USC offers a unique living laboratory of a diverse, multicultural and geographically sophisticated territory, which is exemplar for many of the world’s most pressing landscape challenges within the context of a major urban research university. Los Angeles, in particular, and California, more generally, are extreme natural and social geographies, where the evolving interplays of infrastructure, landscape and urbanism require innovative and systemic thinking.
Los Angeles, which Reyner Banham famously interpreted in 1971 as a construct of four ecologies, is an ideal urban nature setting for studying landscape architecture—where urgent contemporary issues can and must be addressed while testing the boundaries of design research, design thinking and implementation. The growing ecological crises and intense population pressure of the city’s coasts, flatlands and foothills are a pars pro toto, a microcosm, of the challenges facing state, nation and globe, ones that necessitate a paradigm shift to complex systems thinking.
Graduate landscape architecture at USC is based on the knowledge and skills to engage complex issues, and to undertake ambitious design explorations. Upon completion, graduates are prepared for both design and leading leadership opportunities in professional practice, public service as well as in higher education; they are able to address the necessary balance of ecology and development our future environments will require.
The USC Landscape Architecture + Urbanism program develops real-world issues, formulates and re-formulates problems, explores and proposes operative strategies and becomes part of the discourse with stakeholders and cities. The resistive capacity of the landscape to the ever-globalizing, homogenization of territories is created as a means to shape possible futures for parks, neighborhoods, city districts and the larger stewardship of the landscape.
Admission with No Previous Professional Education (+3)
Individuals who have completed a four-year Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree, or its equivalent, with no prior degree in landscape architecture, architecture or environmental design, are eligible for admission to the program. Preference for admission is given to those who have completed a balanced undergraduate education that includes study in the arts, sciences and humanities. Applicants must document successful completion of a college-level course in the natural sciences. Preparation in the visual arts is strongly encouraged. A minimum of a one-semester, college-level course in the visual arts, such as drawing, sculpture, graphics and/or basic design, is required before beginning the first semester of study. Courses in the humanities, ecology, history of art, landscape architecture and architecture are strongly encouraged, although not required.
96-Unit Curriculum +3
Students admitted with no previous professional education must complete 96 units, including 68 units of specified courses, 16 units of electives of which a minimum of 14 must be from the School of Architecture, and 10 units of Thesis Option I or II. Electives must be part of a curricular plan approved by the program director.
Sample Curriculum +3 (for students with no previous professional education)
Admission with Advanced Placement (+2)
Applicants who have completed a non-accredited, pre-professional undergraduate degree in architecture, landscape architecture or environmental design may be granted advanced placement of one or two semesters, subject to the review of the admission committee. Applicants granted advanced placement may be able to waive certain course requirements for the MLA program by demonstrating equivalencies in any of the required courses. The program director and faculty in charge of the specific curriculum areas will determine the studio and professional course requirements for each MLA student admitted with advanced placement. The following courses are prerequisites to be completed prior to matriculation or, on specific notice, in the first year of the program: history of landscape architecture (ARCH 565 or equivalent), landscape architecture construction (ARCH 534 , ARCH 535 or equivalent), plant materials (ARCH 537 , ARCH 538 or equivalent), media (ARCH 548 or equivalent).
64-Unit Curriculum +2
Advanced placement students must complete 64 units, including 37 units of specified courses, 16 units of electives of which a minimum of 12 must be from the School of Architecture, and 10 units of Thesis Option I or II. Electives must be part of a curricular plan approved by the program director.
Sample Curriculum +2 (for advanced placement students admitted with pre-professional design degrees)
Sample Elective Courses for All Curricula
Thesis or Directed Research Option
In addition to the opportunity to initiate an independent written thesis, students are provided the option to undertake independent design research on important urban issues and projects already in progress within the School of Architecture. Whichever option is taken, students are supported in their work by a faculty advisory team including a principal critic.