This 30 acre park, constructed on a landfill between 1988-1992, has several earthworks and land art pieces on it, designed by the park designers,  George Hargreaves, Peter Richards, and Michael Oppenheimer. A series of mounds, a series of poles, and other berms and concrete zigzags. Palo Alto meets the Bay in an interesting collection of terminal sites around the park. An active landfill for the city lies next to the wastewater treatment plant for the region, which discharges into the adjacent slough. Up until a few years ago, gold from the area’s high-tech firms was extracted from the wastewater and sold. Now companies using gold capture it themselves.

Byxbee Park is both perfectly obvious and perfectly bizarre. Obvious, because it’s in the middle of the Baylands and offers spectacular views of the bay in all directions. Perfectly bizarre, because it is full of machinery and mysterious artifacts that have an allure similar to Stonehenge. Clearly these things were built by humans, and at some effort, but to what earthly purpose?

The artifacts include a carefully planted forest of wooden poles, as well as a piece of equipment that looks like a cross between a rugby goal and wind chimes. K-rail is laid out in chevrons on one hillside. In a dip on the other side, stands a chugging, churning device that looks to have sagged out of plumb a generation ago. A trail of shimmery heat waves comes out the top.

Most startlingly, the place breathes, though not always in the same rhythm. A few years ago, you had to listen carefully for the long-drawn-out, despondent sigh it cast upon the air every two minutes or so. When I visited more recently, the park breathed almost in synch with myself, a little stertorously perhaps, as if suffering from some minor pulmonary obstruction.




There’s a simple explanation for the mystery: Byxbee Park is repurposed landfill, a small section of the Palo Alto city dump that was decommissioned some time in the 1980s. Its artificial hills are studded with pipes and pumps for the capture of leachate and methane. The leachate goes to the purification plant down the road, while the methane is burned off by a flare, that rusty device described above. Construction rubble peeks out of the grassy knolls behind the “habitat reconstruction” signs. The pole forest is in fact “land art,” and so are the K-rail and the rugby chimes.


If you don’t already know, then it’s not so easy to find out what Byxbee Park is. A plaque near the entrance to the park says: "The design of Byxbee Park is the result of a collaboration between the City of Palo Alto, landscape architects Hargreaves Associates, and artists Michael Oppenheimer and Peter Richards. The project was funded in part by the City of Palo Alto refuse collection fees and the Public Art Commission’s Art in Public Places program." A map identifies the installations by name but declines all effort at explanation. And not a word about garbage apart from those collection fees.

Byxbee’s tight-lipped stance, the likely legacy of the 20th-century’s long romance with "sanitation," is perhaps understandable. Sanitation was about garbage removal as a public health measure, about whisking garbage away from the curb and making it disappear. It was about burying garbage where nobody had to worry about it except the sanitation department. It was about creating a world where you could pretend that garbage didn’t really amount to any of your business. That time has passed.

The sanitation romance is fading and reality asserts itself. What may once have counted as innocence would now only look like wanton blindness. Most of us are uncomfortably aware of the fact that natural resources are finite and landfill space harder and harder to come by. Sanitary engineering has given way to environmental engineering, and ordinary people are handling (and worrying about) their trash, at least a little. When we drag our garbage cans to the curb and the lid won’t quite go down, we probably don’t feel too good about it.


All the same, it’s still awkward to talk about garbage publicly. The instinct still is to pull away from the subject as if it were sex and we Victorians. Garbage isn’t quite taboo, but it isn’t approved cocktail party conversation either—or something easily owned up to in park signage. It’s not just Byxbee Park where the "habitat restoration" signs don’t specify what type of habitat it is exactly that’s being restored. Bayfront Park, in Menlo Park, doesn’t have a single sign telling you it’s the old town dump. The Sunnyvale dump has signs all over it that say "Sensitive Wildlife Area." Indeed.

Garbage dumps are just more comfortable telling you how to comport yourself than pointing out what it is you’ve already accomplished.

But perhaps a new era is dawning, in which we can learn to think about garbage and to discuss it in polite society—if only because we actually feel a little guilty about the amounts of trash we get rid of every week. Because we suspect that, whatever happens to it precisely, it’s not a pretty story. And if we dig our garbage back up out of the twilit reaches of a guilty conscience, then perhaps the signage at our landfills can be a little more straightforward too.

