Landscape Architecture at Cornell
The Department of Landscape Architecture at Cornell University is one of the oldest and most renowned in the United States.
Since its establishment in 1904, the department has achieved national recognition for its progressive teaching pedagogies and forward-looking approach to the field of landscape architecture. Pursuant to the university’s Land-Grant mission and commitment to fostering both research and public engagement, students of landscape architecture at Cornell are able to both draw upon and contribute to cutting-edge research with real-world implications.
As one of 10 programs nationally to first receive academic accreditation by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) in 1939, Cornell has remained committed throughout its history to preparing our graduates to become skilled practitioners, educators and researchers, poised to address a range of critical issues affecting the planet ranging from sea level rise, flooding, water scarcity and cultural heritage to land rights and environmental justice. We believe that landscape architecture can provide the grounding for a better, more democratic society.
The reputation of the department is based on the university’s egalitarian ethos and the extraordinary people who have taught and studied at Cornell over its long history. These include Professors Liberty Hyde Bailey, the department’s founder; Gilmore D. Clarke, who oversaw its evolution; as well as Marvin I. Adleman and Peter Trowbridge, whose long teaching careers guided and inspired so many of our alumnae and alumni. Building on this tradition of excellence, our faculty is a dynamic group of renowned educators and leaders in the fields of ecological infrastructure, planting design, materiality and construction techniques, fabrication technologies, design visualization, landscape history, and fieldwork methods. Beginning with Edward Godfrey Lawson, a Cornell student and faculty member who became the first recipient of the Rome Prize in Landscape Architecture at the American Academy in Rome (1915), the department also counts several recipients of this prestigious award, including three current members of the faculty.
Our students and alumni are equally extraordinary: They include David Williston (1898), the first professionally-trained Black landscape architect in the United States whose career included site planning and campus development for dozens of historically Black colleges and universities across the United States; Ruth Shellhorn (1933), among the first women to undertake major municipal projects who was personally hired by Walt Disney to design the comprehensive Main Street plan for Disneyland; Lawrence Halprin (1939), who received the National Medal for the Arts, the nation’s highest honor for an artist; and Michael Van Valkenburgh (1973), one of the most important landscape architects practicing in the field today.
Students who come to Cornell to study landscape architecture will be struck by the extraordinary natural beauty of the Finger Lakes winemaking region of central New York and the vibrant community of the town of Ithaca, long a cultural bastion in the region. Because of its close proximity to the Great Lakes watershed and driving distance to New York City, where Cornell University maintains an important presence, students will be challenged throughout their time in the program with visiting, experiencing and exploring this broader region as the grounds for landscape research and speculative design projects.
On the campus itself, the department enjoys a unique position as the only design-focused program within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Here, our students and faculty have direct access to expertise and applied research in the areas of climate change, horticulture, farming, food production and landscape restoration that are often not available in other comparable university programs. More broadly, through our self-designed concentration requirement, the Department of Landscape Architecture promotes interaction and collaboration with other academic fields across the university including architecture, city and regional planning, the fine arts, the natural and social sciences, as well as the Cornell Botanic Gardens, a world-class teaching arboretum.
The Department of Landscape Architecture offers four degrees:
Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture
The Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture (BSLA) is the only undergraduate professional degree in landscape architecture offered at an Ivy League institution. This four-year program combines rigorous university requirements in biological, physical and social sciences; humanities; and written and oral communication within an intensive design-based studio curriculum. Students may also elect to undertake an honor’s thesis during their last year in the program.
Master of Landscape Architecture
The Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) is a three-year professional degree that provides a strong foundational, historical, theoretical, technical and skills-based grounding to the field of landscape architecture. Students with undergraduate degrees in landscape architecture and architecture may receive advanced standing and complete their MLA degree in two years. Students may elect to undertake a thesis during their last year in the program.
Master of Professional Studies
The Master of Professional Studies (MPS) degree offers students a one-year immersive course of study, including a collaborative research project.
Dual Master’s Degree
The Dual Master’s in Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning (MLA/MRP) is offered jointly by the College of Art, Architecture and Planning (AAP) and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), and is typically completed in four years.
