides solutions for the people most impacted by it. Discovering what your client’s priorities and vision are for a project can sometimes be an unanticipated challenge, especially when multiple individuals or jurisdictions are involved. How will the client or intended user utilize a site? What are the anticipated aesthetic outcomes? What are the client’s budgetary constraints? — Diane Witt, PLA, Landscape Architect
What inspires you about the landscape architecture profession?
I enjoy working on projects with teams of different designers and professionals. I find these teams can challenge you to think differently about your design and how it may be used or an alternative way it can be constructed. I feel like this pushes you to do better in your design work. — Tim West, PLA, LEED AP, Landscape Architect
What inspires me about the projects I work on, is what happens within the space after it is complete. It’s seeing kids on a new playground at their school, or community members of all ages coming together outside and interacting with one another. Having the chance to change the environment for the better inspires me every day. — Lara Guldenpfennig, PLA, ASLA, Landscape Architect
When I look at a new site or project, such as the Northwest River District in Fort Dodge, I enjoy the discovery of each project’s particular needs and how those needs are interconnected to a much broader solution. For example, you can’t revitalize a community by simply adding a park, gateway feature, safer road alignment, or some new architectural or development standards. We have to look at the complexity of how all aspects are interconnected to create a desirable place to live. Many projects also require site visits. Walking around a particular site you’re able to get a better understanding of how the natural and social systems are currently interacting. My ideas often begin to formulate based on observations made during these visits. My work often requires a public engagement process. It’s during this phase that I’m often inspired by those impacted by the project and their vision or passion for addressing particular challenges. The final solution is often a combination of ideas inspired by site visits and what I heard from those impacted by the project. — Diane Witt, PLA, Landscape Architect
What is one landscape architecture project that you’re proud of and why?
One of the projects I’m most proud of is the Edge Residential Development in downtown Des Moines. The project was partially funded by the Iowa Economic Development Authority due to the numerous best management practices we included on the site. These include bio-retention areas, permeable pavers in selected sidewalk locations and within the parking lot, an underground rainwater system that operates the irrigation system, and an above-ground rain barrel in the community garden space that captures roof water. LiveWall systems were installed to provide the residents with more growing space, and the planters were also irrigated from the underground system. The plant palette consisted of all native plantings. — Lara Guldenpfennig, PLA, ASLA, Landscape Architect
I am proud of the Terry Trueblood Recreation Area in Iowa City. We overcame unique challenges and included cool features that turned the park into a community destination. — Clay Schneckloth, PLA, Landscape Architect
This is a tough one. Currently, I’m working on a greenway master plan for Lower Fourmile Creek. It stands out the most because of the sheer scale and number of jurisdictions and stakeholders involved. The current plan includes properties located in Polk County, the City of Pleasant Hill, and the City of Des Moines. The system will allow for the implementation of native vegetation re-establishment, stream restoration, and wetland restoration. The master plan will address these improvements; as well as, potential recreation and education opportunities along approximately 10-miles of the creek and within its 500-year floodplain. The final plan will also include management strategies and budgetary costs. Both a unique component and new challenge of this project is the complexity of GIS data and the large scale of the project site. We chose to utilize a new platform to distribute the final master plan. We will use ESRI’s ArcGIS Online Story Map web application to provide an interactive experience that can be updated as the master plan evolves and is developed. — Diane Witt, PLA, Landscape Architect
What excites you about the future of landscape architecture?
As the world’s resources and open spaces get smaller, landscape architects will need to lead more design teams to minimize environmental impacts and create more efficient outdoor improvements. This will lead to more interest in environmental stewardship and more responsibility in project design. — Tim West, PLA, LEED AP, Landscape Architect
There are so many young, creative minds coming into the profession, and I’m excited to see how they further landscape architecture. Times are changing, and with that, comes new technology and ways to conserve water, protect our streams and rivers, and give communities new ways to get outdoors and experience nature. — Lara Guldenpfennig, PLA, ASLA, Landscape Architect
Seeing more young people getting involved in the profession. Also, the increased respect from clients, city officials, and other design professionals on what landscape architects and their skill set can bring to our built environment. — Monte Appelgate, PLA, Senior Project Manager
What wisdom would you share with someone just entering the landscape architecture profession or interested in pursuing it?
Get out and explore the world around you to experience the environment first-hand. Visit all of your project sites before you start designing them. Often the natural world will help determine what the best design should be. — Tim West, PLA, LEED AP, Landscape Architect
Travel as much as you can; walk the cities that you visit and really get to know them. Ask questions—lots of questions. Once you have an understanding of how a firm operates, ask for more work and be willing to step up to the challenges that come with your projects. See your mistakes as learning experiences, work through them, and understand what went wrong so you can grow professionally from it. — Lara Guldenpfennig, PLA, ASLA, Landscape Architect
There are a wide variety of directions an individual can pursue, as it relates to Landscape Architecture. I would suggest starting your career with an internship to explore the possibilities the profession offers. This will help you determine the areas that you enjoy and are intrigued by the most. Another recommendation I have, if you are thinking about working for a design firm, is to consider a design-build position. They offer great opportunities for hands-on experience in the field. Understanding how things get built is invaluable knowledge to acquire, as it will make you a respected resource. — Clay Schneckloth, PLA, Landscape Architect
Keep an open mind when deciding what path you ultimately take in the profession. There are so many avenues to pursue whether public or private sector or staying within the educational field. Find what inspires you and go for it. — Monte Appelgate, PLA, Senior Project Manager