MLA Curriculum

Individuals holding an undergraduate degree, including landscape architecture or architecture, are candidates for the license-qualifying Master of Landscape Architecture degree. Each applicant’s undergraduate academic record and a personal portfolio will be reviewed to identify individuals who may be outstanding candidates in the Cornell masters program.

  • All MLA students must complete the core curriculum, consisting of Studio, Technical, and History and Theory requirement courses. Waivers from any of these courses are determined by the Department Faculty.
  • MLA students, along with their faculty advisor, must construct a concentration totaling at least 10 credits, including the LA 6030 The Concentration course.
  • MLA students are required to take a total of five courses to fulfill the History and Theory requirement. LA 5900 Theoretical Foundations, LA 6900 Methods of Landscape Architectural Inquiry, and LA 6910 Design of Landscapes are all required History and Theory courses that count towards the five required courses.
  • MLA students will be notified upon their acceptance letter which MLA degree track they are admitted to. Generally, students without a professional degree in landscape architecture, architecture, or environmental design will be admitted into the 3-year track, while those with a BLA, BSLA, BArch or other relevant professional degrees will be admitted into the 2-year track. Any MLA student wishing to alter their curriculum sequence must fill out a petition to the Graduate Committee.
  • Students are not permitted to enroll in two studio courses concurrently.

MLA (3-Year Track) Requirements

LA 5010 Composition and Theory I

Introduction to landscape architectural design through a series of course modules that engage students in discovering, knowing and engaging the full potential of the landscape medium. In this process-oriented studio students will develop design proposals for real and imagined sites drawing on knowledge and principles from art, aesthetics, science, nature and culture. 5 credits

LA 5020 Composition and Theory II

Studio course emphasizing the design process and principles in generating design ideas, concepts, and plans. The course focuses on the aesthetics and functionality of the site-specific design. 5 credits 

LA 6010 Integrating Theory and Practice I

This studio focuses upon urban, site-scaled projects that consider significant cultural landscapes. The course explores theories of urban design strategies, sustainable design, and landscape representation. These are explored through a semester-long project that is derived from a specific site and place. The integration of site history, as well as contemporary urban condition, is explored that supports an understanding and relationship between theory and practice. 5 credits

LA 6020 Integrating Theory and Practice II

This studio builds on prior course work with an expectation that participants can creatively manipulate the program and conditions of a site, with increased emphasis on contemporary technology and ‘best’ green practices. Projects focus upon the expression of design solutions that grow from and affirm an explicit sense of site and place. Social, cultural, physical, and historic factors and their relationship to site design and planning are critically explored through theory and practice. 5 credits

LA 7010 Urban Design and Planning

This studio explores the application of urban design and landscape urbanism techniques to the problems and opportunities of contemporary city making. The studio investigates the social, cultural, natural, and infrastructural systems of urban environments, and develops integrated spatial design strategies involving water quality, public space, and flooding infrastructure. 5 credits

LA 7020 Advanced Design Studio (studio option)

This advanced design studio provides students in the final year of the graduate program in Landscape Architecture with the opportunity to work on complex, real-time projects. The overarching goal of this course is to test the student’s theoretical, methodological, technical, and representational competency and ability to engage with a range of scales and issues. Through intensive studio work, seminar sessions, independent research, and site visits, students gain the knowledge and skills necessary to develop sound and creative solutions to environmental design problems. 5 credits

LA 8900 Master's Thesis (Thesis option)

Independent research, under faculty guidance leading to the development of a comprehensive and defensible design or study related to the field of landscape architecture. Work is expected to be completed in final semester of enrollment. 5 credits

LA 5050 Graphic Communication

This course introduces students to landscape architectural representation and teaches conventions such as basic drafting and orthographic drawing (plan, section, axonometric) alongside freehand drawing, collage, modeling, photography and digital representation. 3 credits

LA 5910 Creating the Urban Eden: Woody Plant Selection, Design and Landscape Establishment I

Focuses on the identification, uses, and establishment of woody plants in urban and garden settings. By understanding the environmental limitations to plant growth, students are able to critically assess potential planting sites; select appropriate trees, shrubs, vines, and ground covers for a given site; and learn about the principles and practices of site amelioration and plant establishment. Design followed by written specifications and graphic details are developed to implement these practices. 4 credits

LA 5920 Creating the Urban Eden: Woody Plant Selection, Design and Landscape Establishment II (optional)

This is the second half of course focusing on the winter identification, uses, and establishment of woody plants in urban and garden settings. Issues of site assessment and soil remediation are emphasized in addition to soil volume calculations, drainage and surface detailing, and planting techniques. Students critically assess potential planting sites and select appropriate trees, shrubs, vines, and ground covers for a given site. Design for specific sites followed by written specifications and graphic details are produced to implement these proposals. Students implement, in a hands-on manner, site remediation and planting techniques they have learned by creating new landscapes that serve to integrate theory, principles, and practices. 4 credits

