MLA | Master of Landscape Architecture

As the only US-based art and design school with an accredited Master of Landscape Architecture degree program, RISD offers an exceptional opportunity to study the discipline as part of a community of makers engaged in a wide range of media and critical practices. Students and faculty in the department take a unique approach that bridges intuitive and analytical thinking, encourages hands-on research into material practices and explores opportunities for cross-disciplinary experimentation. With a deep emphasis on the practices of critical making, students use and hybridize a range of methods across artistic and design practices.

In responding to the social, cultural and ecological challenges of the 21st century, MLA candidates learn models for research and practice that reflect a commitment to humanity and the environment. Throughout the program, students explore how design can address landscapes affected by climate change, urbanization and environmental degradation as well as improve social equity and public access to open space and resources. Working closely with faculty, students acquire the design and critical thinking skills needed to address these complex issues with action-based solutions at the site and material scale.

MLA I | 3-year program

The MLA I program is for students entering without a degree from an accredited landscape architecture undergraduate design program. The core curriculum provides deep knowledge and skills in Landscape Architecture including design thinking, visual and analytical thinking, material thinking and contextual and critical thinking. Electives and advanced studios provide opportunities to take courses in other departments at RISD.

MLA I first year

Fall
Design Principles
Technology & 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 Systems 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 program is for students entering with accredited pre-professional degrees in Landscape Architecture (BLA). This program requires that students enter with foundational skills in landscape architecture, and provides more electives for students to shape their advanced studies at RISD.

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

Experimentation and making

Students in Landscape Architecture learn to study sites, develop ideas and shape space through an analytical, intuitive and iterative approach to modeling and drawing. By combining hand drawing and modeling with new modes of digital modeling, fabrication, simulation and animation, students learn hybrid strategies that help mediate between the development and implementation of their design ideas.

Through electives and advanced studios, students have the opportunity to take interdisciplinary classes that expose them to new material practices in such fields as ceramics, filmmaking and furniture design, as well as courses in critical contemporary theory offered through the liberal arts master’s programs in Global Arts and Cultures and Nature–Culture–Sustainability Studies. Cross-disciplinary experiences like these provoke and inspire students to approach their practice in new ways.

Environmental and social impact

RISD’s MLA program offers the opportunity to address critical issues shaping the world’s contemporary social, political and ecological landscapes at multiple scales. Increasingly it is recognized that interdisciplinary approaches are needed to address these complex issues. The landscape program at RISD emphasizes synthetic thinking, visual communication skills, and multiscalar thinking that positions graduates to collaborate and take leadership roles in addressing these contemporary issues.

In addition, through studios and seminars, students learn to use art and design methods to conceptualize and create physical spaces that connect the beautiful and the ethical. In completing the program, students learn to translate form, material and space into experiences that inspire greater connections between communities and their environments.

Teaching opportunities

RISD offers a variety of opportunities for graduate students to develop teaching skills via 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 topics such as contemporary theories of nature, environmental art, and eastern and western views of nature and design.

Thesis project

Throughout the program, students learn arts- and science-based practices of exploration, experimentation and research. In the final year, students develop a thesis project that interrogates critical issues in Landscape Architecture. The thesis is an opportunity for students to develop a visual and written language that articulates their interests and future direction as practitioners. Students construct their own questions, apply multiple methods of investigation and experimentation, and advance the field by creating new knowledge. 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 to studio programs are required to submit 10–20 examples of visual work, with certain programs suggesting more specific ideas or portfolio requirements.

    Use SlideRoom to submit your graduate portfolio here.

    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.

    Jewelry + Metalsmithing | The rigorous studio-based orientation of the graduate program leverages traditional skills and fabrication techniques to critically approach new territories and ways of making.

    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.

    Global Arts and Cultures | Applicants to the master’s program in Global Arts and Cultures must submit an academic statement of purpose of 1,000–2,000 words. The object of your statement is to introduce yourself to the Admissions Committee as a thinker, scholar and writer, and you should address in detail your intellectual interests and proposed topic(s) of graduate study. Be as specific as possible in describing your prior college-level experience in areas encompassed by Global Arts and Cultures and how this work has contributed to your professional and personal goals in pursuing a master’s degree. Your statement should also reflect your understanding of the contours and demands of graduate study in Global Arts and Cultures at RISD.

    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.

    Master of Arts in Teaching | MAT | Submit a statement (500–700 words) 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. Identify two questions or issues related to art and design education that pique your interest and which might have the potential to become topics for your MA thesis research. Describe how you might customize a program of study that maximizes the resources of RISD, Brown and the city in support of your particular interests 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?

    Nature–Culture–Sustainability Studies | Applicants to the master’s in Nature–Culture–Sustainability Studies must submit an academic statement of purpose of 1,000–2,000 words. The object of your statement is to introduce yourself to the Admissions Committee as a thinker, scholar and writer, and you should address in detail your intellectual interests and proposed topic(s) of graduate study. You should be as specific as possible in describing your prior college-level experience in the areas of Nature–Culture–Sustainability Studies and how this work has contributed to your professional and personal goals in pursuing a master’s degree. Your statement should also reflect your understanding of the contours and demands of graduate study in Nature–Culture–Sustainability Studies at RISD.

    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.

  5. Writing sample

    Applicants to the MA programs in Global Arts and Cultures and Nature–Culture–Sustainability Studies are required to submit an example of critical and/or analytical writing. See below for all program-specific instructions.

    Global Arts and Cultures | Applicants are required to submit a writing sample that represents your strongest critical and/or analytical writing on a topic clearly related to Global Arts and Cultures. Please indicated if your writing sample is excerpted from a longer work. If it is, please make sure it forms a coherent argument and is framed such that the Admissions Committee understands its function as part of a longer work.

    Nature–Culture–Sustainability Studies | Applicants are required to submit a writing sample that represents your strongest critical and/or analytical writing on a topic clearly related to Nature–Culture–Sustainability Studies. Please indicated if your writing sample is excerpted from a longer work. If it is, please make sure it forms a coherent argument and is framed such that the Admissions Committee understands its function as part of a longer work.

  6. 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.

  7. Tests

    English language proficiency | All applicants who speak English as a second language, including US citizens, must submit results from any one of these three options: TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), IELTS (International English Language Testing System) or Duolingo (an online English test). Since proficiency in English is a prerequisite for acceptance, applicants must attain an acceptable score on their chosen test; RISD requires a minimum result of 93 on the TOEFL, a 6.5 on IELTS or a 63 on Duolingo.

    Plan to take the TOEFL or IELTS well in advance of the application deadline since it may take three weeks for your scores to be sent to RISD by the test agency. Duolingo test results may take up to four days to be received by RISD.

    The language test requirement may be waived for applicants who have studied in an institution where English is the language of instruction. You must contact the Admissions Office to explain your school history and determine if you are eligible.

    Graduate Record Exam (GRE) | Results from the Graduate Record Examination are not required as part of the application process, although candidates for MLA, MAT and MA programs are encouraged to submit their scores.

  8. Landscape Architecture specific requirements

  9. 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 Film / Animation / Video Furniture Design Glass Graphic Design 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 Theory + History of Art + Design