At Byxbee right now, the best hint of what’s underfoot is the active fill next door. Its mounds rise at a startling rate, even though only a portion of Palo Alto’s garbage ends up here now. Every time I visit Byxbee, the new dump is a little more present. One day, a new hill rises in the back. Another time, fill activity is going on in front, where there used to be a miscellany of trucks, rubble, equipment, and temporary storage. A third time, a little setup of pumps and other machinery has been moved out of the hollow in which it sat, and the hollow itself is now a big hill.

With only a few years of space left in it, the active dump is expected to reach capacity in 2011, and the entire area will become parkland. As garbage hills go, Byxbee won’t be very large. Nevertheless, if it’s your garbage in there, how is it not special?

Even when you know what it is made of, Byxbee is quite lovely. Or maybe it is actually more lovely. In summer, when the grass is a bright strawberry blond and the sky intensely blue, the garbage is more a distant memory than a looming presence. Christmastime is different. The park has a leaden quality, even on the brighter days. The dull green of the grass and the relatively low light lend the hills an ominous air far more suggestive of the putrid mess underfoot.

In winter, the geese come through on their way south. Large groups, sometimes hundreds of them, camp out for a day or so to rest. The younger members of the flock occupy their time with incessant honking, squawking, and squabbling to rearrange the social order, while the more sedate and peaceable members of the congregation contentedly snack on the new grass.

The pelicans like to doze near Adobe Creek, neatly folded into small, blazing white packages from which occasionally a gawky long neck and beak protrudes. They could be a demonstration of the amazing ingenuity of a high-tech camping gadget. An occasional loner on the wing, flying low over the water, demonstrates the size and power of the animal when fully folded out.


At sunrise the wading birds and other water fowl are out at first light, always already there by the time I arrive. Most of the smaller ones I don’t recognize, although I am familiar with the names: terns, grebes, willets, western sandpipers, curlews, greater and lesser yellowlegs. They roll on the tongue like burbling water, out of time and history, comforting like the birds themselves.

They offer us a little hope: no matter how artificial the environment, no matter how degraded, life goes on. For now at least.


Sustainable Urbanization in the Information Age

The Sustainable Urbanization in conference addresses the global challenges posed by rapid urbanization and its impact on global warming and the natural environment – from poverty and inequality to natural and manmade disasters – by calling for better sustainable planning for urban growth.

Global warming and climate change pose serious threats to all nations in the 21st century.

The Sustainable Urbanization conference seeks to create opportunities to share best practices between nations, as well as the political means to bring about change.

It is imperative that the problem of worldwide urbanization be faced in an informed and inspired way, in order to create the preconditions for a sustainable environment and healthy and fulfilling life for millions of people around the world.

The Conference will be held in New York City during Earth Week on 23 April 2008, at the United Nations Headquarters.

The conference will be linked to other events planned in New York on the celebration of Earth Day (22 April) and Earth Week – the anniversary of Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC 2030, as well as the 2008 Regional Assembly of the Regional Planning Association on "Oil and Water, Adopting to Society" to be held on 18 April 2008, and the Go Green Expo on 27 April 2008.

The World Urban Forum organized by UN-HABITAT, which will take place in China in October 2008, will concentrate on the sustainability of cities.

"As a landscape architect, the ability to work with spaces and to find a solution to a problem or challenge, while at the same time creating something aesthetically pleasing, is really inspirational…"

Significant Points:

  • More than 26 percent of all landscape architects are self-employed—more than 3 times the proportion for all professionals.
  • A bachelor�s degree in landscape architecture is the minimum requirement for entry-level jobs; many employers prefer to hire landscape architects who also have completed at least one internship.
  • Landscape architect jobs are expected to increase due to a growing demand for incorporating natural elements into man-made environments, along with the need to meet a wide array of environmental restrictions.

Nature of the Work

Everyone enjoys attractively designed residential areas, public parks and playgrounds, college campuses, shopping centers, golf courses, parkways, and industrial parks. Landscape architects design these areas so that they are not only functional, but also beautiful, and compatible with the natural environment. They plan the location of buildings, roads, and walkways, and the arrangement of flowers, shrubs, and trees.

