Graduate Programs

Master of Landscape Architecture I

Designing The Urban Ecological Future

CCNY Master of Landscape Architecture students explore design, planning and policy-making to promote civic engagement in complex urban landscape systems, and to advocate for social and environmental equity in response to globalizing economic forces and diminishing natural resources.

The Graduate Program in Landscape Architecture in the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture of the City College of New York prepares students to meet the challenges of future city design within the dynamic environmental scenario of climate change and the exploding growth of metropolitan areas around the nation and the globe.

The program’s position within New York City’s flourishing design community offers students a unique vantage point to participate in socio-environmental design discourse. Our students and faculty are breaking new ground and winning awards in projects such as:

  • Professor Catherine Seavitt Nordenson awarded $250,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to design strategies to improve coastal resiliency of Jamaica Bay, a 31-square mile estuarine embayment located in Brooklyn and Queens.
  • We Live with Animals installation of human and animal interaction in the city, developed by Professors Catherine Seavitt Nordenson and Denise Hoffman Brandt, presented as part of Performa 13, and supported by a New York State Council on the Arts grant.
  • Program Director Denise Hoffman Brandt led a team of first- and second-year MLA students in building Red Carpet Encrypted, a project that explores themes of surveillance and power. Consisting of a series of inactive and “live” hillside stakes (plantings of red dogwood) in the Architecture Omi grounds, the project will be on view for the 2014-15 season and exhibited in the gallery in January 2015.
  • Waterproofing New York Symposium and publication
  • First place in the 2012 Wayne Grace Memorial Student Design Competition (LARBF) for Spoil Islands, a student thesis
  • First place in the Parks for the People competition sponsored by the National Park Service and the Van Alen Institute for Finding Common Ground, a proposal for Nicodemus National Historic Site
  • Student Projects exhibited in Barcelona, Spain, at the International Exhibition of University Projects in the Schools of Architecture and Landscape
  • Travel studios exploring American landscape in California, Kansas, Colorado, Michigan, and the Gulf Coast
  • PLOT, an internationally distributed student-edited journal, and accompanying film series
  • SLUM Lab: Last Round Ecology, multi-disciplinary journal produced in collaboration with ETH Zurich and Columbia University, 2010

Per-semester courseload: 15 credits

TOTAL PROGRAM CREDITS: 90

ACCREDITATION

The Master of Landscape Architecture I program is accredited. See Landscape Architecture Program Accreditation Information for full details.

first Year

Fall Term 1 LAAR 61100Landscape Architecture Studio I

6 credits

This studio introduces a range of technical, spatial, and cognitive skills used in urban landscape design. Manipulation of terrain and spatial conditions are explored using two-dimensional traditional and digital media: plan and section drawing, projection drawings, and three-dimensional physical models. Students are instructed in analytic mapping techniques used to investigate systemic site processes at multiple scales. Studio I design research skills are brought together in the second half of the semester when a terrain is designed in accord with the impacts of a speculative environmental process. Corequisite: 61400 Digital and Traditional Drawing.

LAAR 61300Landscape Technology I

3 credits

This course presents the fundamental principles of site planning: environmental and ecological factors of siting, building, grading, drainage, site structures, and material selection. Students use the analysis of small sites to evaluate underlying issues of environmentally responsible design, zoning requirements, and affordability and describe methods for site inventory, site analysis, and site selection. Grading—an environmental necessity, functional requisite and aesthetic expression—is a key component of the course, and it is used to integrate pragmatic design decision-making into the design process (i.e. drainage and road alignment).

LAAR 61400Digital and Traditional Drawing

3 credits

The course provides instruction in fundamental skills of landscape architectural two-dimensional representation. Graphic design skills are instilled with instruction in photographic, illustration, and publication software. Instruction in AutoCAD supports projection drawings in more advanced rendering software (such as Rhino) by the end of the semester. Corequisite: 61100 Landscape Architecture Studio I.

LAAR 61500Introduction to Ecology and GIS

3 credits

This course provides an introduction to ecological theory and physical geography used as a basis for understanding ecological systems. The interrelationships of geophysical form, climate, surface and subsurface hydrology, and soils are communicated to enable students to understand the complexity of design intervention in natural processes. GIS instruction is incorporated into this class so that students cement their understanding of the system dynamics through data analysis and geospatial mapping.

