Master of Landscape Architecture

More than ever, the world needs more informed, more innovative, and more critically involved landscape architects. Population growth, changing climate, and continued depletion of natural resources call into question received planning and design methods. Landscape architects have emerged among design professionals to lead the understanding, organization, reclamation, and re-imagining of our cities to meet the challenges of our future.

Global urbanization has systematically altered the Earth’s planetary ecosystems both within cities and across vast territories that are continually exploited for materials and resources. The IIT landscape architecture program aims to teach landscape architects to engage small and large scale Landscapes of Urbanization through a rigorous training in geographic, ecological, and landscape infrastructural systems. Attention is given both to regenerative landscape design at a planetary level and to shaping urban landscapes that support ecological, infrastructural, and human health functions. Not merely a discussion of ecological restoration, the scale of our work is formally large and operationally intense. Design training within the program is based on understanding landscape’s ability to address climate change, urbanization, population shifts, and resource organization and distribution. Drawing on landscape architecture’s range of work—from urban gardens to regional planning—our students explore the design of landscape networks for food production, hydrological systems, forest systems, mobility infrastructures, and public recreation. These landscape reconfigurations will define how we reoccupy territories as productive landscapes for social, cultural, and economic outcomes. Within this broader ecological context, the program places great attention on the experiential aspects of the public realm by focusing on the quality of the urban pedestrian environment. Materiality, scale, human comfort, visual beauty, and cultural relevance are critical factors in the improvement of urban life. The development and integration of ecological beauty at a range of scales—from site to city to region and beyond—is of paramount importance. In the context of Chicago’s historical and regional landscape aesthetic, we strive to understand, reinforce, and discover formal and visual potential through the integration of ecological design with a highly constructed urban landscape.

Finally, in addition to developing design and technical excellence, a core tenet of the program and school lies in cultivating skillful decision-making among our students to meet the uncertain challenges of 21st century global urbanization. Within the context of a changing and rapidly developing planet, we strive to teach students how to learn, so that students will continue to nimbly and willingly apply core research and design skills, tactics and practices to new situations and new paradigms, developing new outcomes. Among American cities, Chicago presents unique opportunities to test and celebrate the potential of urban environments to transform conditions of crisis into promise, neglect into value, and banality into poetry. IIT Landscape Architecture filters our design and research interests through two key landscape frameworks offered by our setting:

The Great Lakes Basin: The program places a focus on studying the mega-region of the Great Lakes, including its natural systems; water resources and networks; economic, social and political histories and conditions; production landscapes; and infrastructural systems. The shifts in urbanization and relationships across this region, combined with the potential to revive established networks through new configurations, make the area a critical test laboratory for ecological landscape urbanism on a broad scale.

Chicago Landscape Laboratory: Crossing ecological boundaries at a range of scales, Chicago serves as a microcosm of the global ecological situation. Understanding Chicago’s future relies on understanding the fundamental landscape relationships across the city. The landscape architecture program extends its research and design inquiries beyond historic gardens and parks to research abandoned infrastructure landscapes, the Chicago River, vacant neighborhood lots, and industrial lands as opportunities for intervention and regeneration.

MLA Program Mid-Term Review 2015 (photo: Conor O'Shea)

Additional Admission Requirements
To be admitted without conditions to the Master of Landscape Architecture program, an applicant is required to have prior college-level coursework in freehand drawing, biology, and earth science (geology, physical geography, or hydrology, etc.). Candidates lacking these prerequisites may be admitted on the condition that they complete the required coursework before enrolling. Candidates will be notified upon admission of their program of study, which is determined by prior academic training and professional experience, as well as portfolio content.