An Argument For Renaming Landscape Architecture

Is It Time For A Nomenclature Shift: An Argument For Renaming Landscape Architecture

Perhaps this is simply a pet peeve, but I know that it is a pet peeve of many in the field.  It is an unfortunately common occurrence in which I have been mistaken for a landscaper after trying, in vain, to explain that I do not mow lawns and prune shrubs for a living.  It is not the public’s fault for being unfamiliar with landscape architecture as a unique field more similar to architecture than plant maintenance. The term “landscape architect(ure)” has only been in use for a relatively short time (less than two hundred years).  Landscape architecture’s close cousin, architecture, has been used for millennia and carries a fairly prestigious reputation too.  I find myself wishing that the “architecture” rather than the “landscape” portion of the profession’s name is understood to reflect the nature of the field – not because I think that landscape is less important but because, in my view, what landscape architects do is both technical and creative, in an architectural sense.

Since this is a constant topic of frustration, I and my colleagues have frequently lamented that a rebranding hasn’t occurred.  We have posited many alternatives such as “environmental architect,” “land architect,” “area developer” and many others, but each fails to demystify the field for the public. I have heard stories of practitioners referring to themselves as architects and later clarifying that they specifically design landscapes; a bit of misdirection that achieves the goal of being associated with the architectural characteristics before being muddled in with other fields.

This issue of nomenclature is not an affront to landscaping, nor is it just a social frustration. If the name of the profession were able to more clearly define the role of the landscape architect to the public, the practice of landscape architecture would benefit in general.  As it exists now, without the familiarity of similar fields like architecture and planning, landscape architecture is frequently left out because it is not recognized as an option. Amongst the design fields, it benefits everyone for the nomenclature to be clear so that the roles and responsibilities may be easily understood.  Better communication can foster more efficient collaboration between fields, meaning better results and happier clients.  

Perhaps the solution is not renaming an entire profession but using communication to clarify the intended meaning behind the name. Maybe landscape architecture truly needs a new moniker to help the public understand what it is we do. Either way, the conversation has begun and I count that as a small victory.