Cornell alumnae and alumni have achieved rewarding careers in private practice, the public sector, academia and a range of other fields. Our alumni have pursued rewarding careers in both traditional and nontraditional paths in the fields of the arts, writing, public space choreography, horticulture, communications, climate change consulting, gaming, social media and computer programming.
Our graduates have gone to take on leadership roles in notable design firms, including:
- Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture
- Bjarke Ingels Group
- James Corner Field Operations
- Future Green Studio
- Landworks Studio
- Sasaki Associates
- SWA Group
- Topotek 1
- Michael Van Valkenburgh and Associates
- Peter Walker and Partners
- West 8
Our graduates have also taken on leadership positions in the public sector at various local, state and federal levels with:
- The City and County of Honolulu Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency
- The City of Detroit Neighborhood Arts Development
- The National Park Service
- The New York City Department of Design and Construction
- The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation
- The New York City Department of Transportation
- The Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department
- The Trust for Public Land
- The U.S. Forest Service
In a tradition that began with Bryant Fleming, David Williston and Catherine Elizabeth Koch, the department is proud that several of its graduates have pursued teaching careers and high-level administration positions at leading institutions worldwide including:
- Cornell University
- Harvard University Graduate School of Design
- Pennsylvania State University
- Rhode Island School of Design
- Temple University
- University of Massachusetts
- University of Oregon
- University of Pennsylvania
- University of Southern California
- Bazalel Academy of Arts and Design (Jerusalem)
- Lincoln University (New Zealand)
- Xi'an Jiaotong University (China)
- University of New South Wales (Australia)
David Williston (1898) became the first Black professionally-trained landscape architect in the United States. Williston’s career included site planning and campus development for dozens of historically Black colleges and universities, including Howard University.
Bryant Fleming (1901) was among the first students to study under Liberty Hyde Bailey. Encouraged by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. to attend Cornell, Fleming later became the department’s first chair in 1906 and helped articulate national standards for landscape architecture education throughout the first half of the 20th century.
Edward Godfrey Lawson
Edward Godfrey Lawson (1914) became the first recipient of the Rome Prize in Landscape Architecture at the American Academy in Rome. A noted expert on Italian villas, Lawson returned to Cornell to become one of the program’s most distinguished professors.
Kate Ries Koch
Kate Ries Koch (1918) was the first female graduate in landscape architecture in the Ivy League. Koch was an active participant in the Garden City movement and authored the book “Garden Design: The Principles of Abstract Design as Applied to Landscape Composition” (1935). She went on to teach for several decades at Smith College.
Norman T. Newton
Norman T. Newton (1919) was the recipient of the Rome Prize in Architecture from the American Academy in Rome in 1923 and later served as associate landscape architect for the National Park Service from 1933 to 1939. He is the author of “Design on the Land: The Development of Landscape Architecture” (1971), a book widely recognized as a classic history of the discipline.
Stanley H. White
Stanley H. White (1912) is widely regarded as one of the greatest educators the profession has ever produced. Celebrated for his unconventional methods at the University of Illinois, where he spent his 37-year teaching career, White’s students recalled that his emphasis was always on the idea, which he described as “being between magic and philosophy.”
Gilmore D. Clarke
Gilmore D. Clarke (1913) designed important sections of the Bronx River Parkway and Saw Mill River Parkway. Clarke later teamed up with classmate Michael Rapuano (1926) to design the Henry Hudson Parkway and Garden State Parkway, among many other key projects. Clarke also served as president of the American Society of Landscape Architects and dean of the College of Architecture at Cornell.
Marjorie Sewell-Cautley (1917) was the first woman to receive a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from an Ivy League institution. She was an active participant in the Garden City movement and authored the book “Garden Design: The Principles of Abstract Design as Applied to Landscape Composition” in 1935.
Robert Trent Jones
Robert Trent Jones (1930) designed over 500 courses in 45 states and 35 countries worldwide. Jones is recognized as one of the most important golf course designers in the world. He designed his first golf course at Fall Creek in Ithaca shortly after graduating from Cornell University.
