April is National Landscape Architecture Month

Sarasota, Florida (April 2010) – April is National Landscape Architecture Month, a time for professionals and students to celebrate the impact landscape architecture has created in their communities, and to focus on introducing students and the public to the profession.  Locally, Sarasota studio Michael A. Gilkey, Inc. is celebrating by educating students of all ages about the profession and practice of landscape architecture, and by giving back to the community.

What is Landscape Architecture?

Landscape architecture is the profession that encompasses the analysis, planning, design, management and stewardship of the natural and built environment. Activities of a landscape architect include creating public parks, site planning for commercial and residential properties, reclaiming blighted areas, designing towns and historic preservation. Landscape architects have advanced education, professional training, specialized skills and licensure in 46 states.

Examples of Landscape Architecture in Sarasota

One signature example of landscape architecture in Sarasota is the estate and museum of John Ringling. Designed by Fort Lauderdale landscape architect Frederic B. Stresau in 1952, the Ringling residence complements the man whose career was predicated on the dramatic and the spectacular.  Stresau later made a name for himself as Florida’s premier horticultural landscape architect by penning the popular “Florida, My Eden,” a guide to Florida’s trees and plants.

Another notable landscape architect that literally put his mark on Sarasota was John Nolen, who designed the plan of the city in 1925. Nolen’s firm also procured plans for many other Florida municipalities, including Clearwater, West Palm Beach, and Venice, which he called “an opportunity better…than any other in Florida to apply the most advanced and most practical ideas of regional planning.”

When describing his work on the Sarasota city plan, Nolen said, “A good plan is one which does not attempt to bind the city too far in the future, but is subject to amendment from time to time. It is an encouragement to civic art in that its very design suggests harmony of elements and beauty of form. These features in a recreational center, such as Sarasota, are prime essentials.”

Michael A. Gilkey, Inc. Gives Back for National Landscape Architecture Month

Local landscape architect Michael A. Gilkey, Jr., vice president of Michael A. Gilkey, Inc., will celebrate National Landscape Architecture Month by engaging students in the practice of his profession.  At the youngest level, Southside Elementary kindergarten students will design and plant their own “Shoebox Butterfly Gardens,” with flowering plants supplied by Mariposa Nurseries.  Gilkey will facilitate the exercise in the students’ science lab, taught by Mr. Chip Phillips.  Gilkey is excited to share his love of the profession with even the youngest students, his own son Banyan among them. “Sustainability is a principle that can be taught at a very young age. To me, sustainability is not a constraint, but an avenue to increased creativity.  Some of the most creative people I know are children.”

(The following frequently asked questions were reproduced with permission from the American Society of Landscape Architects.  For more information please visit www.asla.org, or call 202-216-2331.)

Q. What is the difference between a landscape architect and other design professionals?

Landscape architecture, architecture, civil engineering and urban planning are all professions that work with the “built” environment. Despite some overlap between these professions, there are important distinctions.

  • Landscape architects manage any jobs concerning the design and use of outdoor space and the land. The scope of the profession includes site planning, town or urban planning, park and recreation planning, regional planning, garden design and historic preservation.
  • Architects primarily design buildings and structures with specific uses, such as homes, offices, schools and factories.
  • Civil engineers apply scientific principles to the design and construction of public infrastructure such as roads, bridges and utilities.
  • Urban planners develop a broad, comprehensive overview of development for entire cities and regions. Earlier this field was closely associated with landscape architecture and architecture; however, urban planning has developed into a distinct profession with its own courses and degree programs. Today many landscape architects are still heavily involved in the field of urban planning.

Each of these four professions is very distinct from gardeners, landscapers, horticulturists and landscape contractors.

  • Gardeners and landscaper designers usually do not have the advanced degree that is requisite for landscape architects. Their activities focus primarily on fundamental garden design and maintenance.
  • Horticulturists are trained in the science of growing and producing plants. Many horticulturists become nurserymen or work in garden centers.
  • Landscape contractors install planting elements of design conceived by landscape architects. Landscape contractors may be gardeners or landscapers.

Q. Why are commercial developers, urban planners, architects and public policy makers hiring landscape architects with increasing frequency?

Thoughtful landscape architecture adds value to a commercial development by handling aesthetic and practical considerations, and addresses the growing public concern for the environment. In recent years, the most successful building projects in terms of profitability and positive client public response have been those that incorporate the collaborative expertise of many professions. In such cases, landscape architects and the other design professionals have worked together from the project’s planning stages.