What’s the Difference Between a Landscaper and a Landscape Architect?

Feb 15 2016

What’s the Difference Between a Landscaper and a Landscape Architect?

A common misconception in our line of work is that landscape design, landscape architecture, and the landscaping work itself all fall under the same umbrella. In truth, the three are  different pieces that are involved with landscape projects. The most important distinction to be made is that a landscaper does the actual work of building and installing the elements of a landscape project, and may be the same landscaper who maintains the look after it is complete (trimming, mowing, weeding, etc.). It is also an important distinction that landscapers who install masonry, carpentry, irrigation and planting have a different skill set than those who maintain a landscape (mowing, pruning, etc.).

The main distinction between landscape architects and landscape designers is licensure and the type and size of project one might design. Either a landscape architect or a landscape designer may provide the planning, design and direction that a space will take, from the placement of outdoor structures to the shapes and layout of softscape elements such as plants in a residential project. For a commercial or public project, it is more common for a landscape architect or landscape-architect-in-training to be in charge.

Landscape Architects

A landscape architect is a registered professional not unlike an architect, but with a different set of design skills.  To become a landscape architect, one must have a bachelor’s and/or master’s detree in landscape architecture from college or university accredited by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), work/train under a landscape architect after graduation, and have passed the required exams to become licensed. These exams also focus on public health, safety and welfare.  Once licensed, a landscape architect must attend classes to gain continuing education credits every year to maintain their training and keep their knowledge current.

According to the Washington Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, “To practice landscape architecture in the State of Washington, one must hold a license issued by the Department of Licensing. Licensure is obtained through education, experience and by passing a rigorous exam. Landscape architects may also belong to other reputable professional associations with membership requirements.”

Landscape Designers

Some landscape designers are self-taught, but most have taken courses at a college, university, through an extension or certificate program, or online. In other words, there is always training involved – one cannot just decide to call him/herself a landscape designer.

The Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD), was incorporated in 1989 to encourage members to adhere to a code of professional standards, actively participate in continuing education, and to be current with state-of-the-art developments and trends in the landscape design field. A certification program is offered to members and is based on built or completed projects that provide professional recognition to designers who can pass a peer review program. Through its website, the APLD offers consumers access to trained designers in their region who are members of the APLD.


We should note that generally, a traditional architect focuses on everything inside the building envelope is not as detailed with outdoor spaces. The art of landscape design is integrating the elements of a design with the effects of time as these spaces will grow, morph and change – and these changes must be considered when designing spaces.

Urban Oasis Design & Construction

Urban Oasis Design & Construction’s design department is headed by a licensed landscape architect who works in tandem with their landscape designer to ensure all elements of the project are cohesive and attention to detail is high. Our landscape architect also has a partial degree in architecture and teams up with a structural engineer to design our outdoor structures.

Urban Oasis manages the big picture of the project – from covered outdoor rooms, decks and patios down to the details of selecting each plant and accessory. We take our design services a step further, with careful attention to selecting the proper plants – not just for the look and feel of the space, but also for the environmental factors and horticultural concerns and are well-versed in native and ornamental plant species. Further, we strive to create unique spaces for each of our clients based upon the architecture of their home and their personal aesthetic. Our design department is proud that, as a result, each of our landscape projects has a unique feel and style.

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

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