by Troy Gaulden
While Louisiana State University boasts the No. 1 football team in the nation, LSU’s Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture claims the top spot in the classroom.
National rankings released by DesignIntelligence, a bi-monthly journal by the Design Futures Council, have the LSU landscape architecture undergraduate program ranked No. 1 for the second straight year. The school has ranked in the top 10 for the past decade and has placed either first or second for the past five years. LSU is followed by Penn State University, Texas A&M, California Polytechnic State University and Purdue University.
This almost came as a surprise to the school’s interim director Van Cox, who thought the school might slide in the rankings without a new director. Cox attributes the school’s focus on design and faculty consistency to the high rankings.
The rankings are established by compiling interviews of nearly 400 leading design practitioners. The “America’s Best Architecture & Design Schools 2012” issue also ranks the premier graduate programs in the nation. LSU finished second among graduate schools behind Harvard University. The school has a strong connection to Harvard. The LSU Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture’s faculty consists of seven Harvard graduates.
“We call [LSU] Harvard on the Bayou. I think it says a lot, because they have a lot more endowments than we do of course. The university is obviously a private institution and well endowed,” said Cox.
The LSU landscape architecture graduate program has placed either second or third for the past five years. LSU is followed by Kansas State University, Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania.
Both Conrad and Cox feel the DesignIntelligence rankings will help recruit students to study landscape architecture at LSU.
“It’s important that it attracts people, lots of people. In fact, when I saw the number of applications that came in we got a box full of them. I don’t know how they choose who they’re going to let in,” said Conrad.
“We get a lot of recruits that way. A lot of students look at those rankings very closely, so it’s very important,” said Cox.
According to Cox, each landscape architecture student has their own studio table for working on projects. Cox says each year level has two professors that closely interact with students and critique projects. For LSU landscape architecture students, branching out from the classroom is very important.
“It’s more of being out of the classroom in the physical world and seeing landscapes and design happen in the field rather than just staying inside the studio and just seeing things inside four walls,” said undergraduate student Casey Stallcup.
LSU landscape architecture professor Max Conrad developed the east and west coast field trips for the school’s students to travel across the country and around the world to bring landscape architecture to life. Students vote on which direction they want to travel. Conrad says the students travel to visit design firms and view projects, and they cherish that memory.
“This school is noted for travel. And a lot of people will say the alumni will say that’s what they remember most, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences. If you talk to any alumni anywhere in the world they will talk about the east coast and west coast field trips. They remember that as one of the most wonderful experiences while they were in school,” said Conrad.
Conrad has taken students to places such as Japan, Portugal, Spain, Hong Kong, Brazil, Thailand, Cambodia, India and China. According to Conrad, very few landscape architecture schools travel annually to view landscape designs and learn first-hand on-site. Conrad says he plans to bring students to Berlin and Paris this spring.