Master’s Program

As the only US-based art and design school with an accredited Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) degree program, RISD offers you 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 take a unique approach that bridges intuitive and analytical thinking, encourages hands-on research into material practices and explores opportunities for cross-disciplinary experimentation. Here you deeply engage in the practices of critical making, using 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, you 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, you 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 curriculum

The three-year MLA I 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.

View the three-year curriculum

MLA II curriculum

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 you to shape your advanced studies at RISD.

View the two-year curriculum

Experimentation and making

In Landscape Architecture you 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, you hone hybrid strategies that help mediate between the development and implementation of your design ideas.

Through electives and advanced studios, you can take interdisciplinary classes in which you learn 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 you to approach your practice in new ways.

Environmental and social impact

Our MLA program offers you a way to address critical issues shaping the world’s contemporary social, political and ecological landscapes at multiple scales. It 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, you learn to use art and design methods to conceptualize and create physical spaces that connect the beautiful and the ethical. In completing the program, you learn to translate form, material and space into experiences that inspire greater connections between communities and their environments.

Teaching opportunities

The MLA 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 may 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, you develop a thesis project that interrogates critical issues in landscape architecture. The thesis is an opportunity for you to develop a visual and written language that articulates their interests and future direction as practitioners.

For your thesis you construct your own questions, apply multiple methods of investigation and experimentation, and advance the field by creating new knowledge. All MLA candidates also participate in an annual graduate thesis exhibition of work by students graduating from RISD's advanced degree programs.