Landscape architects work for many types of organizations—from real estate development firms starting new projects to municipalities constructing airports or parks—and they often are involved with the development of a site from its conception. Working with architects, surveyors, and engineers, landscape architects help determine the best arrangement of roads and buildings. They also collaborate with environmental scientists, foresters, and other professionals to find the best way to conserve or restore natural resources. Once these decisions are made, landscape architects create detailed plans indicating new topography, vegetation, walkways, and other landscaping details, such as fountains and decorative features.

In planning a site, landscape architects first consider the nature and purpose of the project and the funds available. They analyze the natural elements of the site, such as the climate, soil, slope of the land, drainage, and vegetation; observe where sunlight falls on the site at different times of the day and examine the site from various angles; and assess the effect of existing buildings, roads, walkways, and utilities on the project.

After studying and analyzing the site, landscape architects prepare a preliminary design. To account for the needs of the client as well as the conditions at the site, they frequently make changes before a final design is approved. They also take into account any local, State, or Federal regulations, such as those protecting wetlands or historic resources. In preparing designs, computer-aided design (CAD) has become an essential tool for most landscape architects. Many landscape architects also use video simulation to help clients envision the proposed ideas and plans. For larger scale site planning, landscape architects also use geographic information systems technology, a computer mapping system.

Throughout all phases of the planning and design, landscape architects consult with other professionals, such as civil engineers, hydrologists, or architects, involved in the project. Once the design is complete, they prepare a proposal for the client. They produce detailed plans of the site, including written reports, sketches, models, photographs, land-use studies, and cost estimates, and submit them for approval by the client and by regulatory agencies. When the plans are approved, landscape architects prepare working drawings showing all existing and proposed features. They also outline in detail the methods of construction and draw up a list of necessary materials. Landscape architects then mainly monitor the implementation of their design, with general contractors or landscape contractors usually directing the actual construction of the site and installation of plantings.

Some landscape architects work on a variety of projects. Others specialize in a particular area, such as residential development, street and highway beautification, waterfront improvement projects, parks and playgrounds, or shopping centers. Still others work in regional planning and resource management; feasibility, environmental impact, and cost studies; or site construction. Increasingly, landscape architects are becoming involved with projects in environmental remediation, such as preservation and restoration of wetlands or abatement of stormwater run-off in new developments. Historic landscape preservation and restoration is another important area where landscape architects are increasingly playing an important role.

Most landscape architects do at least some residential work, but relatively few limit their practice to individual homeowners. Residential landscape design projects usually are too small to provide suitable income compared with larger commercial or multiunit residential projects. Some nurseries offer residential landscape design services, but these services often are performed by design professionals with fewer formal credentials such as landscape designers, or by others with training and experience in related areas.

Landscape architects who work for government agencies do site and landscape design for government buildings, parks, and other public lands, as well as park and recreation planning in national parks and forests. In addition, they prepare environmental impact statements and studies on environmental issues such as public land-use planning. Some restore degraded land, such as mines or landfills. Other landscape architects use their skills in traffic-calming, the �art� of slowing traffic down through use of traffic design, enhancement of the physical environment, and greater attention to aesthetics.

Working Conditions

Landscape architects spend most of their time in offices creating plans and designs, preparing models and cost estimates, doing research, or attending meetings with clients and other professionals involved in a design or planning project. The remainder of their time is spent at the site. During the design and planning stage, landscape architects visit and analyze the site to verify that the design can be incorporated into the landscape. After the plans and specifications are completed, they may spend additional time at the site observing or supervising the construction. Those who work in large national or regional firms may spend considerably more time out of the office traveling to sites away from the local area.

Salaried employees in both government and landscape architectural firms usually work regular hours; however, they may work overtime to meet a project deadline. Hours of self-employed landscape architects vary depending on the demands of the projects on which they are working.


Training, Other Qualifications,
and Advancement

A bachelor�s or master�s degree in landscape architecture usually is necessary for entry into the profession. A bachelor�s degree in landscape architecture takes 4 or 5 years to complete. There also are two types of accredited master�s degree programs. The most common type of master�s degree is a 3-year first professional degree program designed for students with an undergraduate degree in another discipline. The second type of master�s degree is a 2-year second professional degree program for students who have a bachelor�s degree in landscape architecture and who wish to teach or specialize in some aspect of landscape architecture, such as regional planning or golf course design.