Ruth Patricia Shellhorn
Ruth Patricia Shellhorn (1933) was personally hired by Walt Disney to design main public spaces and a comprehensive circulation plan for Disneyland. A native of Los Angeles, her modernist landscape design sensibilities informed numerous projects throughout California.
Lawrence Halprin (1939) is one of the 20th century’s most notable landscape architects. His work includes Freeway Park in Seattle, Lovejoy Plaza in Portland and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C. He is also widely recognized for his motation diagrams that combine musical scoring with dance notation techniques to chart movement.
M. Paul Friedberg
M. Paul Friedberg (1954) quickly rose to the top of the profession with his revolutionary playground design for Riis Park Plaza in Lower Manhattan, one of several urban play areas that helped cement his firm’s reputation. He designed many public spaces including Battery Park in Manhattan and the Olympic Plaza for the Calgary Olympic Games.
Michael Van Valkenburgh
Michael Van Valkenburgh (1973) is founder of MVVA, whose recent projects include the Allegheny Riverfront Park in Pittsburgh, Brooklyn Bridge Park and Teardrop Park in New York City, the Lower Don Lands in Toronto, and the grounds of the Obama Presidential Library in Chicago. He served as chair for Harvard’s landscape architecture program from 1991 to 1996.
Lolly Tai (1977) is a nationally-renowned scholar of children’s play environments. Tai is professor of landscape architecture at the College of Art and Architecture at Temple University, where she also served as dean. In 2021 she received the ASLA Jot D. Carpenter Teaching Medal for sustained and significant contribution to landscape architecture education.
Lynn Wolff (1978) served as president of Copley Wolff Design Group, whose work include the Wharf District Parks on the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston, some of the first landscapes erected over the Central Artery/Tunnel project.
Kathryn Gleason (1979) is an internationally renowned specialist on the archaeology of past landscapes, parks and gardens in the Mediterranean region of the ancient Roman world, where she has worked to establish the ancient foundations of landscape architecture. Gleason has been teaching at Cornell since 1995 and was elected to the Council of Fellows of the American Society of Landscape Architects in 2011.
Tom Campanella (1991) is professor of city and regional planning at Cornell. He is a recipient of the Guggenheim and Fulbright fellowships and a fellow of the American Academy in Rome. He is the author of several award-winning books, including “Brooklyn: The Once and Future City” (2019), and the “Republic of Shade: New England and the American Elm” (2003).
Steven E. Lefton
Steve Lefton (1994) is president and CEO of Kimley-Horn, one of the largest engineering firms in the United States and the only such firm led by a landscape architect. He generously endowed the department’s Professor Marvin I. Adleman Fund for Practical Experiential Learning, which supports students pursuing summer internships.
Richard Kennedy (2001) is a senior principal at James Corner Field Operations. As head of the firm’s San Francisco design office, he is currently working on a series of projects including the Presidio Tunnel Tops in San Francisco, the Oyster Point Waterfront in San Francisco, the San Pedro Promenade and the Public Market in Los Angeles.
Sherry Frear (2002) is the first landscape architect to hold the position of chief of the National Register of Historic Places & National Historic Landmarks Program, which has long been the standard for historic properties of exceptional national significance.
Ujijji Davis Williams
Ujijji Davis Williams (BSLA 2012) is the founder of Jima Studio in Detroit. She is the recipient of the 2019 National ASLA Bradford Williams Medal of Excellence for her essay “The Bottom: The Emergence and Erasure of Black American Urban Landscapes". Ujijji is a board member of the Black Landscape Architects Network (BlackLAN), whose mission is to increase the visibility, support the interests, and foster the impact of Black practitioners in landscape architecture.
Bryant Fleming Photo: Huldah Cheek Sharp, Bryant Fleming - Architect, 1931, black and white photograph, Collection of Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art.
Edward Lawson Photo: American Academy in Rome Archives.
Marjorie Sewell-Cautley Photo: Image Courtesy of Nell Walker.
Ruth Shellhorn Photo: Image Courtesy of Kelly Comras.
Stanley White Photo: Courtesy of the University of Illinois Archives.
Ujijji Davis Williams Photo: Image Credit: Elliot O'Donovan.