Landscape Architecture Major & Minor

Combining art, science, beauty and functionality

Landscape Architecture is the design of outdoor areas such as public parks, restored wetlands, urban plazas, historic sites and botanical gardens. You’ll learn to collaborate on a wide range of large projects, such as housing complexes, remediation of former industrial areas and the design of new towns and cities.

As a landscape architect, you’ll help shape communities and take on the responsibility of creating ecosystems that must thrive over time. We're looking for Landscape Architecture students who are talented in both art and science to create spaces that are both beautiful and functional.

Major in Landscape Architecture

Bachelor of Science (B.S.L.A.)

CALS’ Landscape Architecture major is well suited for students interested in urban development, land-use planning, conservation and ecological design. The landscape architecture curriculum is a broad-based course of study that provides the skills necessary for professional practice. 

The foundation of this unique program is a sequence of design studio courses, involving a one-on-one relationship between student and faculty. Students are also strongly encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad during their junior year in places such Denmark, Singapore and the Netherlands.

The core Landscape Architecture undergraduate curriculum is centered on a sequence of design studio courses. Studio teaching involves students and faculty in a one-on-one relationship. This close interaction typifies the program. Each studio requires a different set of principles and theories and mastery of aspects of the media of landscape—land form, plants, water, engineering and construction.

The subject matter in each studio builds on the subjects of previous studios. In addition to the required Landscape Architecture courses, students are expected to fulfill college requirements in biological, physical and social sciences, humanities and written and oral expression.


Landscape Architecture students are also required to develop a concentration to extend their knowledge of design. Students in the Landscape Architecture major work with their faculty advisors to create their own, individualized concentrations of study. Some sample concentrations:

  • Environmentally sustainable design 
  • Community-based design 
  • Landscape archaeology
  • Golf course design
  • Environmental law
  • Ecotourism
  • Playground design

CALS seeks students who maintain a rigorous high school curriculum and demonstrate an outstanding record of academic achievement.

  • 4 Units of English

  • 4 Units of Mathematics* (including pre-calculus)

  • 3 Units of Science (biology, chemistry and physics recommended)

  • Also recommended: an additional unit of science

Landscape Architecture: Portfolio required

Our undergraduate program complies with the requirements of three governing bodies:

  • New York State Education Department (NYSED)
  • Council of Landscape Architecture Registration Boards (CLARB)
  •  Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board (LAAB).

The undergraduate landscape architecture curriculum is a broad-based course of study that provides instruction in the skills necessary for professional practice and is a license-qualifying, first professional degree. In addition to the required landscape architecture courses, students are expected to fulfill university requirements in biological, physical and social sciences, humanities, and written and oral communication.

The Design Studio

The foundation of the landscape architecture undergraduate curriculum is a sequence of intensive design studios. The design studio model involves a one-on-one relationship between student and faculty and this interaction typifies the Cornell landscape architecture program. Each studio requires a different set of principles and theories, as well as an artistic mastery of the media of landscape – landform, plants, water and non-vegetal materials and their manipulation through the application of ecological and technological practices. The topics, sites, contexts, constituencies, and scales of development of each studio builds on the previous studio in an ever-increasing level of complexity and attention to detail and conceptual thought. Supplemental courses in all other aspects of the field provide the information that will be synthesized in the studio to reinforce the design process and end result.

The studio is project-based and exposes students to a wide array of landscape scales, types, contexts and topical issues. The studio format entails lectures, demonstrations, field trips, readings, guest presentations, precedent study, one-on-one instruction and group discourse. Rather than espousing a singular design philosophy or style, the department offers multiple perspectives on design, imparted through the studio course sequence. The required sequential nature of the studios offered throughout the student’s academic career at Cornell allows for each studio to build on the previous one with an ever-increasing degree of complexity and attention to detail. Studio size is conducive to small group interaction among students and between students and faculty.

First Year

Fall Semester:

  • LA 1410 - Grounding in Landscape Architecture (4)*
  • Biological sciences elective (3) †
  • Physical sciences elective (3) †
  • Social sciences or humanities elective (3) †
  • Written or oral expression elective (3) †

Total: 16

Spring Semester:

  • LA 1420 - Grounding in Landscape Architecture (4)*
  • Biological sciences elective (3) †
  • Social sciences or humanities elective (3) †
  • Written or oral expression elective (3) †
  • Physical sciences elective (3) †

Total: 16

Second Year

Fall Semester:

  • LA 4910 - Creating the Urban Eden: Woody Plant Selection, Design, and Landscape Establishment (crosslisted) (4)*
  • LA 2010 - Medium of the Landscape (5)*
  • Biological sciences elective (3) †
  • Social sciences or humanities elective (3) †

Total: 15

Spring Semester:

  • LA 2020 - Medium of the Landscape (5)*
  • LA 4920 - Creating the Urban Eden: Woody Plant Selection, Design, and Landscape Establishment (crosslisted) (4)*
  • Written or oral expression elective (3) †
  • Physical sciences elective (3) †

Total: 15

Third Year

Fall Semester:

  • LA 3010 - Integrating Theory and Practice I (5)*
  • LA 3160 - Site Engineering (5)*
  • Free electives (3) ‡
  • Historical studies (3)***

Total: 16

Spring Semester:

