Why LA at UW–Madison?

Landscape Architecture logo

Welcome to Landscape Architecture at the University of Wisconsin–Madison!  We are a group of faculty, staff, and students dedicated to creating outdoor spaces that will improve the quality of life for people as well as ensuring the survival of the complex physical, cultural, and natural worlds that make up our planet. We accomplish this through an integrated program of research and scholarship, teaching and learning, campus and public service, and professional practice. Our graduates are employed in private firms, public agencies, land conservation, and historic preservation offices, and in academia.

Our approach is interdisciplinary, involving ideas and skills from the sciences, arts, and humanities. We were one of the first landscape architecture programs in North America to emphasize research and uncovering new information and understandings, in addition to preparing students to become practitioners. We continue to promote the importance of scholarship and of life-long learning, and of exploring new ideas and developing new skills to address the challenge of the future.

Landscape architecture is a discipline and a profession that features the sensitive and creative design, planning and management of the land while conserving natural and cultural resources for the benefit of present and future generations. It is exciting, challenging, and future-oriented. Landscape architects are involved in shaping the design of neighborhoods; cities; historic districts; local, state and national parks; monuments and memorials; nature preserves; zoos; and botanical gardens. We focus on creating designs that are artistic and culturally and environmentally sustainable.  We work with other professionals such as engineers, architects, ecologists, and health professionals. 

Landscape architects in Wisconsin are found in both the private and public sectors. Most positions held by such individuals in the private sector are in design-build firms, nurseries, engineering firms, and architectural offices. Wisconsin has relatively few landscape architecture firms that focus principally on design and planning, but growth in this area of the profession has been occurring in recent years. In the public sector, Wisconsin landscape architects also hold positions in city and state park or planning departments, and in other state agencies, such as the Department of Natural Resources.

Program Mission

We provide a learning environment in which faculty, staff, and students can advance the discipline and profession of landscape architecture through the creative discovery, critical examination, and transmission of knowledge. The approach is interdisciplinary and emphasizes environmental sensitivity while simultaneously providing the highest possible quality of life for humans through landscape design, planning, policy, conservation, and management.

We accomplish our mission through an integrated program of research and scholarship, teaching and learning, campus and public service, and professional practice.

Teaching Goals and Objectives

The goals for the Landscape Architecture academic program are to:

  • Heighten students’ awareness and sensitivity to the world in which we live, and respect for the natural world as well as people and their needs.
  • Develop students’ ability to integrate aesthetic, artistic, scientific, cultural, institutional, social, ecological, and technological dimensions in the design, planning, and/or management of landscapes.
  • Develop students’ ability to find and evaluate information and to work as a member of a productive, collaborative group.
  • Provide training in the intellectual and technical skills necessary to creatively solve problems and/or produce new knowledge for landscape design, planning or management.

Our faculty includes people trained in landscape architecture, botany, ecology, landscape ecology, geography, environmental studies, and folklore. We conduct research in restoring and preserving natural communities and ecosystems; creating urban environments that support human health and well-being and ecosystem services; working with diverse rural and urban communities to document, understand, protect, and conserve cultural and historic landscapes and local food systems; and developing regional conservation strategies using geospatial analysis. Our students come to us with diverse interests and skills ranging from art and design to plants and people, and leave with groundings in each. While they are here, students have opportunities to participate in faculty research and to collaborate within design studios to solve real-world problems for underserved communities in urban and rural settings in Wisconsin, as well as in places as far away as Costa Rica. 

We prepare students to enter the profession and become licensed landscape architects through our undergraduate professional degree program, the BSLA. For students interested in planning, cultural resource conservation or restoration ecology, we offer an alternative landscape studies undergraduate degree, the BS. Our MSLA graduate program is a research-based or a project-based master’s degree, of which students can choose to specialize in Restoration Ecology or in Community-Focused Design. 

Every spring our Landscape Architecture program organizes a career fair for our undergraduates. Landscape architecture firms and many of our alumni come from all over to participate in the career fair to give our undergraduates a chance to have an interview with them and to display their work with potential employers. Many of our students are able to obtain internships for the summer from the career fair. Internships and permanent positions are posted outside of the Studio (Rm 25) all year long. The Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture also has an active job board that is updated constantly, so be sure to check the job board often!

Student and alumni looking over documnet

The Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture also provides support for travel and professional development for our graduate students in both the Landscape Architecture and Urban & Regional Planning programs. This support is awarded as reimbursement for costs of up to $200 for travel, registration, and related costs to conferences or other professional development opportunities. These travel funds are supported by our alumni donations to help advance our students' careers and for preparation for satisfying work in their chosen field.

The Department maintains an active annual Awards and Honors Program with a banquet held every year in the Spring Semester at the University Club on Henry Mall that includes the following:

  • ASLA Awards of Honor and Merit (based on the best Master’s theses completed during the previous year)
  • Outstanding Publication Award
  • Outstanding Public Service Award
  • Outstanding Departmental Service Award

Within the Landscape Architecture Program is the Wisconsin-American Society of Landscape Architects Student Chapter. The WI-ASLA Student Chapter attends the ASLA conferences, holds professional workshops, brings in guest speakers from design and consulting firms, and organizes many social gatherings to share internship experiences and to meet fellow landscape architecture students. At the 2016 annual meeting, our BSLA students were awarded 15 free registrations to the ASLA 2017 conference in Los Angeles for showing the most school spirit during the Alumni Tailgate! 

Michelle and Mara at the 2015 ASLA Conference and Expo
Students at the Alumni Tailgate at the 2015 ASLA Conference and Expo in Chicago
group photo of students standing on steps at ASLA conference
Students at the ASLA 2015 Annual Meeting and Expo in Chicago  
Sean and Paige at 2015 ASLA Conference
Students at the ASLA 2015 Annual Meeting and Expo in Chicago

In March 2014, UW–Madison hosted LABash, an annual conference for students in Landscape Architecture. The conference featured a variety of events including lectures, workshops, charrettes, and social events. The theme for the event was "naturally designed," which played on the environmental tradition of the Landscape Architecture program here at UW–Madison. LABash first began in 1970 at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. Students started this event to provide landscape architecture students an opportunity to network with other students and professionals in the field, observe other programs, and celebrate Landscape Architecture. The event has continued and is held at a different school annually. 

Logo of 2014 LABash

In August 2012, a team of four juniors from the ALA program in the Landscape Architecture program submitted a design proposal for a competition held by the U.S. Green Building Council. The team members were Zach Small, Jake Weivel, Stefan Golos, and Parker Jones and their team name was "H.S. Well Design Group". On September 18, the team attended a conference in Minnesota where they competed against six other teams comprised of architecture students and interior design students and were awarded the first place prize. The judges acknowledged the close nature of their decisions and felt that their project was more conceptually complete and thorough response to the projects' design needs, and to the site itself. 

photo of H.S. Well Design Group from 2012

We are very proud of everything that our students are able to accomplish! To learn more about Landscape Architecture at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the opportunities available in our profession, check out the features on this website and/or contact Debi Griffin