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The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was among the first institutions in the United States to offer an academic program in landscape architecture, with a degree program in place by 1907. Today, the Department of Landscape Architecture sponsors leading, accredited undergraduate- and master’s-level programs, as well as one of the only Ph.D. programs in Landscape Architecture in the nation. It has produced some of the best-known practitioners, with globally recognized accomplishments, and its alumni have gone on to lead academic programs at other universities throughout the United States and beyond. The following is a brief outline of the department’s long and distinguished history.

Historical Achievements

YearLandmark Event
1868A course in Landscape Gardening is first offered at the University of Illinois. In 1871, a course in Garden Architecture is added.
1896Joseph Cullen Blair comes to the University of Illinois from Cornell. Although his primary interest is in horticulture, it is through his interest in landscape architecture that professional courses in that field—and, later, city planning—are initiated.
1907The curriculum required for the degree of Landscape Gardening is initiated.
1911Hugh Imlay and Charles S. LeSure are the first two students to earn the Bachelor of Science in Landscape Gardening (BSLG) degree.
1912The Division of Landscape Architecture is created under Ralph Rodney Root, and a discipline specific library is established. The 1910s and 1920s become a high point of interest in professional careers for women. The first two women admitted to the BSLG program, Jean Ripley Johnson (BSLG 1919) and May Elizabeth (Betty) McAdams (BSLG 1916), were appointed as teaching associates in 1918.
1926Florence Bell Robinson joins the faculty as its first female member. Robinson eventually became the first woman tenured in the department and the first female professor tenured at any accredited school of landscape architecture.
1929Illinois is one of the first eight schools recognized by the American Society of Landscape Architects as meeting its standards for accreditation.
1931The Division of Landscape Architecture is reorganized as a Department in the newly formed College of Fine and Applied Arts.
1945The graduate program in Landscape Architecture is established.
1950The Edward L. Ryerson Traveling Fellowship in Landscape Architecture is established to support international travel and study by students.

The first master’s-level degree in Landscape Architecture is awarded to Charles Stephen Schuster.
1954The Department is renamed the Department of City Planning and Landscape Architecture. The Bureau of Community Planning (established in 1934) is incorporated into the new departmental structure.
1955Louis Wetmore is named Head, and the Department is organized into two divisions: Landscape Architecture and City Planning.
1958The last BS in Landscape Operations is awarded.
1965The Department of Landscape Architecture is given separate status, with William Carnes as Chair.
1968The undergraduate Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Landscape Architecture degree is redesignated a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA) degree.
1970Department leadership is reclassified as a headship, and Robert Riley becomes Department Head.
1971The graduate program is expanded and directed toward two areas of emphasis: regional design and design-behavior interactions.
1973A major expansion of physical facilities more than doubles the usable space available to the Department.
1975An evaluation of the undergraduate curriculum results in restructuring and re-sequencing while maintaining the four year/128 credit-hour structure.
1982Hideo Sasaki (BFA in Landscape Architecture, 1946) receives an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Illinois.
1982-1984The Department invests much energy and many resources in computer-based design education, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels, becoming one of the leading schools in the country experimenting in that field .
1983The first Sasaki Lecture is delivered by Charles (Chuck) Harris.
1984The Department receives an equipment grant from IBM and develop a plan for integrating computers into design education.
1985Vincent J. Bellafiore becomes Department Head and expands the program to include significant opportunities for study abroad.
1986The Imaging Systems Laboratory is established and developed.

The Department Resource Committee is formed.
1987The 80th anniversary of the department is celebrated with the creation of an annual lecture series and department charrette.
The Ecology Laboratory—later known as the Land Resources Laboratory—is developed.
1989The first Alumni Undergraduate Scholarship of Merit is awarded.
1990The first Kluesing Prize is awarded to a student for achievement in the integration of art and landscape.