In 2004, 59 colleges and universities offered 77 undergraduate and graduate programs in landscape architecture that were accredited by the Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board of the American Society of Landscape Architects. College courses required in these programs usually include technical subjects such as surveying, landscape design and construction, landscape ecology, site design, and urban and regional planning. Other courses include history of landscape architecture, plant and soil science, geology, professional practice, and general management. The design studio is another important aspect of many landscape architecture curriculums. Whenever possible, students are assigned real projects, providing them with valuable hands-on experience. While working on these projects, students become more proficient in the use of computer-aided design, geographic information systems, and video simulation.

In 2004, 47 States required landscape architects to be licensed or registered. Licensing is based on the Landscape Architect Registration Examination (L.A.R.E.), sponsored by the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards and administered in two portions, graphic and multiple choice. Each portion of the testing is conducted over two days. Admission to the exam usually requires a degree from an accredited school plus 1 to 4 years of work experience under the supervision of a registered landscape architect, although standards vary from State to State. Currently, 14 States require that a State examination be passed in addition to the L.A.R.E. to satisfy registration requirements. State examinations, which usually are 1 hour in length and completed at the end of the L.A.R.E., focus on laws, environmental regulations, plants, soils, climate, and any other characteristics unique to the State.

Because State requirements for licensure are not uniform, landscape architects may not find it easy to transfer their registration from one State to another. However, those who meet the national standards of graduating from an accredited program, serving 3 years of internship under the supervision of a registered landscape architect, and passing the L.A.R.E. can satisfy requirements in most States. Through this means, a landscape architect can obtain certification from the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards, and so gain reciprocity (the right to work) in other States.

In the Federal Government, candidates for entry positions should have a bachelor�s or master�s degree in landscape architecture. The Federal Government does not require its landscape architects to be licensed.

Persons planning a career in landscape architecture should appreciate nature, enjoy working with their hands, and possess strong analytical skills. Creative vision and artistic talent also are desirable qualities. Good oral communication skills are essential; landscape architects must be able to convey their ideas to other professionals and clients, and to make presentations before large groups. Strong writing skills also are valuable, as is knowledge of computer applications of all kinds, including word processing, desktop publishing, and spreadsheets. Landscape architects use these tools to develop presentations, proposals, reports, and land impact studies for clients, colleagues, and superiors. The ability to draft and design using CAD software is essential. Many employers recommend that prospective landscape architects complete at least one summer internship with a landscape architecture firm in order to gain an understanding of the day-to-day operations of a small business, including how to win clients, generate fees, and work within a budget.

In States where licensure is required, new hires may be called �apprentices� or �intern landscape architects� until they become licensed. Their duties vary depending on the type and size of the employing firm. They may do project research or prepare working drawings, construction documents, or base maps of the area to be landscaped. Some are allowed to participate in the actual design of a project. However, interns must perform all work under the supervision of a licensed landscape architect. Additionally, all drawings and specifications must be signed and sealed by the licensed landscape architect, who takes legal responsibility for the work. After gaining experience and becoming licensed, landscape architects usually can carry a design through all stages of development. After several years, they may become project managers, taking on the responsibility for meeting schedules and budgets, in addition to overseeing the project design. Later, they may become associates or partners of a firm, with a proprietary interest in the business.

Many landscape architects are self-employed because start-up costs, after an initial investment in CAD software, are relatively low. Self-discipline, business acumen, and good marketing skills are important qualities for those who choose to open their own business. Even with these qualities, however, some may struggle while building a client base.

Those with landscape architecture training also qualify for jobs closely related to landscape architecture, and may, after gaining some experience, become construction supervisors, land or environmental planners, or landscape consultants.



Landscape architects held about 25,000 jobs in 2004. Almost 6 out of 10 workers were employed in firms that provide architectural, landscape architectural, engineering, and landscaping services. State and local governments were the next largest employers. About 1 out of 4 landscape architects was self-employed.

Employment of landscape architects is concentrated in urban and suburban areas throughout the country; some landscape architects work in rural areas, particularly those employed by the Federal Government to plan and design parks and recreation areas.

