It’s been a long, hard winter here in western Montana, what with blizzards, sub-zero temperatures and lots of snow. As spring slowly emerges, it’s time to celebrate all things green. Let’s celebrate April – it’s World Landscape Architecture Month.
Landscape architecture is much more than “landscaping.” Landscape architects are the highly trained design professionals who prepare the designs for a wide spectrum of the “landscapes” that surround us.
Our profession may be small, but we’ve had a profound impact on the landscape of the northern Rockies. Consider this passage from the book “Going-to-the-Sun Road – Glacier National Park’s Highway to the Sky,” by Carol Guthrie (2006 - Far Country Press, Helena): “The fate of the Trans-mountain Highway was decided on a mountaintop in 1924, when Thomas Vint, a wet-behind-the-ears landscape architect, bravely stepped forward to oppose veteran road-building engineer George E. Goodwin’s plan to build a road that rose to the summit of Logan Pass ... in a series of 15 switchbacks. Vint said it would 'look like miners had been there.' He then turned to Stephen Mather, the director of the National Park Service, and proposed a longer road that rose along the face of the Garden Wall in a single switchback. This moment was the beginning of the Going-to-the-Sun Road as we know it today.”
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Landscape architects combine nature, culture, art and technology in the planning and design of the physical landscape to meet people’s needs while promoting stewardship of the natural environment. In Montana landscape design, professionals work for a variety of agencies and private design firms in the planning and design of a wide variety of projects involving Montana's precious land (and water) resources.
Landscape design professionals are the original environmental planners; we’ve been “green” for over 150 years. Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer of New York’s Central Park, founded the profession in the mid-19th century. We have the education and background to understand and evaluate the total landscape resource that is the basis for all development projects. By getting involved early in the process, the landscape architect provides the site planning and design expertise before any buildings or roads are designed or built. Then, we work with the engineer and/or architect to design a complete project that is attractive, functional, cost effective and a source of pride to all concerned.
Landscape architects are licensed in all 50 states. Most practitioners receive either a master’s or bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from one of 95 accredited college programs before serving an internship, which then leads to an exam and licensure. The nearest accredited programs are in Idaho, Washington, Utah, Oregon and North Dakota. Landscape design is offered as an option in horticulture at Montana State University, Bozeman. Efforts are currently underway to build on this option and establish a fully accredited program at MSU.
Some representative projects by landscape architects and designers in western Montana include:
- Art Park, Missoula Art Museum, landscape design and construction documents
- Missoula College, landscape design and construction documents
- Fort Missoula Regional Park, master planning, design and construction documents
- Missoula Development Park, master planning and landscape design
- Milltown State Park, landscape design
- Missoula Bicycle Commuter Network; Bitterroot Branch and Milwaukee Road Bike/Pedestrian Trails; planning, design, construction documents
- Silver Park Plan, Old Sawmill District, Missoula
- U.S. 93, Evaro to Polson, landscape planning and design (landscape architects were required for each section)
- Milltown Park recreation planning, public workshops
- Blue Bay Shoreline Park, Flathead Lake, master planning and design
Kent Watson of Missoula is a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects and principal of Kent Watson & Associates Landscape Architecture.