Landscape Architecture

The School of Architecture, Planning & Landscape Architecture

Landscape Architecture

The Auburn University Master of Landscape Architecture program prepares students for careers as landscape architects who will imagine, design, and build the 21st century’s landscapes. Landscape architecture both offers the tools to engage many of the most pressing issues the world faces today and works with a medium — the landscape — that is richly expressive and engaging. In our studio-focused curriculum, students explore contemporary issues, directly engage landscapes and communities outside the walls of the university, and learn with a faculty of leading landscape practitioners and researchers. 

We are motivated by the recognition that design is already everywhere around us, in the choices people — whether they are consciously designers or not — make that shape our cities, suburbs, rural towns, and wildernesses. Grounded in our home state of Alabama, we choose to focus our attention on places where the richness, complexity, and messiness of pressing contemporary issues are prominently felt: post-industrial cities, infrastructural landscapes, rural landscapes, and coasts. In order to effectively address these issues, we cultivate particular expertise in three areas of landscape practice that distinguish our program: fieldwork, landscape activism, and design research.

 

We live in a designed world

Design is everywhere. From forests that are grown and cut to provide timber that makes paper for schoolchildren and office workers, to cities dealing with the legacies of declining heavy industries, to the streets of new suburbs, our world is shaped by the choices people make. These choices are design choices, even when they are not made by designers.

 

Human impact is inescapable: scientists describe our current age as the ‘Anthropocene’, which literally means the “age of humanity”, because the collective impacts of our civilization on our planet are so broad and pervasive. Many of these impacts make or change landscapes: damming rivers and building levees along their banks, draining wetlands in some places while making new ones in others, turning forests into farms and farms into cities.

 

This ongoing transformation is both a challenge and an opportunity. It is a challenge because in many of these landscapes, design is happening, but landscapes architects are not involved. Landscape architects need to be nimble and skilled in order to learn to contribute.

 

Yet this is also an opportunity, because the vision, imagination, and practical knowledge of landscape architecture is needed. The world is already being designed, we just need to get involved.

 

The world is rich, complex, and messy

Here in the landscape architecture program at Auburn, we focus our attention on places where issues like climate dynamics, poverty, and the spatial legacies of racial inequity manifest. Too often, these issues are oversimplified, reduced to dualities that offer easy answers, papering over richness, complexity, and messiness. We push ourselves to go deeper. We aim to be both humble enough to admit that we cannot solve these issues on our own and confident enough to tackle them head-on, working with collaborators, partners, and communities.

 

Grounded in the landscapes of our home state of Alabama, we deal with places where these issues are prominently felt: post-industrial cities, infrastructural landscapes, rural landscapes, and coasts. We champion underdog landscapes: places that are undervalued, overlooked, and unappreciated.

 

We are optimistic that landscape architecture can bring real value to these situations, that we can help imagine and build the landscapes of futures that people — in Alabama, in the United States, around the world — will want to live in.

 

Let’s get dirty

We jump in and we get our hands and boots dirty. The attitudes we cultivate are at the core of who we are. We aim to be curious, resourceful, precise, and attentive. We believe in the value of repetition: we do, we reflect, we repeat. Our end is always action, so we build the know-how needed to get to it.

 

Our curriculum, student work, and faculty research is distinguished by a focus on three areas of landscape practice.

 

Fieldwork: we believe that landscape education and landscape practice begins outside, in the landscape. But we aren’t tourists. When we’re outside, we’re working. We measure and observe, we experiment when called for, we learn to test our assumptions from the studio against the messy (and sometimes thorny) realities of mud, vines, and stone. We fly drones to make our own maps; we draw to understand what we see.

 

Landscape activism: we don’t wait for work to find us. We believe in the value of public interest design, and we seek out opportunities to serve communities. Landscape architects engage the public to shape our work to respond to its needs. We help rally communities around issues. We build constituencies and momentum.

 

Design research: we utilize design as a method for engaging situations and places that stretch us — particularly those places where landscape architecture is needed, but landscape architects haven’t yet gotten involved. Some design is client-driven. Design research is question-driven, which means not only that we work in service of questions, but also that we work on questions. We subject our own motives and means to design investigation. The rich, complex, and messy issues that we focus on require this kind of study: as we jump in, we have to make sure that we are asking the questions that matter.