Spring Term 2 LAAR 62100Landscape Architecture Studio II

6 credits

The second design studio expands the student’s understanding of scale and deepens their understanding of urban context. A site with richly layered historical significance, occupied by a mixed socioeconomic population is chosen for analysis and design transformation at multiple scales. Analysis of environmental processes (soils, hydrology, geology, plant communities, and climate) and socioeconomic factors are compiled into a class-wide publication and site model. The studio emphasizes computer-based presentation techniques and professional collaboration. Design proposals take the form of strategic plans for implementation at an urban or regional scale, supported by case studies at the human scale.

LAAR 62200Introduction to Landscape Architecture History

3 credits

Synoptic themes in landscape architecture history will be presented with theoretical texts to provoke critical thinking about the evolution of landscape form and ideas in Western and non-Western culture. Students will research and document a thematic aspect of world landscape architecture to produce a verbally and visually articulate presentation. Topics include but are not limited to: the role of gardens in American cities, case studies through time in ecologically sustainable practices, and critical assessments of urban infrastructure form and function. 3hr./wk.;3 cr.

LAAR 62300Landscape Technology II

3 credits

This course is a continuation of the content related in LAAR 61300, with problems increasing in scale, complexity, and application constraints. In addition, the course provokes a deeper understanding of the relationship between urban development and constructed landform. The semester projects examine large areas and complex sites with multiple human and environmental overlays. Students deal with complex issues of grading, drainage, site structures, and material. Site grading continues to be used as a focus to integrate design intent with the practical aspects of site planning and design.

LAAR 62700Field Ecology

3 credits

The course examines the functions within and the structures of ecological systems, leading to an understanding of the effects of human activity on the biotic and abiotic component of these systems. The ecological and ethical ramifications of global or local alteration of natural systems are explored to present the larger context in which landscape design is practiced. Special emphasis is placed on the impacts of urbanization on regional ecologies through studying plant communities. The course focus is on an array of field trips to urban landscapes that are emblematic of the confluence of social, cultural, and environmental forces in the city. Prerequisite: 61500 Introduction to Ecology and GIS.

second Year

Fall Term 3 LAAR 63100Landscape Architecture Studio III

6 credits

In the third design studio of the MLA I sequence students produce professional documentation analyzing the socioenvironmental forces shaping a given urban site. A proposal that responds to the challenges of an explicit studio brief is developed with detailed plans and sections describing grading, planting, and materials. Students use that research to prepare a final set of drawings at the level of a professional Design Development package. Prerequisite:
62100 Landscape Architecture Studio II.

LAAR 63300Environmental Planning

3 credits

History and theory readings frame an examination of the physical environment of the New York City metropolitan region, including geology, soils, surface water, dominant weather systems, the changing climate, and plant communities, as the basis for an examination of urban infrastructure: circulatory, energy, economic, water supply and management, and solid and liquid waste systems. Large-scale planning initiatives in the New York area are examined from the perspective of how they address the complex local environmental ecologies. Students prepare colloquium presentations that explore current urban conditions in New York City from the perspective of the in-class urban landscape theory discussions. Prerequisite: LAAR
62700 Field Ecology.

LAAR 65160Urban Plants/Plant Identification

3 credits

This course uses the environs of New York City as a living laboratory for the study and investigation of plant material. Students identify and observe local flora, seeking to understand function in natural systems and the potential for growth and propagation. Plants in native communities – as components of natural systems are compared with plants in the designed landscape to ascertain functional changes in habitat and in soil/ hydrology systems. The class work is augmented by field trips to botanical gardens and arboreta.

LAAR 66200Advanced Visual Representation

3 credits

Current research and professional practice demand a great range of advanced visual representation techniques.Students will be instructed in how to conceptualize landscape design and research techniques including data-based infrographics, advanced 3D rendering, animation, and 3D printing. 3 hr./wk.;3 cr. Prerequisite: LAAR 61400.

Spring Term 4 LAAR 64100Landscape Architecture Studio IV

6 credits

The fourth design studio focuses on the complex and dynamic public space of New York City Housing. Students build on previous study to investigate the physical and cultural forces that shape a specific housing landscape. A master plan for expanded development (mixed use or mixed income) or in response to environmental inequity such as floodplain location is produced and issues are further explored through development of a detailed landscape plan. Prerequisite: LAAR 63100.