LA 6160 Site Engineering

This course exposes students to the fundamentals of site engineering and its relationship to best environmental practices. Lectures and short vignettes are provided to students and “worked-through” within the class period. These projects deal with site grading, earthwork estimating; storm water management, site layout, and essential associated professional skills. 5 credits

LA 6180 Site Assembly

Emphasizes detail design and use of landscape materials in project implementation. It explores materials, including specifications, cost estimates, and methods used by landscape architects in project facilitation. It includes lectures, short studio problems, and the development of drawings leading to construction documentation for one comprehensive project. 5 credits

LA 5100 Computer Applications in Landscape Architecture

Designed to develop a working knowledge of AutoCAD as a tool for design and construction documentation.  Explores the link between AutoCAD, Adobe Create Suite and Microsoft Office software. 3 credits

LA 5120 Professional Practice

This course presents the student with an understanding of the emerging role of the professional landscape architect. The course helps students choose a type of practice and introduces the problems and opportunities one may encounter in an office or in other professional situations.  Topics include the diversity of types of professional practice, marketing professional services, office and project management, construction administration, and ethics. 2 credits

LA 5900 Theoretical Foundations

This seminar is intended to provide Landscape Architecture Students (as well as Architecture, Planning students) with knowledge of the most relevant histories, theories and critical discourses related to the field from the scope of Landscape Design.  We tend to think that theories provide the insight to embitter practice.  However, there has been practice that provoked and enhanced disciplinary debate and actually generated a “paradigm shift”.  The course launches a research question: it is only through the examination of influential design works that we can build the multiple dialogues between theory and practice: explore how theory is embedded into disciplinary production and study how pioneer works create specific and innovative disciplinary literature. 3 credits

LA 6900 Methods of Landscape Architectural Inquiry

This course provides to students an introduction to research methods, especially those related to the field of Landscape Architecture and Urban Design.  It builds on the theoretical foundations provided in LA5900 and reinforces the students understanding of how landscape research and analysis is carried out.  The seminar proposes to learn about the most prominent methods of landscape research by “exposing” them to one of the most fragile, dynamic and desired landscapes at today’s world: the coast.  Moreover, understanding the coast as a landscape of desire and conflict will help students to critically engage with what we think as an “objective research methodology”.  The course will engage with concrete sites, preferably at the coast of the United States, where present and future habitation, as well as tourism (leisure) patterns, are antagonic to climate change scenarios. 3 credits

LA 6910 Design of Landscapes

Introductory survey of the history and theory of planned human intervention in the material environment.  Critical themes, sites, and conditions across time, space, and scale, from the paradise garden to the contemporary megacity, are explored through weekly topical lectures, creative exercises, discussions, readings, and essays. Course culminates in an individual research project. 3 credits

 

In addition to the three required History and Theory courses, two additional electives are required to fulfill the requirement. Approved History and Theory electives include:

  • LA 5450 The Parks and Flora of Imperial Rome
  • LA 6600 Pre-Industrial Cities and Towns in North America
  • LA 5170 Design and Environmental Systems
  • LA 6070 Emerging Dimensions in Urban Ecology and Sustainable Practice
  • CRP 5820 Principles of Site Planning and Urban Design
  • ARCH 5611 Environmental Systems I: Site and Sustainability
  • ARCH 5801 History of Architecture I
  • ARCH 5301 Theories and Analyses of Architecture
  • ARCH 6819 Seminar in Special Topics in the History of Architecture and Urbanism
  • CRP 5130 Introduction to Planning Practice and History
  • CRP 5620 Perspectives of Preservation
  • NTRES 6330 Ways of Knowing Indigenous and Place-based Ecological Knowledge
  • DEA 6200 Studies in Human-Environment Relations
  • DSOC 6060 Sociological Theories of Development
  • DSOC 6820 Community Organizing and Development
LA 6030 The Concentration

The formal concentration in Landscape Architecture allows degree candidates in the department the opportunity to define an area of personal interest within this broad profession or to examine the landscape dimensions of an associated field. The concentration is an opportunity for students to formally establish their interests as part of the degree.

  • The concentration is defined by the student in consultation with their faculty advisor.
  • The requirements of the concentration are at least 10 credits for the MLA beyond those required by the department for the degree. Students include the LA 6030 The Concentration class as part of the 10 credit requirement.

Students may explore elective courses across the university in other colleges, in addition to an expanding curriculum offered by the Department. Due to its unique position within the university, the Department of Landscape Architecture promotes interaction and collaboration with other academic fields, including horticulture, architecture, city and regional planning, fine arts, and the natural and social sciences.

