The discussion of the is a complex endeavor as it shares much of its history with that of landscape gardening and architecture, spanning the entirety of man's existence. However, it was not until relatively recent history that the term "landscape architecture" or even "landscape architect" came into common use.
"Landscape architecture" was first used by Gilbert Laing Meason in his book On The Landscape Architecture of the Great Painters of Italy (London, 1828). Meason was born in Scotland and did not have the opportunity to visit Italy. But he admired the relationship between architecture and landscape in the great landscape paintings and drew upon Vitruvius' Ten books of architecture to find principles undere relationship between built form and natural form.
'Landscape architecture' was then taken up by John Claudius Loudon and used to describe a specific type of architecture, suited to being placed in designed landscapes. Loudon was admired by the American designer and theorist Andrew Jackson Downing and 'landscape architecture' was the subject of a chapter in Downing's book A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, Adapted to North America (1841).
First yearsOlmsted used the term 'landscape architecture' describing the whole professional task of designing a composition of planting, landform, water, paving and other structures, using the word for the first time when designing the Central Park.
This led to its adoption by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. Frederick and a man named George Oskar gave a different slant to the meaning of 'landscape architecture', using the term to describe the whole professional task of designing a composition of planting, landform, water, paving and other structures. Their first use of this term was in the winning entry for the design of Central Park in New York City. Olmsted and Vaux then in 1863 adopted 'landscape architect' as a professional title and used it to describe their work for the planning of urban park systems. Olmsted's project for the Emerald Necklace in Boston was widely admired and led to the use of 'landscape architecture' as a professional title in Europe, initially by Patrick Geddes and Thomas Mawson. Frederick Law Olmsted and Beatrix Farrand, with eight other leading practitioners
Landscape architecture has since become a worldwide profession, submitted for recognition by the International Labor Organization and represented on a world-wide basis by the International Federation of Landscape Architects.
Garrett Eckbo and Dan Kiley were prominent modernist landscape architects in the mid-20th century. Their work is represented by a shift away from what might be termed the "Wild Garden" aesthetic of earlier landscape architects influenced by Romantic Naturalism, and toward a more spare and rectilinear aesthetic. Both studied under Warren Manning at Harvard, who in turn had studied under Frederick Law Olmsted.
Several landscape architects practicing in the 1980s and 1990s moved the discipline beyond its roots in High Modernism. These include Martha Schwartz, Peter Walker, and Michael Van Valkenburgh. Starting in the mid-1990s, a new disciplinary shift occurred toward what has been called Landscape Urbanism, a term that attempts to merge urban design, infrastructure design and landscape.
Three remarkable histories of the landscape architecture profession were published in the 1970s.
A first comprehensive history of landscape architecture, as distinct from the history of gardening was written by Norman T Newton with the title Design on the land: the development of landscape architecture (Belknap/Harvard 1971). The book has 42 chapters. The first three chapters are on Ancient Times, The Middle Ages, and The World of Islam. The last three chapters are on Urban Open-Space Systems, Variations in Professional Practice and the Conservation of Natural Resources. This reflects the development of landscape architecture from a focus on private gardens, in the ancient world, to a focus on the planning and design of public open space in the modern world. Since kings used to be responsible for the provision of public goods (irrigation, streets, town walls, parks and other environmental goods) the distinction between public and private was not quite the same in the ancient world as it is in the modern world.