Programs

Master of Landscape Architecture + Urbanism

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Landscapes are the intersection of nature, social conditions and the built environment.  The Graduate Program of Landscape Architecture + Urbanism at the USC School of Architecture explores the role of Southern California and global geographies as generators and solutions to the world’s most pressing environmental challenges of climate change, social and environmental justice and the role of technology.  In our program we research these issues and develop multi layered proposals using design thinking to address extreme natural and social conditions affecting people, infrastructure and the environment, especially as these issues present themselves in our everyday life.

 

WHY CHOOSE THE SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA?

 

The University of Southern California is an exceptional opportunity to study the entirety of the built environment in an integrated design research environment.  Our faculty draws from the academic community in our leading private research university with 21 schools and units.  We collaborate with faculty in Architecture, Heritage Conservation, Building Sciences, the Price School of Planning, Keck School of Medicine, Dornsife Spatial Sciences Institute and other areas of interest.  Our full time faculty are actively engaged in research topics that include urban ecology, cultural agency, alternative infrastructures, climate change adaptation and environmental justice.   Our part time faculty come from some of the most active and innovative practices on the west coast including Agence Ter, Studio MLA. Rio Clemente Hale Studios, Stoss Landscape Urbanism and the SWA group.

 

Our students come from a wide variety of undergraduate majors including architecture, environmental science, visual arts, liberal arts and urban planning. Our 2 year advanced placement degree is designed for graduates of Bachelor of Landscape Architecture programs and related degrees.  Upon completion, our graduates pursue leadership opportunities in professional practice, public service and higher education. They utilize their skills in design, communication and critical thinking to take on complex issues, projects and initiatives.  As green infrastructure gains recognition as a cost and resource efficient replacement for traditional infrastructure we see growing demand for graduates in the field.  Our students have developed regional and site specific responses to sea level rise, lead soil contamination, groundwater depletion, urban habitat restoration, petroleum industry impacts and transportation technology advances.  They are prepared to collaborate on complex teams to develop resilient solutions balancing nature and man-made interventions that enhance the civic realm, that respect and strengthen communities.  

 

Our program curriculum is focused on a balanced core of design studios, media and representation, history & theory, construction documentation, plant materials and ecology, and urbanism.  The studio sequence is designed to build design and communication skills within the process of understanding site, context and strategies for intervention.  We begin with small local urban sites where intensive field work is critical to site understanding and build up to a year long investigation of relevant topics and site investigations in the third year design research seminar and studios.  Students synthesize their coursework in history, plant materials, ecology, construction and urbanism with their studio work.  Second year studios provide opportunities to investigate design responses to climate change impacts and options to collaborate with architecture students in an integrated setting.  Elective courses in our curriculum come from a wide range of offerings in the School of Architecture and related real estate, planning and cinema courses offered at USC. 

 

We are fortunate to inhabit one of the most culturally and environmentally diverse geographies in the world.  We are located within an hour’s drive from the Pacific Ocean, the San Gabriel Mountains and the western edge of the Sonoran Desert.   Los Angeles is the most vibrant and diverse city on the West Coast of the US. We are known as the city that is constantly reinventing ourselves.  At the beginning of the 21st century we are engaged in efforts to re-define our City and our relationship to natural systems. We are optimistic that this generation, with the benefit of increased attention to the qualities and power of the landscape will prove to be more resilient than the last.

 

Design Research Thesis

The design research thesis is a full academic year project for all MLA+U students. It is a  guided process that takes advantage of the expertise and ongoing research of professors, and  leads students through the design research process. Students utilize their previous studio and core courses to thoroughly research a geography and topic of significance. In the last two years topics have included systems approaches to landscapes in Los Angeles, the meaning of native landscapes and concepts of beauty and resilience.

 

The fall semester initiates the course of study with a studio (ARCH 642) in which students explore a larger geography and overall research topic.  In the companion research seminar (Arch 698a)  students do field work, historical, cultural and theoretical research, conduct primary research and work to define their individual area of interest.   By the end of the fall semester, each student has defined their personal design research question, identified a specific site, researched a series of relevant case studies and compiled a data and literature review to support their design and research work.

 

Students work independently on their thesis topics in the spring with faculty guidance.  At the end of the spring semester, the final design research thesis work is produced and presented to faculty and outside critics who are investigating similar topics in practice or teaching.

 

MLA Thesis & Design Research Studies

 

 

LAAB Accreditation

The three year first professional degree program in landscape architecture received its initial accreditation in 2011 by the Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board (LAAB). We successfully completed our latest review in November 2017 and were granted the maximum renewal of six years.