Job Outlook

Employment of landscape architects is expected to increase faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2014. In addition to growth, the need to replace landscape architects who retire or leave the labor force will produce some additional job openings. Employment will grow because the expertise of landscape architects will be highly sought after in the planning and development of new residential, commercial, and other types of construction to meet the needs of a growing population. With land costs rising and the public desiring more beautiful spaces, the importance of good site planning and landscape design is growing. In addition, new demands to manage stormwater run-off in both existing and new landscapes, combined with the growing need to manage water resources in the Western States, should cause increased demand for this occupation�s services.

New construction also is increasingly contingent upon compliance with environmental regulations, zoning laws, and water restrictions, which will spur demand for landscape architects to help plan sites that meet these requirements and integrate new structures with the natural environment in the least disruptive way. Landscape architects also will be increasingly involved in preserving and restoring wetlands and other environmentally sensitive sites.

Continuation of the Transportation Equity Act for the Twenty-First Century also is expected to spur employment for landscape architects, particularly through State and local governments. This Act, known as TEA-21, provides funds for surface transportation and transit programs, such as interstate highway construction and maintenance, and environment-friendly pedestrian and bicycle trails.

In addition to the work related to new development and construction, landscape architects are expected to be involved in historic preservation, land reclamation, and refurbishment of existing sites. They are also doing more residential design work as households spend more on landscaping than in the past. Because landscape architects can work on many different types of projects, they may have an easier time than other design professionals finding employment when traditional construction slows down. Opportunities will vary from year to year, and by geographic region, depending on local economic conditions. During a recession, when real estate sales and construction slow down, landscape architects may face greater competition for jobs and sometimes layoffs.

New graduates can expect to face competition for jobs in the largest and most prestigious landscape architecture firms, but should face good job opportunities overall as demand increases, while the number of graduates of landscape architecture holds steady or only goes up slightly. Opportunities will be best for landscape architects who develop strong technical skills—such as computer design—and communication skills, as well as knowledge of environmental codes and regulations. Those with additional training or experience in urban planning increase their opportunities for employment in landscape architecture firms that specialize in site planning as well as landscape design. Many employers prefer to hire entry-level landscape architects who have internship experience, which significantly reduces the amount of on-the-job training required.



In May 2004, median annual earnings for landscape architects were $53,120. The middle 50 percent earned between $40,930 and $70,400. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $32,390 and the highest 10 percent earned over $90,850. Architectural, engineering, and related services employed more landscape architects than any other group of industries, and there the median annual earnings were $51,670 in May 2004.

In 2005, the average annual salary for all landscape architects in the Federal Government in nonsupervisory, supervisory, and managerial positions was $74,508.

Because many landscape architects work for small firms or are self-employed, benefits tend to be less generous than those provided to workers in large organizations.

[Please note that the earnings and salary data listed here is usually from government sources and may be dated, so please make adjustments accordingly. If you would like to access current salary data for literally thousands of occupations, access our Salary Wizard.

Related Occupations
Landscape architects use their knowledge of design, construction, land-use planning, and environmental issues to develop a landscape project. Others whose work requires similar skills are architects, except landscape and naval; surveyors, cartographers, photogrammetrists, and surveying technicians; civil engineers; and urban and regional planners. Landscape architects also must know how to grow and use plants in the landscape. Some conservation scientists and foresters and biological scientists study plants in general and do related work, while environmental scientists and geoscientists work in the area of environmental remediation.

Sources of Additional Information

Additional information, including a list of colleges and universities offering accredited programs in landscape architecture, is available from:

  • American Society of Landscape Architects, Career Information, 636 Eye St. NW., Washington, DC 20001-3736. Internet: http://www.asla.org

General information on registration or licensing requirements is available from:

  • Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards, 144 Church Street NW., Suite 201, Vienna, VA 22180-4550. Internet: http://www.clarb.org

*Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Used by permission.


Green roofs are just one type of project landscape architects work on.

Look at your community. How did the parks, residential developments, campuses, shopping centers, gardens, transportation facilities, and, trails and bike paths take shape? Planning, designing, and land use management is the work of landscape architects.

Landscape architects analyze, plan, design, and manage the natural and built environment. They are also problem solvers–they analyze the impact of a proposed project to be sure that it benefits the environment.