Programs

Master of Landscape Architecture + Urbanism

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Los Angeles, which Reyner Banham famously interpreted in 1971 as a construct of four ecologies, is an ideal urban nature setting for studying landscape architecture — where urgent contemporary issues can and must be addressed while testing the boundaries of design research, design thinking and implementation. The growing ecological crises and intense population pressure of the city’s coasts, flatlands and foothills are a pars pro toto, a microcosm, of the challenges facing state, nation and globe, ones that necessitate a paradigm shift to complex systems thinking.

 

Graduate landscape architecture at the University of Southern California (USC) is based on the knowledge and skills to engage complex issues, and to undertake ambitious design explorations. Upon completion, graduates are prepared for both design and leading leadership opportunities in professional practice, public service as well as in higher education; they are able to address the necessary balance of ecology and development our future environments will require.

 

Landscape architecture at USC is about unraveling the complex and continually evolving social and environmental conditions of sites and territories in order to develop thriving communities and environments. The design-centered program develops a trans-disciplinary capacity, approaches that reach across scales, and combines the tangible and the imaginary to provoke conversations that promote social equity, environmental justice, and spaces for creative expression. An exceptional core faculty brings to the program its cutting-edge, topical research and outstanding teaching skills, while adjuncts and critics from an expanded network of LA and the wider world of landscape and affiliated fields convey fresh perspectives.

 

Sequential studios and complementary courses, taught by both in-house and invited experts, that focus on history and theory, techniques and tools, develop relevant means towards the major challenges of society and towards the built environment. Climate change, resource and food security, landscape toxicity and water scarcity require the skills of the landscape architect, who has for too long been absent from (the power and) responsibility of the territory. At USC’s Graduate Program of Landscape Architecture + Urbanism transformation of the territory is premised on extensive fieldwork and an understanding of the latent qualities of existing sites and the (development) agencies that act upon them. Social and cultural transformations of territories are a means to strategically reformulate reality.

 

The USC Landscape Architecture + Urbanism program develops real-world issues, formulates and re-formulates problems, explores and proposes operative strategies and becomes part of the discourse with stakeholders and cities. The resistive capacity of the landscape to the ever-globalizing, homogenization of territories is created as a means to shape possible futures for parks, neighborhoods, city districts and the larger stewardship of the landscape.

 

USC’s program draws its inspiration from the, energy and dynamism of Los Angeles itself, a complex, blend of urban life and cultural diversity. Blessed with a mild climate, yet at risk from earthquakes and other natural or, manmade disasters, LA is a city that has learned to take environmental and ecological questions seriously. Above all, Los Angeles is a highly original, experimental city that, consistently challenges preconceptions, and serves as an incubator for new ideas and practices.

 

Thesis

The design research thesis is a full academic year design research exploration. It is a tightly guided process taking advantage of the expertise and on-going research of our program professors that guides students through an academically rigorous design research process. In the fall semester, students choose from one of two professors as their instructor for their year-long thesis work: professors present either umbrella themes or geographies that are broad enough for students to be able to identify individual passions / interests and develop their own direction during the course of the year. The fall semester begins as a studio (ARCH 642) with specific exercises, however, by the mid-semester review, students are asked to identify individual design research questions to pursue for their thesis. By the end of the fall semester, each student has a design research question and site as well as a series of relevant case studies and literature review to support their work.

 

At the conclusion of the spring semester, final design research thesis is presented as an 11”x11” booklet encompassing the work of the entire year. It is typically structured as a 1) design research question (or questions); 2) identification of a particular with archival and interpretative fieldwork mapping; 3) critical literature review and relevant case studies; 4) design research; 5) development of a position as a landscape architect in light of the design research question (conclusion). The booklet is image-heavy with extended captions.

 

The work and is read and evaluated by four individuals: the director, the professor guiding the work, one other faculty member from the landscape architecture program at USC and one landscape architect from practice in Los Angeles. At the end of the spring semester all the students present in a public format. The design research thesis defense is not a project review but a one-hour session with a student presentation and discussion with the Thesis readers.

 

MLA Thesis & Design Research Studies

 

LAAB Accreditation
Accreditation is a non-governmental, voluntary system of self-regulation. Its core is the concept of self-evaluation. The Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board (LAAB) accreditation process evaluates each program on the basis of its stated objectives and compliance to externally mandated minimum standards. The program conducts a self-study to evaluate how well it is meeting its educational goals. LAAB then provides an independent assessment, which determines if a program meets accreditation requirements. Programs leading to first professional degrees at the bachelor’s or master’s levels in the United States are eligible to apply for accreditation from LAAB.

