Landscape Architecture - Three-Year Program

The Landscape Architecture Program at the University of Michigan offers the ideal context for producing tomorrow’s leaders in ecological design. The three-year accredited program is organized to teach students from a wide variety of undergraduate backgrounds and previous careers.

You will learn to be a designer who authentically employs ecological principles in sustainable design of landscapes – from the center of redeveloping cities to changing rural landscapes. Aesthetic theory, cultural engagement, ecological function and environmental justice all figure prominently in the program. Professor Joan I. Nassauer emphasizes “Our program recognizes that design must celebrate culture if it is to sustain ecological function.”

Because landscape architecture is part of the School for Environment andSustainability, there are many opportunities for interaction and collaboration with faculty and students specializing in conservation biology, aquatic and terrestrial ecology, industrial ecology, environmental engineering, environmental justice, environmental psychology, environmental policy and environmental economics.

Dual degree programs are available in urban planning and architecture, and certificate programs are offered in spatial analysis, industrial ecology and real estate. In lieu of a traditional thesis, you may participate in an interdisciplinary, team-based master’s project. This experience requires scholarly effort to achieve a creative application in working and communicating across disciplines.

To help designers constantly bring new knowledge, technologies and policy frameworks into their work, the landscape architecture design curriculum is based on the practice of thoughtful discourse. It reexamines the comfort of old conventions, theories and methods to allow the foundation of professional practice to evolve and invite real innovation. It invites students to challenge hidden assumptions and handle questions that have no ready answers. The program produces students known for their ability to synthesize information about ecological processes, human behavior, institutions and urban patterns to create sustainable landscapes that work aesthetically, ecologically, socially and economically.

What you will study

The curriculum will teach you to look carefully at the landscape and its context, and to analyze its ecological and cultural dynamics. You will come to understand the landscape as the starting point for design. Studio experience is at the heart of the three-year curriculum. Here, studio content and pedagogy teach you to imagine and construct landscapes that seem entirely new and, at the same time, to protect irreplaceable aspects of landscape function and history.

You also will learn how design can respect communities, and you will work in the field to experience urban and rural landscapes that pose a range of challenges. Many students take advantage of opportunities to learn from faculty working around the world, and to travel abroad to draw upon landscape design around the globe.

Launching your career

With the three-year MLA degree, you will be prepared to practice ecological design as part of urban design, brownfield redevelopment, historic preservation, land conservancy planning, landscape planning and site planning. You also will be prepared to work within private architecture, government or nongovernmental organizations.

Graduates are principals with Bonner Associates Landscape Design, Oehme van Sweden & Associates and DeVries Design, among others. Many have launched their own landscape architecture practices after passing the Landscape Architecture Registration Examination and achieving registration.

Other opportunities are available in the public sector with the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, state-level departments of natural resources, and city and county planning agencies. In these settings, graduates often work as park planners, forest planners, wildlife refuge planners or as community planners.

Basic statistics on salaries and employment of recent graduates can be found in the MLA Career Website.

For more information on the Landscape Architecture three-year plan, contact

Landscape Architecture Scholarships and Fellowships