MLA I | 3-year program

Fully accredited by the American Society of Landscape Architects, RISD's MLA program is unique in that it gives students access to a wide range of fine art and design courses on campus, along with classes at Brown University, study abroad options and a six-week Wintersession that allows for focused study on campus or off. In addition, the program revolves around environmental and global issues, with recent involvement in projects in Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Ghana and beyond.

The three-year program is for students with undergraduate degrees in fields other than landscape architecture. At the heart of the curriculum—from the initial design foundation/field ecology course to the core studio sequence—is the design studio, a forum for investigating aesthetic ecological, cultural and technological issues. In sharing core courses, students in Landscape Architecture and related departments such as Architecture and Industrial Design develop a common language that serves as a foundation for cross-disciplinary discourse and encourages individual exploration and expression.

MLA I first year

Fall
Design Principles
Technology and Materials I (Materials and Grading)
Representation I
History of Landscape Architecture
Wintersession
Grad Studio: Constructed Ground
Research Methods for Design
Spring
Ecology, Site and Design Studio
Ecological Planning and Design
Representation II
Issues in Landscape History

MLA I second year

Fall
Constructed Landscape Studio
Plant Materials
Technology and Materials II (Site Engineering)
Theory I
Wintersession
Open electives
Spring
Plants and Design
Urban System Studio
Issues in Planning and Cultural Geography
Open elective

MLA I third year

Fall
Advanced Design Studio elective
Research/Theory/Design
Technology and Materials III (Advanced Construction)
Open elective
Wintersession
Open elective
Spring
Principles of Professional Practice
Design Research Thesis
Open elective

MLA II | 2-year program

The MLA II is a two-year program for students entering with accredited pre-professional degrees in Landscape Architecture (BLA).

MLA II first year

Fall
Design Principles
Theory I
Open electives or Independent Study
Wintersession
Grad Studio: Constructing Ground
Research Methods for Design
Spring
Urban Systems Studio or Site/Ecology/Design
Issues in Planning and Cultural Geography Seminar or Ecological Planning and Design
Open electives or Independent Study

MLA II second year

Fall
Advanced Design Studio Elective
Research/Theory/Design
Open electives
Wintersession
Open elective
Spring
Principles of Professional Practice
Design Research Thesis

Suzanne Mathew | graduate program director

Inspiring community

With approximately 45 graduate students and 20-some faculty members, Landscape Architecture offers a very hands-on experience with a low student-teacher ratio and a lot of intellectual exchange in the studio. Professors not only get to know students well by working with them on an individual basis, they offer ready insight into their own professional practices. All see teaching as a laboratory where material investigations and conceptual explorations intertwine with individual studio research and practice. This makes for a supportive community that encourages individual growth and allows emerging designers to clarify their interests and focus.

Learning environment

Sharing a building with RISD's Architecture program, students readily engage in interdisciplinary exploration. As MLA candidates, they're given opportunities to design and build within the complexities of the urban environment, and to participate in studios that bring together designers, regulators, biologists, ecologists and urban planners to develop models for environmentally sound development. Beyond campus, the department has been involved in a master plan for a sustainable community in Costa Rica; for a new university for women in Bangladesh; water issues and urban redevelopment in Italy; urban ecological issues in India; and sustainable development issues in both Ghana and Mexico City.

Teaching opportunities

RISD offers a variety of opportunities for graduate students to develop teaching skills via teaching assistantships and participation in reviews as critics or jurors. During Wintersession master's candidates are invited to propose seminars of their own design open to students from across campus. In the past, these seminars have focused on such disparate topics as color theory and landscape design, landscape photography, environmental art and 3D imaging.

Thesis project

In the final year, students complete the course of study by developing a thesis and a methodology for testing their conceptual premise through a committed design project. This final requirement differs from most programs, and allows students to spend the time they need to develop a visual and written language that articulates their interests and future direction. All MLA candidates also participate in the RISD Graduate Thesis Exhibition, a large-scale public show held in the Rhode Island Convention Center.

Application requirements

  1. Application form

    Submit your RISD application form, and all other credentials, through the RISD Applicant Portal. The application fee is $60.

  2. Academic transcripts

    Initially, you must provide unofficial transcripts of all undergraduate and/or graduate study indicating satisfactory completion, or evidence of anticipated completion, of an undergraduate degree program from an accredited college or university. You can upload your unofficial transcripts within the RISD Applicant Portal. If your academic credentials are prepared in a language other than English, they must be translated into English by an approved translator before submitting. Enrolling students will later be required to submit official transcripts.

  3. Portfolio

    Graduate applicants are required to submit 10–20 examples of visual work, with certain programs suggesting more specific ideas or portfolio requirements (see below).

    Include your portfolio images within your application.

    Specific program instructions:

    Digital + Media | Your portfolio should contain 10 samples total, which can be a combination of images and videos. You may submit up to 5 videos, with a total run time of no more than five minutes for all videos combined. Please do not submit multi-page PDF files. Each sample should be accompanied by text identifying the medium and year, and a four-sentence description explaining the concepts that inform your work and is no more than 50 words. If collaborative projects are presented, you must clearly identify your individual contribution.

    Furniture Design | In the MFA programs, students make their own work as part of learning from, and with, materials. This applies to tests and models as well as to full-size objects at human scale. Material experimentation includes traditional, new and hybrid materials as appropriate to individual student interests.

    In addition to your portfolio materials uploaded to Slideroom, we invite you to include a self-made video no more than 20 seconds duration of you making something. We are not looking for video with professional production values; we are interested in seeing you making something – small, large, modest or complex, any making action can work, the choice is yours. This is an option you might enjoy adding to your submission for us to learn more about your interests. Finally, please title your video.