 

Fieldwork, landscape activism, and design research permeate our curriculum, culminating in the Alabama Lab, which students typically work with in their final two semesters.

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The Auburn University MLA curriculum revolves around the studio design experience. Studios are experiential and hands-on; in them, students learn by doing. Studios tackle real-world issues with real-world sites, using the same methods, techniques, and skills that the best contemporary landscape architects use. (You can find many examples of recent studio work on our Instagram.) The focus of studio education is on critical mastery: not just learning to repeat techniques, but critically evaluating situations and responding creatively.

 

To accomplish this, students have twelve hours of studio per week. This gives students plenty of time to develop skills, to work creatively, and to have meaningful dialogue with professors and classmates. Class size is small, typically around sixteen students. Students work with real clients, landscapes, and communities, taking on local knowledge and helping organizations and groups to achieve their goals as participants in the building of our collective futures. Studio professors are themselves active as landscape practitioners and researchers, and our faculty bring that activity into the studio by helping students test new design methods, trial emerging technologies, and participate in critical dialogue about the future of our field. In our studios, students learn not only the skills to become professional landscape architects, but also the confidence and authority that comes with being a good communicator of their creative work.

 

Our studios are supported by seminars, workshops, and elective courses that build the technical knowledge needed to become a practicing landscape architect, prepare students to think critically about their work as landscape architects, and explore emerging issues of landscape practice. These core courses fall into five major tracks: construction, dynamic systems, graphic studies, history-theory-practice, and plants, supplemented by an array of electives in topics like contemporary urbanism, hydrology, and research by design.

 

That's why our students have no trouble finding employment in the professional landscape architecture practices they admire.

 

The Auburn Master of Landscape Architecture is a three year, six semester program. Students with no design background are able to complete the program in just over three years of full time study. Students who have a previous degree in architecture, urban design or landscape architecture may, on application, achieve Advanced Placement into the program and complete it in two years of full time study.

 

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Alabama Lab is the design research lab of the Auburn University landscape architecture program, which students participate through the final two studios of their time in the program.

 

The Lab is grounded in Alabama. We focus our work on landscape issues that our state is facing, such as urban industrial legacies, rural land use, and coastal resilience. Our work does not stop at the state line, though: we believe that these issues resonate with communities across the southeast, and beyond.

 

Alabama Lab shares the beliefs, methods, attitudes, issues, and places that characterize the MLA program. First and foremost, Alabama Lab is committed to design as a methodology for doing work that addresses issues that matter. We believe in the value of design as a way of engaging rich, complex, and messy situations – in order to imagine and build better futures.

 

The Lab allows students to engage directly with outside communities, partners, and collaborators. Students who participate in the Lab join long-term initiatives, projects whose scope goes well beyond a single year of study. Through the Lab, faculty and students together amplify the impact and benefits of work done in the landscape architecture program. The School of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape Architecture has a long and internationally-acclaimed history of showing that education and real-world impact can and should co-exist, through programs like Rural Studio (Newbern, Alabama) and Urban Studio (Birmingham, Alabama). Alabama Lab extends that tradition.

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We believe that traveling and experiencing the best of contemporary landscape architecture first-hand is a crucial part of design education, so our studios travel regularly to sites far and wide throughout the United States and beyond. These trips are a regular part of the program, and students can look forward to at least one trip of three or four days duration each semester. Recent field studies adventures have included Los Angeles, California; New Orleans, Louisiana; Chicago, Illinois; Beijing and Shanghai, China; Portland, Oregon; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Belize. (Photos from these trips often make their way onto our Instagram.) Students must budget for these trips, which generally cost between $600 and $1,000 per semester.

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In the academic year 2015–2016 the program had 32 students registered for fulltime instruction, 16 in the first year (MLA1) and 16 in the second year (MLA2). [It is a two-year program.] Of these students 17 were white/non-Hispanic, two identified as Hispanic, one identified as mixed, two were African-American and 10 were Asian. Eighteen of the 32 students were domestic, and 14 were international students. Fourteen of the students in that year were male students, and 18 were female.

