We are sustained by landscapes. They provide us food to eat, water to drink, and clean air to breathe. Landscapes are our habitats, the places where we work, relax, and engage with others. Landscape architects have the tremendous responsibility of designing these landscapes. This is no easy task, given the increasingly complex issues our planet faces.
We work to restore impaired environments and ensure equal access to healthy environments. We design landscapes that alleviate flooding and stimulate economies. We create productive, sustainable landscapes that respond to growing cities and sprawling regions. We study the history of landscapes so that we can uniquely respond to the contemporary needs of today.
A master’s degree in landscape architecture will give you the tools you need to create research-based, creative landscape designs that address the complex social, economic, and environmental challenges we face.
Our MLA students come from a range of undergraduate backgrounds in the arts, humanities and sciences, enriching our program with diverse knowledge and skills that can be further engaged through landscape architecture. Some students are experienced design practitioners or second-career aspirants from entirely different disciplines.
Those with an accredited undergraduate degree in landscape architecture enter a 2-year program. Students with non-design undergraduate degrees take coursework within a 3-year program. All MLA students (except those with BLA degrees and one year of practice) are required to complete a 3-month professional summer internship during their enrollment.
Students may also elect to pursue joint MLA/Master of Urban Planning or MLA/Master of Business Administration programs.
Following graduation, most of our students pursue professional practice in landscape architecture design firms. Some students pursue PhD studies, and others locate themselves within socially and ecologically active non-profit organizations.
What to expect
Our MLA program consists of course work integrated with design studios, internships, and in-depth specialization in topics of interest.
Coursework. Students take a sequence of landscape-technology, methods, ecology, graphic representation, history, theory, and seminar courses to accumulate a breadth of knowledge.
Studios. Design studios provide opportunities for students to apply what they’ve learned. We teach design processes that are grounded in research methods, technical knowledge and graphic representation skills. Projects start small and then increase in scale and complexity.
Chicago Studio. MLA students spend their final fall semester engaged in our Chicago Studio. Sites in Chicago become urban landscape laboratories, places where we explore the catalytic potential of intensive landscape interventions. Students take courses on the Champaign-Urbana campus and collaborate with Chicago-area practitioners to address a variety of key landscape topics such as urban ecology, neighborhood fabric, big data and urban design, sustainability and environmental justice.
Internship. For students with no previous internship or professional experience, a required 3-month internship ensures that students build connections with practitioners and develop the real-world skills they will need for their future careers.
Specialization and thesis. Our students also develop a specialization that reflects their interests and career aspirations. This specialization involves in-depth coursework and an optional thesis, an independent design research project, guided by a faculty advisor and committee. Examples of specialization undertaken by past graduates include community and urban design; ecological design; cultural heritage, history and design; public health and well-being; energy systems and infrastructure; social and environmental justice; and landscape-based practices of art.
Below is a sample sequence of MLA courses. Students entering the MLA who do not have an undergraduate degree in Landscape Architecture or Architecture take all 3 years of curriculum. Students with an undergraduate degree in Landscape Architecture or Architecture typically begin in the second year of curriculum described below.
Please also refer to the MLA Handbook.
MLA Studio I
Design Workshop I
Design Communications I
Design Communications II
Theory + Practice
Woody Ornamentals I
History of World Landscapes
MLA Studio II
Design Workshop II
MLA Studio III - Chicago
Design Workshop III
Social/Cultural Design Issues