The Geographic Modeling Systems Laboratory is developed in cooperation with the Departments of Urban and Regional Planning, Geography, and Anthropology.

The first Karl B. Lohmann Lecture is delivered.

The Department collaborates with the School of Architecture and the Department of Urban and Regional Planning to form a cooperative engagement program, the East St. Louis Action Research Project (ESLARP), a project that continued for more than two decades, concluding in 2012.
1991The first Alumni Lecture is delivered.
1992The Visiting Practitioner Fund is initiated under the leadership of Scott Byron and Dick Brickman. Annual revenue from this endowment supports the hire of practitioners as visiting instructors in the Department.

Deb Mitchell endows a professorial chair.
1995The Department moves to Temple Hoyne Buell Hall, along with the Department of Urban & Regional Planning and part of the School of Architecture.

Electronic studios are established.

Stu Dawson provides an endowment to support educational activities of the junior class. Room 327 Temple Buell Hall is named the Dawson Studio in his honor.
1997The Brenton and Jean Wadsworth Endowment is established to provide financial support for faculty research, scholarship, and creative activities that strive to demonstrate and/or substantiate the value of landscape and the work of landscape architects to society.

The first Visiting Practitioner, Tom Oslund, teaches in the program, supported by the fund initiated in 1992.
1998Three research facilities—the Geographic Modeling Systems Lab, the Land Resources Lab, and the East St. Louis Action Research Project—move to Noble Hall.

The traveling exhibition “Eco-Revelatory Design: Nature Constructed/Nature Revealed” opens at the University of Illinois. A special issue of Landscape Journal serves as the catalog.


The Natalie B. Alpert Prize in Landscape Architecture is established in memory of former faculty member Natalie Alpert (1903-1998). The award recognizes excellence in study of the history of landscape architecture, as demonstrated through research papers written for the course LA 314: History of World Landscapes.

The Kluesing Fellowship is established in memory of Cherie Kluesing, a former graduate student and faculty member. The fellowship is intended to further her aspirations, namely the creative integration of fine arts in landscape design.
The Floyd C. Tobrocke Endowment is established.
A jointly administered Ph.D. program in Architecture and Landscape Architecture receives final approval.
2000Gary Kesler is appointed Interim Department Head.
2001The first Ph.D. student in Landscape Architecture, Rachel Leibowitz, is admitted.
The first SmithGroup/JJR Lecture is delivered.

The first of three faculty-student studios is conducted at the Champaner-Pavagadh historic site in India. Along with the subsequent studios, held in 2003 and 2005, this work leads first to successful UNESCO World Heritage nomination (2004) and then to the establishment of a workable landscape management plan for Champaner-Pavagadh.
2002James L. Wescoat is appointed Department Head.
The Dan Ryan Prize is established in memory of BLA student Daniel J. Ryan by his classmates. This special recognition is awarded to an undergraduate in the first-year studio nominated by their peers based on exceptional ability in design and visual communications and demonstrated willingness to help fellow students.
The Chalet Nursery Prize is established.
The Bruce Borland Golf Course Design Scholarship is established to commemorate the life of Bruce Borland (BLA 1981) and to support the education of students interested in golf course architecture.

The Department hosts the symposium “Landscape and Vision,” organized by Prof. Dianne Harris and Prof. D. Fairchild Ruggles.
2004The Allerton Landscape Scholars program is established for student interns at Allerton Park.

The Department hosts the symposium “Constructing Race: The Built Environment, Minoritization, and Racism in the United States,” organized by Prof. Dianne Harris.
2005The George and Dorothy Fiel Fellowship is established to support student travel and research for study of historical and contemporary landscapes in the United States.

MLA concentrations are organized to include History, Culture, and Heritage Design; Ecological Design; and Community-Based Urban Design.
2006The undergraduate Business Specialization option and the Wadsworth Business Scholarships for Internship Support are established.
The undergraduate Landscape Studies Minor is approved. 