    Landscape Architecture | All applicants to the Master's of Landscape Architecture degree programs are required to submit a portfolio and an additional video essay. Your portfolio should contain 10 individually produced and carefully chosen images of work that reflects your interests in landscape and the discipline of landscape architecture. Applicants to the MLA-1 program who have no prior design training may include photographs, sketches or written work that conveys their ability to observe, identify and explore spatial conditions within the landscape. All other applicants should include a selection of work that best represents the development of their interest in this field of study. All work should be labeled to indicate if it is academic, professional or personal. If team projects are presented, your individual contribution must be clearly identified. The portfolio should include a minimal amount of text.

    Prepare a short video of yourself telling us:

    • The most important reason you are motivated to study landscape architecture
    • At least one goal you hope to achieve in your graduate education
    • Why you think RISD is the best place to achieve your goals

    You are encouraged to be authentic and heartfelt in your response. This essay will function as the beginning of a conversation you will continue to have if you enter the program at RISD and it does not have to be the same information provided in your written essay. Cell phone videos are accepted as well. Maximum length: 2 minutes.

    Master of Arts in Teaching | MAT | Your portfolio should consist of 20 images exhibiting the depth and breadth of your studio experience. Ten images should represent work that reflects your investigations within a single medium; seven images should represent your confidence in handling a variety of media; and three images need to be samples of drawings.

    Master of Arts in Art + Design Education | MA | Submit a portfolio of 20 images that most clearly represent your creative practice as an artist or designer.

  4. Statement of purpose

    Graduate applicants must submit a written statement (500–750 words) outlining their interest and goals in pursuing graduate study. Several programs suggest more specific ideas or written requirements as outlined below.

    Specific program instructions:

    Digital + Media | Within the statement of purpose, the committee seeks a clear explanation of the applicant’s goals for both their time in school and afterwards, and how the MFA in Digital + Media is specifically suited to support these goals. This statement should address the following questions: what are you interested in exploring conceptually? What outcomes do you hope to get from the degree? Where do you see yourself after graduation? In addition to the statement of purpose, applicants should outline their working methodology or practice from initial research to project realization.

    Landscape Architecture | Your essay should describe how your interest in landscape developed, how the work in your portfolio is indicative of that development and why the landscape architecture program at RISD seems well suited to your goals.

    Photography | In addition to a statement of purpose, applicants should send an artist’s statement describing the work included in their portfolio. In other words, the artist’s statement should be about the work submitted, while the statement of purpose should address why you are seeking a graduate degree.

    Master of Arts in Teaching | MAT | Submit a statement describing your work as an artist or designer. What is it about? How do you feel your academic, studio or work experience prepares you for entry to a graduate teacher education program? Discuss how, in your opinion, the quality of an educator’s artistic practice contributes to high-quality arts learning for children and youth. Since the significance of arts education in K–12 schools is not universally recognized, please provide a succinct argument for including the visual arts as a required core subject for all students at this level.

    Master of Arts in Art + Design Education | MA | Submit a written statement (500–750 words) describing your interest in pursuing the MA. Describe how you might customize a program of study that maximizes the resources of RISD, Brown and the city in support of your particular interest in art and design education. In what ways do you, at this time, anticipate that earning an MA will advance your professional development and career aspirations?

  5. Letters of recommendation

    Applicants are required to submit three letters of recommendation. Recommendation letters should be written by teachers or other professionals who have firsthand knowledge of your art or academic achievements and can comment on your potential for graduate study. You may invite your recommenders to upload their letters through your Applicant Portal. If your recommenders are unable to submit using this method, their letters may be emailed to admissions@risd.edu or mailed to the Graduate Admissions Office.

  6. Tests

    All applicants who speak English as a second language, including US citizens, must submit results from either TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System). Since proficiency in English is a prerequisite for acceptance, applicants must attain an acceptable score on either test; RISD requires a minimum result of 93 on the TOEFL or 6.5 on IELTS. The language test requirement may be waived for applicants who are enrolled in an institution where English is the language of instruction.

    Plan to take the TOEFL or IELTS well in advance of the application deadline since it may take six weeks for your scores to be sent to RISD by the test agency.

    Graduate Record Exam (GRE) | Results from the Graduate Record Examination are not required, but MA, MAT and MLA candidates are encouraged to submit their scores.

  7. Landscape Architecture specific requirements

  8. Video Essay

    All applicants to the Masters of Landscape Architecture degree programs are required to submit a portfolio and an additional video essay. Your portfolio should contain 10 individually produced and carefully chosen images of work that reflects your interests in landscape and the discipline of landscape architecture. Applicants to the MLA-1 program who have no prior design training may include photographs, sketches, or written work that conveys their ability to observe, identify, and explore spatial conditions within the landscape. All other applicants should include a selection of work that best represents the development of their interest in this field of study. All work should be labeled to indicate if it is academic, professional or personal. If team projects are presented, your individual contribution must be clearly identified. The portfolio should include a minimal amount of text.

    Prepare a short video of yourself telling us:

    • The most important reason you are motivated to study landscape architecture
    • At least one goal you hope to achieve in your graduate education
    • Why you think RISD is the best place to achieve your goals.

    You are encouraged to be authentic and heartfelt in your response. This essay will function as the beginning of a conversation you will continue to have if you enter the program at RISD and it does not have to be the same information provided in your written essay. Cell phone videos are accepted as well. Maximum length: 2 minutes.

Departments

Apparel Design Architecture Ceramics Digital + Media Experimental and Foundation Studies Film / Animation / Video Furniture Design Glass Graduate Studies Graphic Design History of Art + Visual Culture History, Philosophy + the Social Sciences Illustration Industrial Design Interior Architecture Jewelry + Metalsmithing Landscape Architecture Literary Arts + Studies Painting Photography Printmaking Sculpture Teaching + Learning in Art + Design Textiles