USC MLA Accreditation 2011

 

STEM-Designated Degree Program

The Master of Landscape Architecture degree is a STEM program (CIP code 03.0103 Environmental Studies).  This applies to both the three-year (+3) and two-year (+2) tracks. The STEM designation allows international students to be eligible for a 24-month extension of the Optional Practical Training (OPT) period (for a total eligibility of up to 36 months instead of the maximum 12 months of eligibility for non-STEM disciplines). OPT is a type of work authorization for F-1 student visa holders that provides an opportunity for employment experience in the U.S.

 

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
47 students matriculated into the 3-year professional degree in the past four years.
·      16 students earned the degree in three years.
·      26 students are in progress to complete the degree in a timely manner.
·      5 students departed from the program after modifying their degree objectives.

 
MASTER OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE, 2 YEAR CURRICULUM (as of 2016 Advanced Placement Status requires previous LAAB Accredited Degree)
34 students matriculated into the 2-year professional degree in the past four years.
·      24 students earned the degree in two years.
·      3 students earned the degree within three years.

·      7 students are in progress to complete the degree in a timely manner.

 

 

 

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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Individuals who have completed a four-year Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree, or its equivalent, with no prior accredited degree in landscape architecture, 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.

 

 

Requirements for Advanced Placement

Applicants who have completed an undergraduate professional Landscape Architecture degree, or equivalent, may be granted advanced placement of two semesters, subject to the review of the MLA+U admission committee. Applicants granted advanced placement may be able to waive certain course requirements for the MLA program by demonstrating equivalencies in 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 635 or equivalent), plant materials (ARCH 537, ARCH 538 or equivalent), media (ARCH 539 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 2017-2018 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 10 must be from the School of Architecture, and 10 units of Thesis. Electives must be part of a curricular plan approved by the program director.

 

Year One, Semester One

Units

ARCH 414 Perspectives in History and Theory of Architecture- Landscape Imaginary 2
ARCH 439 Landscape Architecture Media Workshop 1
ARCH 531 The Natural Landscape 3

ARCH 539L

Media for Landscape Architecture

3

ARCH 541aL

Landscape Architecture Design

6

 

 

Total Units: 15

 

Year One, Semester Two

Units

ARCH 534

Landscape Construction: Topographic Design

3

ARCH 537 Urban Plant Ecology: Environmental Perspectives 3

ARCH 541bL

Landscape Architecture Design

6

ARCH 548

Media for Landscape Architecture: 3D Design

3

ARCH 565

Global History of Landscape Architecture

3

 

 

Total Units: 18

 

Year Two, Semester One

Units

ARCH 542aL

Landscape Architecture Design

6

ARCH 538L

Urban Plant Ecology: Cultural Perspectives

4

ARCH 545

Urban Landscape: Contemporary History and Prospect

3

ARCH 635

Landscape Construction: Assembly and Documentation

3

Electives

 

2

 

 

Total Units: 18

 

Year Two, Semester Two

Units

ARCH 542bL

Landscape Architecture Design

6

ARCH 535 Landscape Construction: Performance Approaches 3

Electives

 

6

 

 

Total Units: 15

 

Year Three, Semester One

Units

ARCH 530

Landscape Architecture Practice

3

ARCH 642L

Landscape Architecture Design

6

ARCH 698aL

M.L.Arch Thesis 

2

Electives

 

4

 

 

Total Units: 15

 

Year Three, Semester Two

Units

ARCH 547 Urban Nature 3

ARCH 698bL

M.L.Arch Thesis 

8

Electives

 

4

 

 

Total Units: 15

 

64-Unit Curriculum +2 (For Advanced Placement students admitted with a LAAB or equivalent degree in Landscape Architecture)

Advanced placement students must complete 64 units, including 39 units of specified courses, 15 units of electives of which a minimum of 10 must be from the School of Architecture, and 10 units of Thesis. Electives must be part of a curricular plan approved by the program director.

 

 

Year One, Semester One

Units

ARCH 531 The Natural Landscape 3

ARCH 542aL

Landscape Architecture Design

6

ARCH 545

Urban Landscape: Contemporary History and Prospect

3

Electives

 

3

 

 

Total Units: 15

 

Year One, Semester Two

Units

ARCH 535 Landscape Construction: Performance Approaches 3

ARCH 542bL

Landscape Architecture Design

6

ARCH 548

Media for Landscape Architecture: 3D Design

3

ARCH 565 Global History of Landscape Architecture 3

Electives

 

2

 

 

Total Units: 17

 

Year Two, Semester One

Units

ARCH 530

Landscape Architecture Practice

3

ARCH 642L

Landscape Architecture Design

6

ARCH 698aL

M.L.Arch Thesis 

2

Electives

 

6

 

 

Total Units: 17

 

Year Two, Semester Two

Units

ARCH 547 Urban Nature 3

ARCH 698bL

M.L.Arch Thesis 

8

Electives

 

4

 

 

Total Units: 15

 

 

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