Landscape Architecture M.L.A. (Ithaca)

Field of Study

Landscape Architecture

Program Description

Our graduate program complies with the requirements of three governing bodies: the New York State Education Department (NYSED), the Council of Landscape Architecture Registration Boards (CLARB), and the Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board. The degree programs are designed to accommodate a variety of academic backgrounds, both with and without design training in landscape architecture and architecture. Therefore, each student’s curriculum plan is tailored to the individual’s specific background and academic goals. We offer two possible paths toward the completion of the MLA degree.
The intent of the MLA degree is to provide the foundational, historical, theoretical, technical, and skills-based grounding of the field of landscape architecture. The core of the degree program is the design studio that introduces students to fundamental design methodologies and they are asked to pursue and develop their design process and learn about research methodologies. Supplemental courses in all other aspects of the field provide the information that will be synthesized in the studio to reinforce the design process and end result. The studio is project based and exposes students to a wide array of landscape scales, types, contexts, and topical issues. The studio format entails lectures, demonstrations, field trips, readings, guest presentations, precedent study, one-on-one instruction, and group discourse. Rather than espousing a singular design philosophy or style, the department offers multiple perspectives on design, imparted through the studio course sequence. The required sequential nature of the studios offered throughout the student’s academic career at Cornell allows for each studio to build on the previous one with an ever-increasing degree of complexity and attention to detail. Studio size is conducive to small group interaction among students and between students and faculty. A concentration focused on the student’s individual personal interests is also required.  Both MLA paths allow the option of a design thesis, a capstone studio, or a written research thesis in the final semester of study.
First Professional MLA – 6 Semesters and 90 Credits
The First Professional 6 Semester MLA degree is accredited by NYSED and LAAB and is a first professional landscape architectural license qualifying degree intended for those students who do not hold a first professional degree in landscape architecture or architecture or pre-professional degree including, but not necessarily limited to, Bachelor of Landscape Studies, Bachelor of Environmental Design, Bachelor of Design, or Bachelor of Architectural Studies. This course of study requires a minimum of 90 credit hours and six semesters.
Post Professional MLA – 4 Semesters and 60 Credits
The Post Professional 4 Semester MLA degree is intended for those students who hold a United States or Canadian accredited first professional degree in landscape architecture or architecture including BLA, BSLA, or BArch degrees. This course of study requires a minimum of 60 credit hours and four semesters.

Contact Information

Phone: 607 255-9552

440 Kennedy Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY  14853

Concentrations by Subject

  • landscape architecture


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Application Requirements and Deadlines

Application Deadlines:

Fall, Jan. 8

Requirements Summary:

All applicants are required to submit two recommendations and a design portfolio. Applicants to two-year program should hold a bachelor's degree in architecture or landscape architecture from a recognized institution. Applicants with a bachelor's degree in an area other than architecture or landscape architecture should apply to the three-year program. A field brochure is available upon request from the graduate field office.

Learning Outcomes

     The professional curriculum of the department provides instruction in the discipline and practice of Landscape Architecture with emphasis on creative solutions to environmental problems that are responsive to cultural values and natural processes specific to a site. Cornell’s approach to Landscape Architectural graduate education integrates studio-based work and with real site-based design projects. It promotes students’ skills of critical investigation through site assessment, related design appropriateness and ultimate site suitability. This approach to education is consistent with the department’s mission, creating inventive learning opportunities that foster independent inquiry. The focus on the cultural landscape as a basis for the curriculum highlights interactions between people and the environment, utilizing diverse methodologies and means of representation.

     Graduate students must acquire and display a strong facility in Landscape Architectural design at a variety of scales from residential to regional design with a focus on urban clusters and distinctive populations within upstate New York. Their designs must emerge from a critical understanding of design tradition and theory, a synthesis of scientific methods and artistry, as well as an intimate understanding of and responsiveness to social, historical, cultural, and environmental concerns. The curriculum provides a framework that can both forge and adapt to contemporary developments and innovation in the field of Landscape Architecture and society at large.

      The MLA program thrives at Cornell because the resources and traditions of the University support students in exploring a wide variety of subjects that inform well-designed landscapes in their cultural and natural contexts. The college’s, as well as the department’s, current mission emphasizes the interdisciplinary study of ecological and cultural processes, historically as well as in contemporary design. Doing so within the professional practice of Landscape Architecture requires the development of design skills (field observation, critical thinking, speculation, form-making processes), the mastery of tools through which design is represented (drawing, visualization, writing), developed through clients and communities (presentations, negotiations, communication skills) and then constructed projects (technology). Research in the field as well within libraries and archives is promoted for professional practice as well as for those preparing for an academic career. The department seeks to teach a design process that leads to the discovery of knowledge through inventive responses to sites selected for their capacity to test theory through practice.
      A graduate of the master’s program in the Department of Landscape Architecture is expected to demonstrate the skills and knowledge that would allow the individual to successfully embrace a variety of professional opportunities including but not limited to: professional practice, research, public/government work, teaching, planning, community design and engagement, and others. Acquiring proficiency in these skills and knowledge includes:

  • Generating landscape designs at a variety of scales that address the complex cultural and natural systems at work on a site.
  • Developing basic graphic skills, both hand-drawing and computer applications, that are required of the contemporary landscape graduate at entry-level, minimally, but that position students to be immediately effective in communicating innovative designs;
  • Demonstrating knowledge of plant materials, including plant identification and the understanding of the physical and cultural characteristics of plants that determine their usefulness in the landscape;
  • Gaining insight into the professional skills and the roles of the Landscape Architect in practice, as well as the problems and/or opportunities encountered in real world situations;
  • Mastering the requisite technical skills (engineering and construction) necessary for the professional Landscape Architect;
  • Engaging scientific processes, such as landscape ecology, to a level that enables the student to work effectively with scientists and to translate their findings into design and communication with clients and other constituencies.
  • Advancing socially and environmentally responsible design by understanding that shaping the physical form of a community requires learning the social and cultural dynamics that foster sustainable landscape change.