 

Eleven degrees were awarded to students in MLA2 in May 2015. Of these graduates, nine are currently employed in the landscape profession, one is perusing higher education, and one is employed in a landscape architecture related field.

 

In the last six (2010–2016) years the Auburn MLA has graduated 86 students at an average rate of 14 per year. The graduation rate for this period is 98%. The program has a 93% retention rate.

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The Auburn Master of Landscape Architecture is a three year, six semester program. Click here to see the Program Curriculum (pdf).

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The Master of Landscape Architecture is an accredited graduate professional program offered both to students with previous design-based degrees and to students without an academic design background. There are three entry models: First Year Admission, Advanced Placement, and Pre-Landscape Architecture.

 

First Year Admission

Students who enter without a an undergraduate degree in landscape architecture complete the program in six semesters—just over three years of full time study. These students enter in the second mini-mester of the Summer semester.

 

Advanced Placement

Students who have undergraduate degrees in landscape architecture or architecture can apply for Advanced Placement and potentially complete the Master of Landscape Architecture in four semesters—two years of full time study. Note that Advanced Placement is not automatic but based on portfolio, academic merit, and transcripts.  

Successful applicants for Advanced Placement enter in the Fall semester.
 

Pre-Landscape Architecture

Students who are currently in the Auburn University Pre-Landscape Architecture Programs (Bachelor of Horticulture and Bachelor of Environmental Design) complete their undergraduate degrees as the first year of the MLA. These applicants should contact the Program Chair or the Program Administrator for more information. 

Pre-Landscape Architecture students enter in the Summer semester.
 

Transfer Students

Transfer students from a non-design program are required to begin the program in the Summer semester. Transfer students with a previous degree in architecture or horticulture, or who have some credits in a graduate landscape architecture program, should contact the Program Chair.

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In all cases, to gain acceptance into the Auburn University MLA Program applicants must submit the following directly to the Graduate School, by March 1st of the year in which they intend to enter the program.
 
  • Online application
  • Academic transcripts
  • Grade point average of at least 2.8
  • GRE (Graduate Record Examination) score of at least 300
  • TOEFL scores (international students only) of at least 90
  • Three letters of recommendation
 
In addition applicants must submit to the School of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape Architecture the following (to be sent directly to the Program Chair):    
 
  • A portfolio of work (students who are applying for Advanced Placement only)
  • A statement of intent (approximately 500-words) that explains why they wish to study landscape architecture
  • A resume of educational and professional experience    
 
Provisional acceptance may be granted for one semester to applicants without GRE scores, though these must be obtained during the semester. Please see the Graduate Admissions page for full application information and process. 

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Program Costs

The Auburn MLA consists of three semesters of instruction per academic year, for two years. The annual tuition and other costs set out below reflect this structure.

 

                                                                                                          
resident per semester
resident
per year
non-resident per semester
non-resident per year
tuition
$ 4,563 $ 13,608 $ 13,608 $ 40,824
registration fee
$ 812

$ 2,436

$ 812 $ 2,436
health insurance*
$ 976 $ 1,952 $ 976 $ 1,952
APLA professional fee
$ 2,160 $ 6,480 $ 2,160 $ 6,480
sub-total

$ 8,484

$ 24,476

$ 17,556

$ 51,692

lodging
$ 1,500 $ 4,500 $ 1,500 $ 4,500
books & equip
$ 600 $ 1,800 $ 600 $ 1,800
transportation
free shuttle provided by Auburn University free shuttle provided by Auburn University free shuttle provided by Auburn University free shuttle provided by Auburn University
TOTAL COST

$ 10,584

$ 30,776

$ 19,656

$ 57,992

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*The health insurance fee is not required for students that have their own insurance.

 

Professional Fee

Professional programs are inherently more expensive to run than non-professional programs. They require more space, more personnel, a lower student-to-teacher ratio, access to a higher level of technology than most disciplines, and incur significant costs associated with achieving and maintaining accreditation from the appropriate specialized, national agencies.  As a result, the College of Architecture, Design and Construction charges a professional fee to partially defray the difference between state funding and tuition, and the actual costs of our professional programs. Within each program, a professional fee charge of $2,160 is tied to enrollment in specific courses, which are noted on curriculum models. During semesters when students are enrolled in these classes they will be charged a professional fee

 

Through the professional fees, the CADC continues to provide our students with rigorous and relevant academic experiences, which contribute to our programs being recognized as among the best in the nation.

