Department of Landscape Architecture History

Department History

The first professional program in landscape architecture in the Pacific Northwest was established at the Oregon State Agricultural College (now Oregon State University) in Corvallis, Oregon, in 1928. The program offered a four-year Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture. At the beginning of the 1932–33 academic year, degree granting in landscape architecture was transferred to the University of Oregon in Eugene, where it was expanded to a five-year Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA) program. The Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) degree was established the following year in 1933–34, but few degrees were awarded until the 1970s, at which time the program expanded to become comparable in size to the BLA program. Originally, landscape architecture was a program within the School of Architecture and Allied Arts, which did not reorganize into departments until 1964–65. A PhD program in landscape architecture was established in 2005. In 2017, the School of Architecture and Allied Arts reorganized into the College of Design. As part of the reorganization, Landscape Architecture joined Architecture, Interior Architecture and Historic Preservation in a new School of Architecture and Environment.

For more than 80 years, the principal objective of the landscape architecture curriculum has been balancing a professional and liberal arts education. Oregon has a long history of educational experimentation in design. Studio courses are ungraded and a cooperative, non-competitive educational environment has always been fostered. A major strength of Oregon's program has been its rich liberal arts setting and its direct associations with architecture, planning, art, and history of art and architecture in a school that describes itself as being "about the history, teaching and practice of the arts."

The department has a long history of providing service to state and local communities. What is now termed service learning has a long legacy in the department with examples ranging from built work to planning studies. The state and local community have been national leaders in environmental legislation and awareness, landscape design, sustainable development and land use planning. We have always capitalized on these progressive policies and our regional landscape is a major part of our students' educational experience.

In the 1970s the undergraduate curriculum, which had been relatively stable for more than 40 years, was revised in response to a rapidly expanding profession, new environmental awareness, an enlarged meaning of the concept of landscape, and challenges within the state to professional licensure. New courses were added in landscape planning analysis, landscape history and theory, and an environmental geologist joined a fundamentally design-oriented faculty to help 'design with nature'. An expansion of the MLA program as a post-professional degree added new dimensions of experience and maturity to the BLA experience. In the 1990s, the teaching of landscape ecology had become central to the curriculum along with the use of digital tools at all levels. In the 2000s, instruction in urban design was strengthened and a focus on sustainable urbanism took hold. The first doctoral student was admitted in 2006 and the program now enjoys a strong, international cadre of students who work intensively with faculty on high-level scholarship and contribute extensively to the life of the department.

Each decade, new faculty have joined the department and, as a consequence, the department has changed, carefully maintaining core traditions that serve its students and faculty while embracing new ideas and emerging imperatives. The strength of the present program reflects the talents and unique contributions of individuals with diverse backgrounds and experience who work collaboratively to guide the department and its programs. Our long-standing commitment is to train the next generation of landscape architects as sophisticated and effective agents of change.

Historical Timeline

Year Milestone
1911 Oregon Agricultural College (OAC), now Oregon State University (OSU), offered a Landscape Gardening degree, the first of its kind west of the Mississippi.
1928 The first professional landscape architecture program in the Pacific Northwest was established at the OAC.
1929 Frederick A. Cuthbert joined Arthur Peck as landscape faculty at OAC.
1932 The landscape architecture program was transferred to the UO in Eugene where it was expanded to a full five-year Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA), degree program.
The UO hired Frederick A. Cuthbert.
1933 The Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) degree was established.
1940 Cuthbert's 1940 developed a landscape plan for a north entrance connecting into the heart of campus.
Before 1947 Students traveled to OSU for their third year of classes, taking advantage of the horticultural and soil science offerings of the land grant college.
1949 The Committee on Education granted the program full accreditation.
1955–67 The title of the department was Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning.
1967 Urban Planning became its own Department of Urban Planning, and in 1982 it merged with the public affairs program in the Wallace School of Public Affairs to form a new Department of Planning, Public Policy and Management. The department title changed to the Department of Landscape Architecture.
2017 The School of Architecture and Allied Arts becomes the College of Design.

Department Leadership

Year Milestone
1908–49 Arthur Peck served as Landscape Architecture Department Head at OAC.
1932–71 Fred A. Cuthbert became program director at the UO and Dean of the then School of Architecture & Allied Arts (which became the College of Design in 2017). 
During that time, the main faculty at the university were Wallace "Mac" Ruff and George S. Jette.
1971–81 Jerome Diethelm
1981–87 Kenneth I. Helphand
1988–90 Ronald Lovinger
1990–95 Robert Z. Melnick, FASLA
1995–2000 David Hulse
2000–04 Cynthia Girling
2004–09 Stanton Jones
2009–15 Elisabeth "Liska" Chan
2015–present Bart Johnson
2017–present Elisabeth "Liska" Chan named head of the new School of Architecture & Environment as part of the transition from the School of Architecture and Allied Arts to the College of Design (July 2017).