By Ryan Seacrist

In a groundbreaking development earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security officially recognized Landscape Architecture as a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) discipline. Championed by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), this designation showcases the pivotal role that Landscape Architecture plays in creating vibrant communities, tackling climate change, and delivering innovative solutions for municipal infrastructure challenges.

As a Landscape Architect, I’ve always been passionate about developing elevated human experiences through thoughtful and inspired placemaking. With the STEM designation, the field of Landscape Architecture joins a long line of STEM-qualified peer disciplines such as engineering and architecture. While it is core to our process, the STEM designation verifies Landscape Architecture as a discipline that is delicately balanced between the art and science of land management.

Advancing Innovation Through Science and Technology

Landscape Architecture programs have long been at the forefront of pioneering research and technological advancements. From harnessing the power of artificial intelligence for urban agriculture to envisioning smart urban planning for autonomous vehicles, Landscape Architects have consistently integrated science and technology into their practice.

Cutting-edge research, engineering principles, and emerging technologies have revolutionized the way we design and shape our surroundings. By embracing scientific rigor, Landscape Architects bring forth innovative and sustainable solutions to the complex challenges that confront our evolving world.

Benefiting Students, Graduates, and the Community

Landscape Architecture programs empower the next generation to address pressing global challenges, such as rapid urbanization, climate change, and ecological sustainability. Graduates emerge as catalysts for change, equipped with the knowledge and skills to forge healthier, more resilient communities.

One significant impact of the STEM designation in academia is the recent decision to maintain the Bachelor of Landscape Architecture program at West Virginia University (WVU), my alma mater. Following an institution-wide program and budget review this past September, the relatively new Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) graduate program was discontinued due to low enrollment, but the undergraduate program – which has been in place since the 1960s – was preserved following a strong formal appeal presented by program faculty that focused heavily on the recent STEM designation.

Following the appeal and reversal of the preliminary recommendation, the WVU Office of the Provost stated in its final report that “…the BSLA Landscape Architecture [program] is a high-quality program that leads to high-quality student outcomes.” I couldn’t agree more.

The STEM designation unlocks an array of new opportunities for students and graduates of Landscape Architecture programs, enabling them to assume leadership roles within the profession. With access to STEM-related resources, research funding, and collaborations, Landscape Architects are poised to spearhead innovation, contribute to cutting-edge developments, and address the urgent challenges faced by the built environment.

The Future of Landscape Architecture

Landscape Architects employ scientific research to inform site planning, select appropriate vegetation, design water management systems, and create spaces that foster physical and mental well-being. The STEM designation further validates the field’s commitment to evidence-based design practices, emphasizing the interdisciplinary nature of Landscape Architecture and its ability to address complex societal needs.

By advancing innovation, supporting research endeavors, and nurturing future leaders, Landscape Architects are poised to create sustainable, resilient, and captivating environments that benefit communities in the US and beyond. The STEM designation empowers Landscape Architects to unlock the full potential of their profession, paving the way for a future where science and technology serve as cornerstones for shaping a more harmonious and sustainable world.

 

To view ASLA’s STEM whitepaper and application materials, please click here.