Asked to compile a list of the most necessary tertiary qualification at this stage of human history you might plump for either immunologist or climatologist.

But as Australia copes with the disastrous impact of climate change landscape architects will play a key role in safeguarding our fragile urban environment.

“It’s all about trying to find a better balance between architecture and the natural environment,” according to Professor Penny Allan from the School of Architecture at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).

“How can we claw things back so that our urban environments work in a more sustainable way?”

Given the rise in extreme weather events – from bushfires to coastal erosion – UTS has revamped its landscape architecture degrees, both undergraduate and postgraduate, to provide a specific focus on climate change.

The UTS Landscape program was also recently awarded a special mention at the Barcelona Biennale International Landscape School Prize 2021, the most prestigious competition for landscape schools in the world.

Professor Allan, who is postgraduate director of landscape within the school, says landscape architects will be crucial in ameliorating the negative impact of global warming on our towns and cities.

“In the last two years we’ve revised the whole program to provide a focus on climate change,” she says.

In addition, the university is now offering an accelerated pathway for graduates from other disciplines to enrol in its respected Master of Landscape Architecture degree.

Professor Penny Allan

Such applicants would need to complete a Graduate Certificate in Landscape Architecture before enrolling in the Masters program.

Professor Allan believes that, given the current debate about climate change, there are many students and workers across a range of other disciplines who could also be attracted to a fulfilling career in landscape architecture.

“We think of landscape architecture as architecture without walls,” she says. “Our materials are soils and plants, rather than brick, steel and concrete.”

A limited number of Commonwealth Supported Places are available for students enrolling in the Graduate Certificate of Landscape Architecture degree for anyone switching from another field of study – the significant cost savings of these places being another attraction.

Students enrolled in the Masters program are encouraged to tackle real-life environmental issues affecting the lives of people in New South Wales, such as extreme summer heat in western Sydney and the lack of vegetation in some of the city’s newer suburbs.

According to Professor Allan the big drawcard for the Master of Landscape Architecture program is that students will be tasked with finding practical solutions rather than engage in purely theoretical studies.

“A lot of projects revolve around the question: how can we actually live with these extremities of weather such as bushfires, floods and extreme heat,” she says.

Elsewhere, postgraduate students are looking at ways to limit the impact of bushfires on rural communities – in particular studying the fires that devasted the NSW south-coast in the summer of 2019.

Given the population pressures facing Australia coupled with an increasingly volatile climate, there is little doubt that landscape architects will play a prominent role in planning (and enhancing) our future towns, cities and suburbs.

Surprisingly, landscape architecture is taught at fewer than 10 Australian universities. The program at UTS offers a four-year Bachelor of Landscape Architecture and a two-year Master of Landscape Architecture.

And the career opportunities that the discipline provides are surprisingly varied: apart from working as landscape architects, UTS graduates are also in demand as urban designers, researchers, land management professionals, regional planners, educators and policy makers.

In the past, admits Professor Allan, the general public has confused landscape architecture with landscape gardening; the former concerned with urban planning, the latter an exercise in decorative planting.

“What we call landscape is the ground itself and all the systems that support it – everything from hydrology to ecology and vegetation,” she says.

“Typically, landscape gardening is more about private residential commissions whereas landscape architecture is about designing public spaces.”

Recent media reports suggest that there has been growing interest in landscape architecture during the pandemic as more of us explore our local parks, rivers and open spaces – and learn to value them.

At the same time, many school leavers are deeply worried about environmental issues, such as climate change and increased urbanisation, and are naturally attracted to a career as a landscape architect.

Job prospects for such graduates also look very promising. The demand in Australia for trained landscape architects, town planners and landscape managers is currently running at an all-time high.

Many practitioners, swamped by commissions, describe the current situation at a “COVID boom” but one that they are convinced will continue long after the global pandemic has receded into history.

Testimonial

Sam Gibbs – who graduated in November 2020 with a graduate certificate in Landscape Architecture says:

Sam Gibbs – who graduated in November 2020 with a graduate certificate in Landscape Architecture says:

Studying for a career change is even more challenging than I imagined, but twice as rewarding. After 16 years working in corporate change and communications, I made the follow-your-passion leap to pursue landscape studies through UTS’ Graduate Certificate in Landscape Architecture.

The course fast-tracks graduates to the Diploma and Masters of Landscape Architecture and offers a deep immersion in the skills and concepts of a rapidly evolving field.

A blend of design, ecology, social science, geography and digital drawing, landscape architecture lets students approach big-picture problems such as climate change, biodiversity loss and population growth with on-the-ground tools for positive change.

In a cohort of other mature-age students from diverse career backgrounds, I’ve already gained the language and software skills to start designing with confidence. It had been years since I’d held a pencil, and now I’m outside sketching, planning, analysing environments and how we live with them.

Sam Gibbs

The Landscape Architecture faculty at UTS was a big drawcard for me, and my hopes have been exceeded in the level of expertise brought to lectures and projects. This is a team at the forefront of landscape thinking in Australia and internationally, and its real-world problems we tackle in class, using the latest spatial design tools.

The UTS graduate pathway to becoming a Landscape Architect is intense, collegial, technically demanding, and one of the best moves I’ve ever made.

The Master of Landscape Architecture provides students with the opportunity to collaborate alongside celebrated practitioners from award-winning international design studios and leading experts in the area of urban design. Find out more.