The USC Master of Landscape Architecture first professional curricula (3-year and 2-year curricula) are accredited by the American Society of Landscape Architects Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board (LAAB). The LAAB Conditions of Accreditation (including the Student Performance Criteria) are posted on the ASLA website:

LAAB Accreditation Standards Procedures

USC MLA Accreditation 2011

 

PUBLIC INFORMATION POLICY

Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board (LAAB) accredited programs are required to provide reliable information to the public.  Programs must report on accreditation status and its performance. This information is to help potential students make informed application decisions.

 

ACCREDITATION

The three- and two-year programs in landscape architecture are accredited by the Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board.  For more information on LAAB, see:

https://www.asla.org/AccreditationLAAB.aspx

 

 

RETENTION AND GRADUATION RATES

 

A highly desirable faculty: student ratio plays a central role in our high retention rates. Faculty members continually support and monitor student performance to ensure timely graduation.

 

 

MASTER OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE, 3 YEAR CURRICULUM:

38 of 43 students entering in the past four years earned their degree within 3 years

 

  • 1 student continued for a fourth year to earn the degree.
  • 43 students total have entered the program in the past 4 years; 4 of them subsequently left for personal reasons

 

MASTER OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE, 2 YEAR CURRICULUM:

37 of 40 students entering in the past four years earned their degree within 2 years 

 

  • 40 students total have entered the program in the past 4 years; all of them have graduated or are currently working toward a timely graduation (3 students continued for a third year to earn the degree)

 

 

ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE

USC requires students to maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0 to earn a graduate degree. The average grade point average (GPA) of Master of Landscape Architecture students is 3.51 (on a 4.0 grade point system).

 

EMPLOYMENT STATUS

Close to 75% of recent graduates find employment in landscape architecture within 6 months of graduating.

 

 

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Admission with No Previous Professional Education (+3)

Individuals who have completed a four-year Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree, or its equivalent, with no prior degree in landscape architecture, architecture or environmental design, are eligible for admis­sion to the program. Preference for admission is given to those who have completed a bal­anced undergraduate education that includes study in the arts, sciences and humanities. Applicants must document successful completion of a college-level course in the natural sciences. Preparation in the visual arts is strongly encouraged. A minimum of a one-semester, college-level course in the visual arts, such as drawing, sculpture, graphics and/ or basic design, is required before beginning the first semester of study. Courses in the humanities, ecology, history of art, landscape architecture and architecture are strongly encouraged, although not required. Please see the 96-Unit Curriculum +3.

 

 

Admission with Advanced Placement (+2)

Applicants who have completed a non- accredited, pre-professional undergraduate degree in architecture, landscape architecture or environmental design may be granted advanced placement of one or two semesters, subject to the review of the admission committee. Applicants granted advanced placement may be able to waive certain course requirements for the MLA program by demonstrating equivalencies in any of the required courses. The program director and faculty in charge of the specific curriculum areas will determine the studio and professional course requirements for each MLA student admitted with advanced placement. The following courses are prerequisites to be completed prior to matriculation or, on specific notice, in the first year of the program: history of landscape architecture (ARCH 565 or equivalent), landscape architecture construction (ARCH 534, ARCH 535 or equivalent), plant materials (ARCH 537, ARCH 538 or equivalent), media (ARCH 548 or equivalent). Please see 64-Unit Curriculum +2.

 

 

Retention and Graduation Rates

Approximately 24 students are enrolled each year, primarily in the first professional degree curricula, with 1-4 in the post-professional degree program.  The student retention and on-time graduate rate is 96%.

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Learning Objectives for this Program

Following is the program curriculum for the 2016-2017 Academic Year.  For previous years, please consult the online USC Catalogue archive.

 

The USC Catalogue is the document of authority for all students. The program requirements listed in the USC Catalogue supersede any information which may be contained in any bulletin of any school or department. The university reserves the right to change its policies, rules, regulations, requirements for graduation, course offerings and any other contents of this catalogue at any time.

 

96-Unit Sample Curriculum +3

Students admitted with no previous professional education must complete 96 units, including 70 units of specified courses, 16 units of electives of which a minimum of 14 must be from the School of Architecture, and 10 units of Thesis Option I or II. Electives must be part of a curricular plan approved by the program director.

