Mission & History
The Mission of the Department is to offer nationally recognized, professionally accredited undergraduate and graduate degree programs in Landscape Architecture that focus on Urban Ecological Design. We endeavor to train students to become innovative practitioners and leaders in both public service and private practice, and to create positive change in our communities, region, and world. The training that we provide for students builds a design expertise based on both intellectual and experiential understanding of human and natural systems, gained through an iterative and interdisciplinary approach to project-based learning.
The Department of Landscape Architecture offers:
- Accredited Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) degree program
- Accredited Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA) degree program
- Minor in Urban Ecological Design
The Department also contributes to the PhD program in the Built Environment, the Interdisciplinary PhD Program in Urban Design and Planning, and the College-wide Certificate Programs in Urban Design and Preservation.
In addition, the Department is investigating the need within the local and regional community for certificate programs for practicing professionals to maintain cutting-edge skills and for extension programs for continuing education students interested in learning more about Landscape Architecture.
The core curricula of our degree programs provide students with strong professional skills in design (based in theory, historical precedent, science, environmental and social context, and creativity), site and landscape planning, construction technologies and processes, and communications (graphic, written, verbal, and digital).
The Department proactively engages with other programs within the University, as well as local communities, the larger metropolitan region and the world through research and design. We strive to be increasingly recognized for leadership in innovative teaching, research on emerging social and environmental issues, and community-building service.
The Department of Landscape Architecture was officially founded in 1969 by Professor Emeritus Richard Haag, although a BLA curriculum had been offered in the College of Built Environments (formerly College of Architecture and Urban Planning) throughout the preceding decade.
Professor Haag served as the Department’s first Chair. In 1970 this position was assumed by Professor Robert Buchanan who came to the UW from UC Berkeley and served as Chair for 10 years. In 1982, he was succeeded by Professor Sally Schauman, head landscape architect with the USDA Soil Conservation Service, who then served as Chair for 12 years, followed by subsequent Chairs, Professors David Streatfield and Iain Robertson. Under Iain Robertson’s leadership, the number of the department’s tenure-track faculty grew from 5 to 8. Fritz Wagner, the former Dean of the College of Urban & Public Affairs, University of New Orleans, served as interim Chair from 2005 to 2009. He was succeeded by the current Chair Jeff Hou who served formerly as the department’s Graduate Program Coordinator.
Throughout its first 30 years, the Department has grown, adding an MLA program in 1979 and increasing the number and diversity of its core faculty and adjunct faculty who are drawn from other departments and colleges across the University. The Department’s undergraduate and graduate programs have been fully accredited since 1969 and 1986 respectively, making it one of only 16 programs with both accredited graduate and undergraduate programs in North America.
Over the years, the Department has developed a distinctive identity in teaching, research, and community engagement rooted in the landscapes of the Pacific Northwest. This identity has been invigorated by the region’s dynamic history, its thriving culture, and by the University of Washington’s successes as one of the nation’s top research institutions. The growing strengths of the Department have been augmented by the development of College Certificate programs in Urban Design in 1985, Historic Preservation Planning in 1993, and Urban Real Estate and Development in 2000, along with a growing array of research centers and labs.
Under the leadership of Professor Emeritus Schauman and Adjunct Professor Derek Booth, Director of the Urban Water Resources Center, the Department pioneered research into evolving areas of practice including wetland restoration and landscape planning and design for developing urban watersheds. In the 1980’s and 1990’s Professor Schauman has received NSF funding, and earned a national reputation, for this innovative work.
Professor Emeritus David Streatfield, one of the country’s most highly regarded historians of the fields of Landscape Architecture and Urban Design, has developed the Department’s Italian Landscape Studies program based in the UW Rome Center in the historic Palazzo Pio. He was succeeded upon his retirement in 2008 by Associate Professor Thaisa Way who expanded the agenda of landscape history to include digital documentation of urban history.
In the late 1990’s, the Department’s focus evolved into Urban Ecological Design. It has received increasing recognition for its leadership on emerging practices in green infrastructure, design/build, and community engagement. In 2007, the Green Futures Lab was founded by Professor Nancy Rottle following the award-winning Open Space 2100 project that envisioned the future of Seattle in the year 2100. During this time, the Department’s Design/Build program pioneered and established in 1995 by Professor Daniel Winterbottom has become nationally recognized through a streak of ASLA Student Honor Awards in Community Service.
In the meantime, the department’s leadership in design research, community engagement, and teaching also gained national and international recognition through a growing number awards including Places Book Awards, Places Design Award, SEED Awards, EDRA Achievement Awards, and CELA Award of Excellence in Service-Learning Education and Studio Teaching.
With a growing reputation on Urban Ecological Design, community engagement, and international programs, the Department’s national ranking has steadily risen in recent years, reinforcing its stature as one of the top Landscape Architecture programs in the United States. The BLA program has consistently been among the Top 5 most admired undergraduate programs ranked in the Deans Survey published by DesignIntelligence. Its MLA program was ranked third nationally in the 2015 survey.