Program Statement

WashU's Master of Landscape Architecture program has a special outlook on landscape as an extended field produced variously by designers, regulators, and everyday people as well as by climate shifts, construction technologies, and ruderal species. While it is important to focus our educational mission on the production of designed landscapes, this cannot be achieved in practice without an all-inclusive understanding of landscape derived from the documenting, measuring, and modeling of conditions that are inherently imperfect, mediated, and subject to change.

An ecological paradigm

The Sam Fox School's MLA program interprets ecological discourse as an all-inclusive program for dealing with the interaction of dramatic social and environmental instabilities that occur within vast processes that change only very slowly. If dynamic change is inherent in all the systems that comprise the world—not just the blue and green systems, but those that power the constantly moving realities of social and cultural networks—then landscape architecture must develop tools and processes to intervene, to manage, and to design novel conditions.

A necessary contingency

The modeling and design of the open systems that we all dwell within can only be achieved with a disciplinary openness to uncertainty, and to an ongoing involvement with the landscapes we design, as they, too, evolve and self-organize.

A perfect laboratory

The location of the Sam Fox School's MLA program in the St. Louis metropolitan region provides a particularly appropriate venue for landscape-driven inquiry by design. Pulling back from the intensive urban matrix, we find unique resources for resilient design in the bio-geographical features of the Midwest: the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers that attracted settlement in the first place; the strangeness of the American bottom—a fluvial landscape of drift; the Native American histories buried within watersheds of vast, but skewed, productive capacity; and the potent convergence of north, south, east, and west that makes St. Louis a political and geographical terrain that is constituted in ongoing waves of conflict and resolution.

A regional resource

The program therefore has resources with which no others can compete. From the world-famous Missouri Botanical Garden to the city’s Forest Park, from the deeply embedded Dunn Ranch Field Station to the highly regarded Kemper Art Museum on our doorstep, the Sam Fox School's MLA program offers prospective students opportunities to develop the skills, the tools, and the design thinking capacities that hold the keys to the future of our planet.