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Landscape Architect vs. Landscape Designer: What's the Difference?

Updated: Nov 1, 2022

House frontyard with a beautiful Landscape Design

Are you planning a landscaping project but feeling overwhelmed? It may be time to hire a professional. Or, if you or someone you know enjoys working with plants and designing/building things, they should look into studying landscape architecture or design! What is the main difference between a landscape architect and a landscape designer? You may be surprised to find out how much.

Who Are Landscape Architects

To be able to call yourself a landscape architect and practice this profession, you must have the correct college education as well as a state license. More specifically, the person usually attends an accredited university by ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects) and passes the required exams for licensure. However, a great architect will not only have experience but also training to deal with difficult problems in both commercial and personal sites that could include:

  • Steep slopes

  • Designing outdoor structures

  • Retaining walls

  • Solving elevation problems

  • Irrigation and drainage systems

  • Design and plan service lines, entries, driveways, and parking areas.

Licensed architects not only plan and design public outdoor spaces like parks, campuses, gardens, cemeteries, commercial centers, and resorts but they also specialize in the restoration of natural places that have been disturbed by humans. This includes areas such as wetlands, stream corridors, mined areas, and forested land.

Architects with an education focused on historical landscapes and cultural resources can find employment working on preservation projects for national, state, and local historic outdoor sites. They might work for private practice firms, public organizations, or non-profit agencies.

Landscape and Garden Designers

The difference between these two architects chiefly lies in that designers typically work on smaller residential projects. Although some landscape designers may have comparable training to a landscape with an undergraduate degree or higher in architecture ―they do not hold a state license, which is mandatory.

It's not common for landscape designers to be entirely self-taught. Most have taken courses related to the field at a college, university, or online program. In other words, they didn't just suddenly decide one day that they wanted to work in this profession.

While most garden designers focus on the living elements, like plants, some have experience with synthetic materials too. This is especially common in areas where water is scarce and drought-resistant landscaping tactics are necessary, such as California and Nevada. Here landscape or garden designers often utilize things such as pebbles, bark, and other inorganic material just as frequently as they use more traditional choices like succulents or native plants. Any time actual construction needs to be completed - think earthmoving projects, installing walls, or working with electricity - special permits are required and a licensed landscape contractor must be brought onto the project site.

The difference between landscape design and landscape architecture

The difference may seem small, but it is important to understand the distinction when considering hiring a professional for your outdoor space project. They have typically completed a Bachelor's or Master's degree in this Architecture and are licensed by the state in which they practice. They have a strong understanding of design principles and techniques, as well as knowledge of environmental and social factors, construction methods, and project management. They often work on larger-scale projects such as parks or community planning initiatives.

On the other hand, a landscape designer may have completed formal education in a related field such as horticulture or design but is not required to hold a license. Landscape designers typically focus on residential or small commercial projects and may offer a range of services from basic garden design to project management.

When hiring a professional for your outdoor space project, it is important to consider the scope and scale of the work to be completed. Landscape one is best suited for larger, more complex projects, while landscape designers may be a better fit for smaller, residential spaces. As always, be sure to ask for credentials and a portfolio of previous work before making your decision.

Responsibilities of a landscape architect & a landscape designer

Landscape builders are responsible for the design of outdoor spaces. They plan and oversee the construction of gardens, parks, and other public spaces. They also work on private residences and commercial properties. Some of their responsibilities include:

- Planning and designing outdoor spaces

- Coordinating with contractors and other professionals

- Overseeing construction projects

- Setting up interviews with clients to understand their desires and intentions.

- Drafting designs and proposals

- Ensuring safety and compliance with regulations

On the other hand, a landscape designer is typically responsible for the aesthetic design of outdoor spaces. They may work under the supervision of a landscape architect or for private clients. Landscape designers focus on creating beautiful and functional outdoor areas, incorporating elements such as plants, hardscaping, lighting, and furniture. Some responsibilities include:

- Meeting with clients to discuss their design preferences and needs

- Developing creative and practical designs

- Selecting plants, materials, and furnishings

- Coordinating with contractors and other professionals during the construction process

- Providing ongoing maintenance recommendations to clients.

Overall, while both landscape and designers work in the field of designing outdoor spaces, their roles and responsibilities differ. They take on a more technical and project management role, while landscape designers focus on aesthetic design elements. Both professions require creativity and an understanding of plants, materials, and construction techniques.

Key Differences Between Landscape Architects and Designers

  • Landscape ones are licensed professionals who have completed an accredited degree program in Landscaping. They are trained in both the art and science of landscape design and are responsible for the planning, design, and management of public and private landscapes.

  • Landscape Designers may or may not have formal training in landscaping, but most have some form of training in horticulture, garden design, or landscaping. Landscape Designers typically focus on residential gardens and yards, while they work on larger projects such as parklands, campuses, commercial developments, etc.

  • The Architects typically have more experience than Landscape Designers, with many having 5-10 years of professional experience. Landscapes designed by Architects often look more refined and elegant than those designed by Landscape Designers.

Final Thought

When considering hiring a professional for your outdoor space project, it is important to understand the differences between a landscape architect and a landscape designer. The architects have licensed professionals with advanced education in the field, while landscape designers may have formal education or experience but are not required to hold a license. They typically work on larger-scale projects, while landscape designers are more suited for smaller residential spaces.

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