November 12, 2018 Landscape Architecture Celebrates 10 Years, Looks Forward to Future

The School of Landscape Architecture is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this month while concurrently undergoing reaccreditation from the Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board (LAAB).

“Since 2008, the school has prepared students to solve complex issues, develop research and engage communities to educate and involve the public,” said Gale Fulton, director.  “Our graduates engage landscapes as a cultural practice to help shape communities and solve problems for people in those communities.”

The field of landscape architecture provides design and planning of the built environment from across scales ranging from small sites to entire regional systems.

The school’s evolving and integrated curriculum focuses on regional and local landscapes and cultures.  Students develop contemporary skills that emphasize modern theories and technologies that shape the field of landscape architecture.

“Today, I see a school well poised to advance and deepen interdisciplinary expression and practice, further establishing the role of the landscape architect as convener and creator of solutions drawing on multiple disciplines and expertise,” said Marcia Tobin, principal and vice president of AECOM and member of the UT School of Landscape Architecture Advocacy Board.

“The University of Tennessee School of Landscape Architecture was foundational in giving me a strong foothold in the profession upon graduating in 2013,” said Luke Murphree.  “I was well-equipped with the tools, theory, and complex problem-solving techniques needed to succeed early in my career. The Landscape Architecture faculty instilled in me a continual pursuit of good design that has the power to positively change our environment and communities.”

The formation of the School of Landscape Architecture took a unique and multi-year path.  The initial discussions began nearly 25 years ago between the College of Architecture and Planning (now College of Architecture and Design) and the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (now Herbert College of Agriculture).

This partnership resulted from identifying a need to offer an accredited landscape architecture program in Tennessee.  License-seeking professionals in most of the US, including Tennessee, are required to hold a professional degree from an LAAB-accredited university.

Both colleges worked closely with the Tennessee chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects to develop the program and were supported by LAAB, the Tennessee State Board of Architectural and Engineering Examiners and the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture.

In July 2007, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission gave approval for the program at UT to attract and retain students seeking an accredited program, and in 2008, the School of Landscape Architecture was formed.

Establishing the program couldn’t have been done without the landscape architecture community and the past and current chairs of the program: Gale Fulton (2013-present), Brad Collett (2012-2013), Ken McCown (2010-2012), Sam Rogers (2009-2010) and Tracy Moir-McClean (2008-2009).

Programs can seek accreditation after the first class graduates, so soon after the 10-student inaugural class graduated in spring 2011, the school earned accreditation in August 2012, making it the only landscape architecture program in Tennessee and one of few in the southeast to be accredited.

Accreditation is a lengthy process during which a team of external reviewers from LAAB visits the school to assess the program by several standards, including the school’s goals and ability to achieve them, curriculum, educational values, and student and faculty accomplishments and outreach to the community.

Six years later, the school is undergoing the reaccreditation process based on similar standards from LAAB.  In November, the review team viewed an exhibit designed by current students that depicted highlights of a decade of student work.

“The retrospective of student work made me proud to be a graduate of the School of Landscape Architecture,” said Valerie Friedmann, a 2012 graduate.  “The long-term mission of the program—equipping students to tackle complex socio-ecological landscapes—was clearly displayed, as was the evolving exploration of the mission through digital technologies in modeling, fabricating, mapping, and drawing. In addition to benchmarking the ethos of the program, the exhibit is evidence of the dedication and innovation that has propelled the program through its first 10 years.”

At the conclusion of the onsite visit, the review team announced the school had met all seven standards.  The team will make its recommendation to LAAB, who will announce the results in February 2019.

“We believe that landscape architecture is well-positioned to have an increasingly important role in the design and management of the built environment,” Fulton said.  “The school fosters an approach to landscape architecture that challenges the assumptions of the past and develops creative alternatives for our urban and rural landscapes.”

The school provides graduate degrees in landscape architecture and dual degrees in architecture and landscape architecture.  Details about the UT School of Landscape Architecture are at https://archdesign.utk.edu/schools/school-of-landscape-architecture/.