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Applicants may apply for the Dual Degree in Landscape Architecture and Community Planning. This is a course of study that enables students to graduate with degrees in both disciplines by completing one semester less than if both degrees were undertaken separately. Please contact the Program Chair.

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The Master of Landscape Architecture offers a limited number of Graduate Research Assistantships each year. These are funded in two ways: from the Professional Fee and from faculty research grants. The number offered each year therefore fluctuates. GRA positions are highly competitive, and there are never enough for all those who apply for them. As a rule, assistanships are not offered in the first Summer semester.
 
The assistantships are awarded on the basis of merit. Students who wish to apply for an assistantship must do so when they send their materials to the Program Chair. There is no application form for this; a cover letter will suffice. When assessing the merit of applications for research assistantships, faculty review the following:
 
  • Academic transcript
  • GRE score
  • GPA
  • Portfolio
  • Statement of intent
 
Applicants who can attend the Master of Landscape Architecture only if they receive an assistantship should make this clear to the Program Chair on application.
 
As a rule, Graduate Research Assistantships involve working with faculty on research projects. A wide range of tasks is expected to be performed to a high standard. Punctuality, timeliness, and cordiality are strict requirements.
 
Graduate Research Assistantships provide a half-tuition waiver and a monthly stipend. The tuition waiver applies to in-state and out-of-state students alike and covers the tuition fee for each semester that the student is a GRA. Students who are appointed as GRAs are required to pay the Professional Fee. Assistantships are awarded on an annual basis (sometimes on a semester basis) and there is no guarantee that recipients will receive a continuance of their assistantship. Reappointment will be made on the basis of students having:
 
  • Maintained a high work standard
  • Completed all their coursework and assignments satisfactorily
  • Performed well for the faculty member to which they have been assigned
 
Any questions about assistantships should be directed to the Program Chair.
 
The Master of Landscape Architecture does not currently offer scholarships.

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Through many years of instruction and feedback, it has been determined that it is beneficial that all students studying in the Landscape Architecture program use certain hardware. Through this process it was determined that there are two types of laptops/specs that provide the optimal environment for students. The following information is based on current requirements for the program and prices are subject to change.

 

Requirements PDF

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  • David Lorberbaum, ASLA (Chair)
    Lorberbaum McNair Odrezin Partners
  • Casey Ivy, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP (Vice Chair)
    Seay Seay & Litchfield Architects
  • Dan Ballard, PLA (Secretary)
    Watershed Division, City of Auburn
  • Greg Bryla, PLA
    Dix.Hite + Partners, Inc
  • Cathy Gerachis, ASLA
    Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, Inc
  • Jo Beth Gleason
    Farmer | Morgan, LLC
  • Judd Langham, PLA, ASLA, LEED AP
    Office of the University Architect, Auburn University
  • Jack Mazzola, Jr.
    CAM Builders, LLC
  • Wanona Satcher, ASLA, APA
    Makhers Studio, LLC / ReJuve Corp
  • Amy Smith, ASLA
    Studio A Design
  • Bill Smith, RLA
    Teague Nall and Perkins, Inc
  • J Kelvin Terry
    JK Terry & Company

Ex-Officio Members:

  • Stephen Schrader, ASLA (Past Chair)
    Holcombe Norton Partners, Inc
  • Jane Reed Ross, ASLA (ASLA Representative) 
    President, Alabama Chapter, ASLA
  • Vini Nathan, Dean
    College of Architecture, Design and Construction, AU
  • Christian Dagg, Head
    School of Architecture, Planning & Landscape Architecture, AU
  • David Hill, Chair
    Graduate Program in Landscape Architecture, AU

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Landscape Architecture programs in the United States are accredited by the Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board (LAAB).  Auburn University’s Master of Landscape Architecture program was last re-accredited in 2015 and will apply for the next accreditation cycle in 2021.  Our program is the only accredited Master of Landscape Architecture program in the State of Alabama.

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For further information about the Auburn University Master of Landscape Architecture contact:
 

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David Hill

David Hill

Chair and Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture

334-844-5434