Landscape Architecture is not just about knowing your plants, or designing a retaining wall, or being able to answer the age-old question, Why is my grass turning brown? (Please don’t ask us about your grass.) Inherent in the profession of landscape architecture is the need to understand how people live; the ability to recognize what motivates and inspires people to go to a place, how they will interact with that place, and how they will enjoy those who are also there with them. Landscape architects carefully consider the mood that needs to be created. Whether it is a plaza leading to a place of worship or to a busy marketplace matters a great deal in the design of that plaza.
It is this part of our jobs where cultural anthropology comes in to play. A place of worship in one religion may not need to evoke the same mood as in another. A market in Mexico is not the same environment as a market in Asia. I have learned this firsthand, as work travel has afforded me the opportunity to experience many different cultures – and to design for many unique users. From Inner Mongolia, China to Dubai, Panama, Haiti, Mexico, Turkey, Morocco, Syria – and many interesting areas across the U.S. – I have had the opportunity of experiencing these places and interacting with the locals, leading to a better understanding of how people live.
Having a global perspective on design only makes for a better landscape architect. My advice to designers of all types is to travel as much as you can, experience as many different places and cultures as you can, and bring that global perspective back to each and every new project you undertake.