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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

Year Landmark Event
1868 A course in Landscape Gardening is first offered at the University of Illinois. In 1871, a course in Garden Architecture is added.
1896 Joseph 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.
1907 The curriculum required for the degree of Landscape Gardening is initiated.
1912 The Division of Landscape Architecture is created under Ralph Rodney Root, and a discipline specific library is established. The era immediately preceding the first World War becomes a high point in interest in professional careers for women.
1920s A long-tenure faculty established in the 1920s includes Mary McAdams, Irving Peterson, Otto Schaffer, Harland Bartholomew, Stanley White, Florence Bell Robinson, and Karl Lohmann.
1929 Illinois is one of the first eight schools recognized by the American Society of Landscape Architects as meeting its standards for accreditation.
1931 The Division of Landscape Architecture is reorganized as a department in the newly formed College of Fine and Applied Arts.
1945 The graduate program in Landscape Architecture is established.
1950 The Ryerson Traveling Fellowship is established.
1950 The first master’s-level degree in Landscape Architecture is awarded to Charles Stephen Schuster.
1954 The 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.
1955 Louis Wetmore is named Head, and the Department is organized into two divisions: Landscape Architecture and City Planning.
1958 The last BS in Landscape Operations is awarded.
1965 The Department of Landscape Architecture is given separate status, with William Carnes as Chair.
1968 The undergraduate Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Landscape Architecture degree is redesignated a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA) degree.
1970 Department leadership is reclassified as a headship, and Robert Riley becomes Department Head.
1971 The graduate program is expanded and directed toward two areas of emphasis: regional design and design-behavior interactions.
1975 An evaluation of the undergraduate curriculum results in restructuring and re-sequencing while maintaining the four year/128 credit-hour structure.
1982 Hideo Sasaki (BFA in Landscape Architecture, 1946) receives an honorary doctorate from the University of Illinois.
1982-1984 The 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 .
1983 The first Sasaki Lecture is delivered by Charles (Chuck) Harris.
1984 The Department receives an equipment grant from IBM and develop a plan for integrating computers into design education.
1985 Vincent J. Bellafiore becomes Department Head and expands the program to include significant opportunities for study abroad.
1986 The Imaging Systems Laboratory is developed.

The 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.

1989 The first Alumni Undergraduate Scholarship of Merit is awarded.

The 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.

1991 The first Alumni Lecture is delivered.

A practitioner endowment fund is initiated under the leadership of Scott Byron and Dick Brickman to provide resources for a practitioner to serve as a visiting instructor.

Deb Mitchell endows a professorial chair.


The 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.

1997 The first Visiting Practitioner teaches in the program, supported by a fund initiated in 1992.
1998 Three research facilities—the Geographic Modeling Systems Lab, the Land Resources Lab, and the East St. Louis Action Research Project—move to Noble Hall.


The Natalie B. Alpert Prize is established.

The Kluesing Fellowship is established.

The Wadsworth Endowment is established.

The Floyd C. Tobrocke Endowment is established.

A jointly administered Ph.D. program in Architecture and Landscape Architecture receives final approval.

2000 Gary Kesler is appointed Interim Department Head
2001 The first Ph.D. student in Landscape Architecture, Rachel Leibowitz, is admitted.

The first SmithGroup/JJR Lecture is delivered.


James L. Wescoat is appointed Department Head.

The Dan Ryan Prize is established.

The Chalet Nursery Prize is established.

The Bruce Borland Scholarship is established.

2004 The Allerton Landscape Scholars program is established for student interns at Allerton Park.
2005 The George and Dorothy Fiel Fellowship for student travel in the United States is established.

MLA concentrations are organized to include History, Culture, and Heritage Design; Ecological Design; and Community-Based Urban Design.


The undergraduate Business Specialization option and the Wadsworth Business of Landscape Architecture Scholarship are established.

The Landscape Studies Minor is approved.

The Ph.D. concentration in Environment and Technology is established.

The first JJR/Deb Mitchell Lecture is delivered.

2007 The professional internship requirement is approved.

The first Internship Fair is held in Chicago.


The 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.

M. Elen Deming is appointed Department Head in October.

2012 Nan Goggin is appointed Interim Department Head.

Daniel Schneider is appointed Interim Department Head.

The Visiting Designer-in-Residence program is launched with the inaugural position held by Jessica Henson.

2014 D. Fairchild Ruggles is appointed Interim Department Head.
2015 William C. Sullivan is appointed Department Head.
2018 The 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.

2019 D. Fairchild Ruggles is appointed Interim Department Head.