The Ph.D. concentration in Environment and Technology is established.
 The first JJR/Deb Mitchell Lecture is delivered.
2007The professional internship requirement is approved.
The first Internship Fair is held in Chicago.

The Charles W. Harris Endowment for Field Study is established by alumni from the Classes of 1957 and 1958.
2008The Cultural Heritage Minor is approved.

Landscape architect Peter Walker receives an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Illinois.
The first Ph.D. in Landscape Architecture is awarded to Rachel Leibowitz.
Gary Kesler is appointed Interim Department Head from June through October.
The Department celebrates its 100th anniversary in Fall 2008. As part of the celebration, the Windsor Road Design Charrette is held with team leaders from Conservation Design Forum, EDAW, JJR, MVVA, Olin, Oslund Associates, and Stoss.

M. Elen Deming is appointed Department Head in October.
2009The Robert B. Riley MLA Student Recruitment Fund is established.
2011The Brenton and Jean Wadsworth Undergraduate Recruitment Scholarship program is established.
2012Pauline Tilton Kennedy Prize for student research travel is established.

The Department hosts the annual Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA) Conference with the theme “Finding Center Landscape Values.”
2013The Visiting Designer-in-Residence program is launched with the inaugural position held by Jessica Henson.

The Florence Bell Robinson Scholarship Fund is established with support from the Department’s Resource Committee, alumni, and friends.
2014D. Fairchild Ruggles is appointed Interim Department Head.
2015William C. Sullivan is appointed Department Head.

The Department hosts the charrette “Points-Lines-Trains: Vision Strategies for Champaign’s Railway Corridor.”
2016Anticipating the sesquicentennial celebration of the University of Illinois, the Department hosts the charrette “Imagining the Illinois Campus: 2017-2067.”

The University’s Smart Energy Design Assistance Center (SEDAC) becomes part of the Department under the leadership of Executive Director Brian Deal.
2017As part of the sesquicentennial celebration of the University of Illinois, the Department hosts a university-wide, student Sesquicentennial Design Competition.
2018The Debra L. Mitchell Chair in Landscape Architecture is inaugurated with its first recipient, D. Fairchild Ruggles.

The Brenton H. and Jean B. Wadsworth Headship of the Department of Landscape Architecture in inaugurated with its first recipient, William C. Sullivan.

The Alumni Medal is established as an annual award bestowed by the Department upon an alum whose lifetime achievements and contributions to the profession have had a unique and lasting impact on the welfare of the public, the environment, and the Department.

The Department hosts the symposium “Fresh Water: Design Thinking for Inland Water Territories
2019D. Fairchild Ruggles is appointed Interim Department Head.

The Department hosts the symposium “What is an Islamic Garden in the 21st century?,” organized by Prof. D. Fairchild Ruggles and Ph.D. in Landscape Architecture candidate Amir Habibullah.
2020The Department hosts the symposium “Bio(graphical) Diversity.”

David L. Hays is appointed Brenton H. and Jean B. Wadsworth Head.

The inaugural Terry Harkness “Plants in Design” Lecture is delivered by Thomas Rainer, Principal of Phyto Studio.

The Master of Sustainable Urban Design (MSUD) program is launched.
2021The Department hosts the symposium “Wild Zones: Designing for Urban Wildlife at the Intersection of Landscape Architecture, Biology, and Public Policy,” organized by Prof. Conor O’Shea.

The Landscape Architecture Renaissance Scholarship is inaugurated. Recognizing the holistic value for students of participation in sports, music, and interdisciplinary study, it encourages ongoing engagement in those activities as a sustaining part of university student life.

Funded through earlier and ongoing gifts, the inaugural North Shore Garden Club Landscape Architecture Scholarship, F. R. Vogelgesang Landscape Architecture Scholarship, and Florence Bell Robinson Scholarship are awarded.

The Department’s first MSUD degree is awarded to Mengdi Chi.