  • LA 3180 - Site Assembly (5)*
  • LA 3020 - Integrating Theory and Practice II (5)*
  • LA4120 - Professional Practice (2)
  • Historical studies (3)***

Total: 15

Fourth Year

Fall Semester:

  • LA 4010 - Urban Design Studio (5)*
  • Concentration ** (3)
  • Social sciences or humanities elective (3) †
  • Free electives (2) ‡
  • (Optional landscape architecture study abroad semester in Denmark or Rome)

Total: 13

Spring Semester:

  • LA 4020 - Capstone Community Design Studio (5)*
  • LA 4030 - Directed Study: The Concentration (1)
  • Concentration ** (6)
  • Free elective ‡ (2)

Total: 14

Summary of credit requirements:

* Specialization requirements (58)
† Distribution electives (39)
‡ Free electives (7)
*** Historical Studies (6)
** Concentration (10)

Total: 120

Recommended Historical/Theory Courses:

  • LA3170 - Design and Environmental Systems
  • LA3600 - Pre-Industrial Cities & Towns in North America
  • LA4070 - Emerging Dimensions in Urban Ecology and Sustainable Practice
  • ARCH3821 - History of European Landscape Architecture
  • ARCH3822 - History of American Landscape Architecture
  • LA5450 - Parks and Fora of Ancient Rome
  • LA6910 - Design of Landscapes

LA 1410 Grounding in Landscape Architecture

Introduction to the representation and design of landscapes and to working in a studio setting. Uses freehand drawing, measured drawing, and model making to understand design principles of the landscape within a cultural and ecological paradigm.

LA 3010 Integrating Theory and Practice I

This studio engages participants in the art and science of design as well as focusing on site-scaled projects that consider significant cultural and natural landscapes. This course explores theories of landscape design, restoration, sustainable design, and landscape representation through site-specific projects.

LA 4860 Placemaking by Design

This seminar provides an understanding of contemporary planning and landscape architecture design strategies that reaffirm and reclaim a sense of place. Readings and discussions focus on the theory and practice of placemaking as represented in the literature and in built works.

Students are strongly encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad, typically during the spring semester of their junior year.  Most students start by browsing program options (see Discover Programs) or by attending a college info session or university-wide events like the International Fair. Learn more about CALS Study Abroad Policies, Credit transfer and program options by attending a CALS Study Abroad 101 Fair or by visiting the CALS International Opportunities website.

There are two approved avenues for studying abroad during the Fall, Spring, or the full Academic Year:

The department actively partners with the CALS Exchange Program to provide unique opportunities for students to study Landscape Architecture in another cultural context, at reputable partner institutions around the globe.  Partner schools offer studios, enabling students to stay on track to graduate on time.  Just some of the destinations include Denmark (Copenhagen University), Sweden (SLU), the Netherlands (Wageningen University) and Singapore (National University of Singapore).  Previous foreign language experience is not required as most institutions teach in English. 

Minor in Landscape Studies

Students outside the professional program may choose the undergraduate minor in landscape studies to complement their major

Landscape is a useful unifying and foundational concept to address pressing problems of coupled human-environmental systems at the threshold of profound environmental change. 

Sample Coursework:

  • Field Work in Urban Archaeology
  • History of American Landscape Architecture

Learn more about the course requirements for a minor in Landscape Studies.

Transfer Requirements

Landscape architecture is the design of spaces including parks, wetland and natural areas, urban waterfronts, streetscapes and plazas, green infrastructure and botanic gardens. Landscape architects also work in urban development, land use planning, urban design and planning, climate adaptation, conservation and restoration, community engagement, historic preservation and sustainable design. This is an accredited, license-qualifying professional degree.

Academic Record

  • Strong academic record at the college level. In general, competitive applicants have at least a 3.0 (B) average.

  • CALS Required Coursework should be completed or in-progress with a “B” or better before applying.

  • The most competitive applicants are full-time students who have met the GPA and course requirements.

(Or transfers with two full-time college semesters of study (post-high school) completed or in progress at time of application).

Accredited professional degree. Required concentration in one of the following: landscape design; community design; historic preservation; urban design and planning; site construction; ecological design; cultural landscapes


  • Two College Writing/English Composition courses or one writing/composition and Public Speaking

  • Design Studio or Drawing courses, OR evidence of design, drawing, and/or modeling capabilities included in portfolio.

  • Portfolio

Strongly encouraged (but not required):

  • One full academic year of Introductory Biology (labs recommended)

  • Six credits that meet the CALS social science and humanities requirements in Cultural Analysis, Historical Analysis, Knowledge, Cognition and Moral Reasoning, Literature and the Arts, Social and Behavioral Analysis and Foreign Language.

  • Either General (Inorganic) Chemistry I or Physics I (labs recommended)

  • College math (e.g., Finite Mathematics, Calculus, Statistics)

Careers in Landscape Architecture

A person sketching a document related to landscape architecture.

Landscape Architecture

  • Landscape designer
  • Landscape architect associate
  • Project manager
  • Junior designer


  • Plant and produce production
  • Production associate


Students dredge up eco solutions for Baltimore Harbor

students and professor on river bank

Explore your opportunities

A CALS education goes beyond the classroom and gives students frequent opportunities to apply what they learn in real-world settings.