  • Students must enroll in graduate-level courses (5000-level and above) in order for the credit hours to count towards the 90 credit hour (3-Year track) or 60 credit hour (2-Year track) requirements for the MLA degree.
  • Physical Education (PE) courses do not count towards the total credit hours. However, students are encouraged to explore these courses in addition to their core curriculum and electives.

Sample Sequence

Fall Semester:
  • LA 5910 Creating the Urban Eden I: Woody Plant Selection, Design, and Landscape Establishment
  • LA 5010 Composition and Theory I
  • LA 5050 Graphic Communication
  • LA 6910 Design of Landscapes
  • LA 5830 Lecture Series

Total: 16 credits

Spring Semester:
  • LA 5920 Creating the Urban Eden II: Woody Plant Selection, Design, and Landscape Establishment (optional)
  • LA 5020 Composition and Theory II
  • LA 5900 Theoretical Foundations
  • LA 5830 Lecture Series
  • Concentration elective

Total: 16 credits

Fall Semester:
  • LA 6010 Integrating Theory and Practice I
  • LA 6160 Site Engineering
  • Concentration elective
  • History and Theory elective

Total: 16 credits

Spring Semester:
  • LA 6020 Integrating Theory and Practice II
  • LA 6180 Site Assembly
  • LA 6120 Professional Practice
  • LA 6030 The Concentration
  • LA 5100 Computer Applications in Landscape Architecture

Total: 16 credits

Fall Semester:
  • LA 7010 Urban Design and Planning
  • LA 6900 Methods of Landscape Architectural Inquiry
  • History and Theory elective
  • Concentration elective

Total: 14 credits

Spring Semester:
  • LA 7020 Advanced Design Studio
    • or LA 8900 Master's Thesis in Landscape Architecture
  • Electives (minimum 7 credits for full-time status)

Total: 16 credits

MLA (2-Year Track) Requirements

LA 6010 Integrating Theory and Practice I

This studio focuses upon urban, site-scaled projects that consider significant cultural landscapes. The course explores theories of urban design strategies, sustainable design, and landscape representation. These are explored through a semester-long project that is derived from a specific site and place. The integration of site history, as well as contemporary urban condition, is explored that supports an understanding and relationship between theory and practice. 5 credits

LA 6020 Integrating Theory and Practice II

This studio builds on prior course work with an expectation that participants can creatively manipulate the program and conditions of a site, with increased emphasis on contemporary technology and ‘best’ green practices. Projects focus upon the expression of design solutions that grow from and affirm an explicit sense of site and place. Social, cultural, physical, and historic factors and their relationship to site design and planning are critically explored through theory and practice. 5 credits

LA 7010 Urban Design and Planning

This studio explores the application of urban design and landscape urbanism techniques to the problems and opportunities of contemporary city making. The studio investigates the social, cultural, natural, and infrastructural systems of urban environments, and develops integrated spatial design strategies involving water quality, public space, and flooding infrastructure. 5 credits

LA 7020 Advanced Design Studio (studio option)

This advanced design studio provides students in the final year of the graduate program in Landscape Architecture with the opportunity to work on complex, real-time projects. The overarching goal of this course is to test the student’s theoretical, methodological, technical, and representational competency and ability to engage with a range of scales and issues. Through intensive studio work, seminar sessions, independent research, and site visits, students gain the knowledge and skills necessary to develop sound and creative solutions to environmental design problems. 5 credits

LA 8900 Master's Thesis (Thesis option)

Independent research, under faculty guidance leading to the development of a comprehensive and defensible design or study related to the field of landscape architecture. Work is expected to be completed in final semester of enrollment. 5 credits

LA 5910 Creating the Urban Eden: Woody Plant Selection, Design and Landscape Establishment I*

Focuses on the identification, uses, and establishment of woody plants in urban and garden settings. By understanding the environmental limitations to plant growth, students are able to critically assess potential planting sites; select appropriate trees, shrubs, vines, and ground covers for a given site; and learn about the principles and practices of site amelioration and plant establishment. Design followed by written specifications and graphic details are developed to implement these practices. 4 credits

LA 5920 Creating the Urban Eden: Woody Plant Selection, Design and Landscape Establishment II* (optional)

This is the second half of course focusing on the winter identification, uses, and establishment of woody plants in urban and garden settings. Issues of site assessment and soil remediation are emphasized in addition to soil volume calculations, drainage and surface detailing, and planting techniques. Students critically assess potential planting sites and select appropriate trees, shrubs, vines, and ground covers for a given site. Design for specific sites followed by written specifications and graphic details are produced to implement these proposals. Students implement, in a hands-on manner, site remediation and planting techniques they have learned by creating new landscapes that serve to integrate theory, principles, and practices. 4 credits

