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
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.
The three- and two-year programs in landscape architecture are accredited by the Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board. For more information on LAAB, see:
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.
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).
Close to 75% of recent graduates find employment in landscape architecture within 6 months of graduating.