How about we start off this article by acknowledging that the topic initially was ‘How to get a good salary as a landscape architect’, but, I believe strongly that to be a successful one, you need to be a good one. So this piece states out ways in which you can approach the field, so you can soar.  Although, many of us directly dive at the conclusion that landscape architects may just be wandering hippies advocating for plants. Your local search engines might define them as a person who designs outdoor environments, especially harmonizing parks or gardens with buildings and roads.

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Vietnam Veterans Memorial ( source: Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund)

While you may or may not agree, for the purpose of this article let us say that both those definitions are quite far from it. A landscape architect may just be an integral part of a large urban cosmos. They are responsible to ideate on and resolve greater issues involving social settings as well as public behavior. On the surface level, we may identify them with communal areas induced in soft and hardscape. But best believe that your local hideout, where you and your friends kick back and grab beers away from the hawk eyes of the hostel warden, may just be designed into your campus by a landscape architect who needed just that when she was on her way to graduate.

In short, landscape architecture is a serious business involving a high amount of skill and precision. It is a specialized field wherein the architect needs to know plants, yes. But also understand in-depth materiality as well as the psychology of site specific society. The field of landscape engulfs both, hardscape as well as softscape. Softscape is the live horticulture part of the landscape, whereas hardscape includes the paving, walls, pathways, and so on. They are more inclined towards the man-made aspects of landscaping.

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Dublin Dockland’s; credit: Martha Schwartz Partners (source:
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Just as you see in the above photograph showcasing the Grand Canal Square at Dublin Docklands by Martha Schwartz and Partners. Martha Schwartz is an American landscape architect who has works all around the world, both art and architecture related. Some of the biggest ones include Sowwah Square (2012, Abu Dhabi, UAE), Gifu Kitagata Gardens (2000, Kitagata, Japan), Beiqijia Technology Business District and Fanqe Road in Beijing, China (2016, 2014).

As much as the ouroboric process is the same as every design iteration i.e define the problem, collect information, analyze and ideate, develop solutions followed by feedback and improvement. We have decided to outline 10 skills which we think may be important for landscape architects to be well-rounded professionals. Some may be generic to designers, some quite obvious but rest assured landscape architects need an extra special factor added to these skills to succeed in the market.

1. Know your flora and fauna (YES! Fauna.)

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Since most of your career would now be dependent on plants and their species, you have to know them inside out. What they are called, generic and scientific names, what soil do they grow in best, nutrient requirement, special characteristics, and so on. For instance, some trees attract migratory birds which may be loud visually as well as sonically. These trees may be perfect if you are designing a bird sanctuary with the local government but not the best trees to keep a dog’s kennel in shade. Can you imagine the brawl between the two while you are trying to catch up with a Sunday siesta?

2. Know your history

A wise man learns from the mistakes of the past. The past has many hidden secrets; when analyzed you come across so many technological advancements that have their roots dug up sometime in the past.

The ancient landscape depicted on a papyrus (source:

Similarly, landscape architecture as a profound master’s course may be fresh. But castles, mansions, and other places of the elite were known to have been adorned with lavish gardens. Some of the important ones to study would be the ancient gardens of Japan, Mughal, Egyptian, French, and even the English gardens. One can see a whole range of symmetrical gardens pitted against asymmetrical ones. With a variety of structured layouts and injected with symbolism, ancient gardens could very well be an eye-opener to the ones interested in the field.


3. Providing for emotions and memories

Hidden in everyday situations, unnoticed in routine, lie instances of the design seen by few. Ever noticed your local park furniture used by the homeless to sleep? Or seen in what different ways is a playground jungle gym used? Are school kids playing on it, is a teenager sitting there with her partner, is a boy with big glasses reading a star trek comic, or is it just abandoned altogether?

The public realm, which is a dominant sphere for landscape architects, is responsible for weaving together everyday life and related nostalgia. This means you, as a landscape architect are a designer of not just objects but also cultivate space for emotions and memories.


4. Internalize the context

Context is everything. What surrounds your site should be scanned, packed, gulped, and internalized by you. It is only then should you start the design process; resultant being a response to whatever that is which can be influenced by the site. This includes factors such as connectivity, climatic conditions, conditions, falling of shadows, cultural values, and so on.

Observe, observe, observe. Your design should be a ‘humane’ centric one since firstly, you are expected to be humane as a designer. Second, so is your client and lastly but most importantly, so are your users. Yes, humane, not human. This is not your usual typo.

We have probably heard of human-centric, but what is ‘humane’ design. Humane design is a sensible design that pays attention to detail, allows niches for critical thinking while keeping in mind basic human behavior, for instance, their behavioral patterns.

Note that vehicles are not humane and your landscape shouldn’t be putting them first while designing.

(source: wiseGEEK )

5. Communication is key

Ideal design, everything mentioned here you may say is theoretical. The world is not an ideal place, architects have a tough time already voicing their opinions and here I am asked to be humane?!

This is why communication is key! You, as an architect, have a duty to voice your opinion, to explain why your sketches or drawings look the way they do. We as architects are artists, designers, thinkers, philosophers, activists, businessmen but success in this generation, comes when prior to everything you are first a salesman.

6. Heard of environmental psychology yet?

Psychology is a study of human behavior. Although, all kinds of psychology can be important to a landscape architect while designing. But the most important branch of them all would be environmental psychology whereby, human behavior is analyzed vis-a-vis the environment. So, maybe delve into those books, videos, essays, and podcasts. They could give you an insight into other ways in which the biological environment functions and can be responded to.


Currently a student of Architecture at the University of Sydney, Shristi Sainani is an artist and a certified interior designer. She is an absolute enthusiast for learning - an avid traveller, reader of anything non-fiction, a lifter! Yes, she could be your typical gym bro or even you local potter. But her all time favourite job is the one she’s doing now, for RTF— writing about architecture!