LA 6160 Site Engineering*

This course exposes students to the fundamentals of site engineering and its relationship to best environmental practices. Lectures and short vignettes are provided to students and “worked-through” within the class period. These projects deal with site grading, earthwork estimating; storm water management, site layout, and essential associated professional skills. 5 credits

LA 6180 Site Assembly*

Emphasizes detail design and use of landscape materials in project implementation. It explores materials, including specifications, cost estimates, and methods used by landscape architects in project facilitation. It includes lectures, short studio problems, and the development of drawings leading to construction documentation for one comprehensive project. 5 credits

LA 5120 Professional Practice*

This course presents the student with an understanding of the emerging role of the professional landscape architect. The course helps students choose a type of practice and introduces the problems and opportunities one may encounter in an office or in other professional situations.  Topics include the diversity of types of professional practice, marketing professional services, office and project management, construction administration, and ethics. 2 credits

 

*Students admitted into the MLA 2-year track may waive out of course if their previous degree has demonstrated similar coursework. This must be petitioned to the Graduate Committee. 

LA 5900 Theoretical Foundations

This seminar is intended to provide Landscape Architecture Students (as well as Architecture, Planning students) with knowledge of the most relevant histories, theories and critical discourses related to the field from the scope of Landscape Design.  We tend to think that theories provide the insight to embitter practice.  However, there has been practice that provoked and enhanced disciplinary debate and actually generated a “paradigm shift”.  The course launches a research question: it is only through the examination of influential design works that we can build the multiple dialogues between theory and practice: explore how theory is embedded into disciplinary production and study how pioneer works create specific and innovative disciplinary literature. 3 credits

LA 6900 Methods of Landscape Architectural Inquiry

This course provides to students an introduction to research methods, especially those related to the field of Landscape Architecture and Urban Design.  It builds on the theoretical foundations provided in LA5900 and reinforces the students understanding of how landscape research and analysis is carried out.  The seminar proposes to learn about the most prominent methods of landscape research by “exposing” them to one of the most fragile, dynamic and desired landscapes at today’s world: the coast.  Moreover, understanding the coast as a landscape of desire and conflict will help students to critically engage with what we think as an “objective research methodology”.  The course will engage with concrete sites, preferably at the coast of the United States, where present and future habitation, as well as tourism (leisure) patterns, are antagonic to climate change scenarios. 3 credits

LA 6910 Design of Landscapes

Introductory survey of the history and theory of planned human intervention in the material environment.  Critical themes, sites, and conditions across time, space, and scale, from the paradise garden to the contemporary megacity, are explored through weekly topical lectures, creative exercises, discussions, readings, and essays. Course culminates in an individual research project. 3 credits

 

In addition to the three required History and Theory courses, two additional electives are required to fulfill the requirement. Approved History and Theory electives include:

  • LA 5450 The Parks and Flora of Imperial Rome
  • LA 6600 Pre-Industrial Cities and Towns in North America
  • LA 5170 Design and Environmental Systems
  • LA 6070 Emerging Dimensions in Urban Ecology and Sustainable Practice
  • CRP 5820 Principles of Site Planning and Urban Design
  • ARCH 5611 Environmental Systems I: Site and Sustainability
  • ARCH 5801 History of Architecture I
  • ARCH 5301 Theories and Analyses of Architecture
  • ARCH 6819 Seminar in Special Topics in the History of Architecture and Urbanism
  • CRP 5130 Introduction to Planning Practice and History
  • CRP 5620 Perspectives of Preservation
  • NTRES 6330 Ways of Knowing Indigenous and Place-based Ecological Knowledge
  • DEA 6200 Studies in Human-Environment Relations
  • DSOC 6060 Sociological Theories of Development
  • DSOC 6820 Community Organizing and Development
LA 6030 The Concentration

The formal concentration in Landscape Architecture allows degree candidates in the department the opportunity to define an area of personal interest within this broad profession or to examine the landscape dimensions of an associated field. The concentration is an opportunity for students to formally establish their interests as part of the degree.

  • The concentration is defined by the student in consultation with their faculty advisor.
  • The requirements of the concentration are at least 10 credits for the MLA beyond those required by the department for the degree. Students include the LA 6030 The Concentration class as part of the 10 credit requirement.

Students may explore elective courses across the university in other colleges, in addition to an expanding curriculum offered by the Department. Due to its unique position within the university, the Department of Landscape Architecture promotes interaction and collaboration with other academic fields, including horticulture, architecture, city and regional planning, fine arts, and the natural and social sciences.

  • Students must enroll in graduate-level courses (5000-level and above) in order for the credit hours to count towards the 90 credit hour (3-Year track) or 60 credit hour (2-Year track) requirements for the MLA degree.
  • Physical Education (PE) courses do not count towards the total credit hours. However, students are encouraged to explore these courses in addition to their core curriculum and electives.