LAAR 64400Planting Design

3 credits

Students explore the aesthetic potential of plant material to create compelling spaces with attention to techniques for anticipating growth rate, projecting mature form and seasonal character change. Environmental tolerances of plants in the designed landscape, particularly in constructed urban soil conditions and in areas devoid of supporting plant and biotic communities, are an important focus of the course. Technical aspects of plant material selection, nursery practices, planting plan production and plant specification are covered as well as implications of plant selection on landscape management practices. Prerequisite: LAAR
65160.

LAAR 00000History Elective

Elective offerings change each semester. For a sampling of recent electives, refer to the school schedule. In addition to landscape architecture electives, certain classes within architecture, urban design, and sustainability may fulfill elective requirements.

LAAR 00000Urbanism Elective

Elective offerings change each semester. For a sampling of recent electives, refer to the school schedule. In addition to landscape architecture electives, certain classes within architecture, urban design, and sustainability may fulfill elective requirements.

third Year

Fall Term 5 LAAR 65100Landscape Architecture Studio V

6 credits

The fifth studio is structured around a theme relevant to global urban conditions that is playing out in another part of the United States but that is consistent with issues in the New York metropolitan region. The studio enables students to understand how to apply ideas and techniques from their previous coursework and studios in new contexts. Students are required to define key social, environmental, and ecological issues and explore the resolution of these issues, weighing the often conflicting demands of environmental mitigation and remediation, cultural habits of occupation, and economic and social constraints. Studio themes such as “shrinking” cities, urban water scarcity/plenty, and extra-regional scale infrastructure systems are examples of topics explored in the past several years. Prerequisite: LAAR 64100. Corequisite: LAAR 64150.

LAAR 64150Design Research

3 credits

Design research methodology is essential to landscape design practice. This class affords an opportunity for students to pursue in-depth research to develop skills in digital media and through exploration of local archives and record repositories to evolve a research a project that interests them. Students devise independent research propositions in landscape design and are guided through the process of research and then testing and supporting their assertions. The instructor guides reading lists and offers insight into contemporary theory. The process covers professional document formatting, inclusion of graphic information, and research and communication of ideas using advanced digital media. Corequisite: LAAR
65100 Studio V.

LAAR 64700Landscape Restoration

3 credits

This advanced course examines the theory, ethics, and practice of restoration, preservation, conservation and ecological adaptation of the terrestrial and aquatic biomes of North America. Specific research attention is given to the management and adaptation policies of the US Department of Fish and Wildlife’s publicly held federal lands, and National Wildlife Refuges. Strategies for ecological management and planting in degraded urban conditions, brownfields, canalized shorelines, and diminished wetlands due to changes in salinity, stormwater runoff, and urban fill are discussed. Students will become familiar with issues and ethics of design within these conditions as well as learning pragmatic tactics for improving the urban environment.

LAAR 65300Professional Practice

3 credits

This course introduces the range of practice undertaken by qualified landscape architects at site scale and planning scale in both the public and private sectors. The course will familiarize students with the range of legal and administrative requirements of practice and office projects, from the pursuit of work, preparation of proposals, contracting of services, design documentation, specifications, bidding, and construction administration, to final client hand-over and ongoing management of liability. 3hr./wk.; 3 cr. Prerequisite: LAAR 62300 Landscape Technology II.

Spring Term 6 LAAR 66100Comprehensive Studio

6 credits

The objective of the final project is to build independent conceptual processes and design skills in future academic and professional practitioners. To be considered complete for review, each project must test, through design, the objectives and rationale of a written project statement. It is in this phase of the program that the key objective of the school: to prepare students to design environmentally and socially vibrant landscapes for twenty-first century cities that address issues of increasing globalization, expanding urbanization, environmental and social system sustainability, the promotion of social and environmental justice, the need for transformed land management practices in response to diminishing natural resources, and the mitigation and adaptation to climate change, is tested. Prerequisite: LAAR 65100.

LAAR 00000Professional Elective

Elective offerings change each semester. For a sampling of recent electives, refer to the school schedule. In addition to landscape architecture electives, certain classes within architecture, urban design, and sustainability may fulfill elective requirements.

LAAR 00000History Elective

Elective offerings change each semester. For a sampling of recent electives, refer to the school schedule. In addition to landscape architecture electives, certain classes within architecture, urban design, and sustainability may fulfill elective requirements.

LAAR 00000General Elective

Elective offerings change each semester. For a sampling of recent electives, refer to the school schedule. In addition to landscape architecture electives, certain classes within architecture, urban design, and sustainability may fulfill elective requirements.