 

Year One, Semester One

Units

ARCH 439 Landscape Architecture Media Workshop 1

ARCH 537L

Urban Plant Ecology: Environmental Perspectives

3

ARCH 539L

Media for Landscape Architecture

2

ARCH 541aL

Landscape Architecture Design

6

ARCH 565

Global History of Landscape Architecture

3

ARCH 567L Landscape Architecture Vertical Workshop and Debate Series 0.5

 

 

Total Units: 15.5

 

Year One, Semester Two

Units

ARCH 534

Landscape Construction: Topographic Design

3

ARCH 538L

Urban Plant Ecology: Cultural Perspectives

4

ARCH 541bL

Landscape Architecture Design

6

ARCH 548

Media for Landscape Architecture: 3D Design

3

ARCH 567L

Landscape Architecture Vertical Workshop and Debate Series

0.5

 

 

Total Units: 16.5

 

Year Two, Semester One

Units

ARCH 531

The Natural Landscape

3

ARCH 535

Landscape Construction: Performance Approaches

3

ARCH 542aL

Landscape Architecture Design

6

ARCH 544

Urban Landscape: Process and Place

3

ARCH 567L

Landscape Architecture Vertical Workshop and Debate Series

0.5

 

 

Total Units: 15.5

 

Year Two, Semester Two

Units

ARCH 542bL

Landscape Architecture Design

6

ARCH 545

Urban Landscape: Contemporary History and Prospect

3

ARCH 567L Landscape Architecture Vertical Workshop and Debate Series 0.5

ARCH 635

Landscape Construction: Assembly and Documentation

3

Electives

 

4

 

 

Total Units: 16.5

 

Year Three, Semester One

Units

ARCH 530

Landscape Architecture Practice

3

ARCH 567L Landscape Architecture Vertical Workshop and Debate Series 0.5

ARCH 642L

Landscape Architecture Design

6

ARCH 697aL

ARCH 698aL

M.L.Arch Thesis Option II, or

M.L.Arch Thesis Option I

2

Electives

 

6

 

 

Total Units: 17.5

 

Year Three, Semester Two

Units

ARCH 567L Landscape Architecture Vertical Workshop and Debate Series 0.5

ARCH 697bL

ARCH 698bL

M.L.Arch Thesis Option II, or

M.L.Arch Thesis Option I

8

Electives

 

6

 

 

Total Units: 14.5

 

64-Unit Curriculum +2 (For Advanced Placement students admitted with pre-professional design degrees or a first professional degree in Landscape Architecture)

Advanced placement students must complete 64 units, including 38 units of specified courses, 16 units of electives of which a minimum of 12 must be from the School of Architecture, and 10 units of Thesis Option I or II. Electives must be part of a curricular plan approved by the program director.

 

 

Year One, Semester One

Units

ARCH 542aL

Landscape Architecture Design

6

ARCH 544

Urban Landscape: Process and Place

3

ARCH 565 Global History of Landscape Architecture 3

ARCH 567L

Landscape Architecture Vertical Workshop and Debate Series

0.5

Electives

 

4

 

 

Total Units: 16.5

 

Year One, Semester Two

Units

ARCH 542bL

Landscape Architecture Design

6

ARCH 545

Urban Landscape: Contemporary History and Prospect

3

ARCH 548

Media for Landscape Architecture: 3D Design

3

ARCH 567L Landscape Architecture Vertical Workshop and Debate Series 0.5

Electives

 

3

 

 

Total Units: 15.5

 

Year Two, Semester One

Units

ARCH 530

Landscape Architecture Practice

3

ARCH 531

The Natural Landscape

3

ARCH 567L Landscape Architecture Vertical Workshop and Debate Series 0.5

ARCH 642L

Landscape Architecture Design

6

ARCH 697aL

M.L.Arch Thesis Option II, or

 

ARCH 698aL

M.L.Arch Thesis Option I

2

Electives

 

2

 

 

Total Units: 16.5

 

Year Two, Semester Two

Units

ARCH 567L Landscape Architecture Vertical Workshop and Debate Series 0.5

ARCH 697bL

M.L.Arch Thesis Option II, or

 

ARCH 698bL

M.L.Arch Thesis Option I

8

Electives

 

7

 

 

Total Units: 15.5

 

 

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Description
Requirements
Curriculum
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