Ohio State University

Degrees: 4-year BSLA, 3-year MLA, 2-year MLA post prof. | City: Columbus, OH | School: Austin E. Knowlton School of Architecture
Date Visited: 09.28.12

Established: 1915 (BLA)
Average Undergraduate Class Size: 30 – 40
Average Graduate Class Size: 12 – 15
Program Size: 80 – 100
Undergrad Female to Male Ratio: 1 : 3
Grad Female to Male Ratio: 1 : 1
Website

There’s a strong sense of school pride amongst Ohio State landscape architecture students. And after talking to a third-year MLA student, it’s not hard to imagine why: students sit in an open, collaborative environment; professors are friendly and helpful to the point of holding weekend office hours; and in the experience of the MLA student I talked to, almost everyone in his previous graduating class have found employment, with half of those working out west in competitive cities like San Francisco.

As one of the largest universities in the nation, I knew that a day trip to Ohio State University would likely feel overwhelming. But luckily, professor Karla Trott took it upon herself to create a suggested itinerary for my visit and set me up with meetings with various students and professors. I started with a tour of the Austin E. Knowlton School of Architecture, the four-story building that the landscape architecture program shares with architecture and city and regional planning students. The building is also accompanied by a variety of great outdoor spaces, such as a roof garden and the surrounding landscape designed by MVVA.

Austin E. Knowlton School of Architecture

The spatial organization of the studios at Ohio State University are very similar to those of Penn State’s Stuckeman Family Building–though the construction of the Knowlton school slightly precede that of Stuckeman–in that the building interior has an organic, flexible rhythm to it. Studios, which dominate the third floor, have no walls separating architecture from landscape architecture nor first-years from third-years. The large spaces on the first floor, where most pin-up critiques are held, shape-shift into different sized critique spaces with the help of dividers. I really like this flexible set up because it not only encourages discussion and collaboration between disciplines, but it also challenges conventional methods of place-making. One major way that it differs from the Stuckeman building that I found interesting is how Knowlton has a much more raw feel with its exposed concrete, joists and floor bolts. Karla described it as a “didactic building,” one that through its exposed form, can teach you about building sections and construction. I also love their KSA Cafe on the ground floor. The caprese sandwich and tomato soup are delicious, but I have to admit that the OSU Buckeye dessert–a ball of peanut butter dipped in chocolate–is way too rich for my tastes.

BLSA Program & Co-Op Program

As someone who graduated with a BLA degree, I was really curious as to what a BSLA entailed. According to Professor Jason Kentner, the Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board (LAAB) usually reserves the title of BSLA for professional four-year degrees, whereas BLA is often reserved for professional five-year degrees (and of course, there are exceptions such as my four-year undergraduate BLA degree).

And though the OSU BSLA takes four years to complete, it’s technically three years of actual landscape architecture training once you discount freshman year, which mostly consists of satisfying general education credits. So to round out the experience, OSU offers a Co-Op program, in which students compete for the opportunity to “step away from academia for a full year and to pursue professional work in a design firm.” The two major firms to work for in the area are MKSK and NBBJ.

Curriculum

Just as the ecological sciences were the hallmark of UMich’s curriculum, the legacy of OSU’s landscape architecture department is its emphasis on landscape architecture theory. Theory is introduced early on into the curriculum. For the first two years, the set up generally follows this three part pattern per semester: a main studio course, a workshop course that focuses on skill development that is tied into studio (it progresses from graphics in the first year to topics such as grading and stormwater management in the years following), and a seminar class that delves into theory.

Since the undergraduate class is typically larger in size, there are often two to three professors to a class, which averages out to about a one to twelve teacher to student ratio. Graduate classes typically only have one professor per class, but because studio is run in such an open environment, it wouldn’t be hard to get a second professor’s opinion on a project if two classes were running at the same time.

Technology

One thing I particularly enjoyed during my visit was my visit to LARCH6410 – Workshop I: Analysis and Communication, an introductory course on graphics made up of first-level undergrads and grad students with two teachers heading the class, one for the undergrad section, and the other for grad, though the lectures are for both sides. I visited when the class was just starting on digital graphics and an overview of graphic representation tools.

I really appreciated how the teacher introduced the class to a series of professional, digitally-rendered graphics with an overview of the programs used to achieve the desired effect; some were from the local firm MKSK, others from award-winning projects of high-profile firms across the US; and some were even from her own portfolio of work. I thought it was a nice way to set the tone for the class, so that students could see upfront the end result of what they would eventually try and aspire to in the future.

The six digital programs taught as part of the required curriculum include Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, AutoCAD, ArcGIS, and Rhino. Programs such as Google SketchUP and 3DS Max can be learned through optional electives.

SCASLA

OSU’s Student Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects is primarily made up of undergraduates, though there is graduate-level involvement on projects such as the development of a design/build community garden project in conjunction with Ohio ASLA. SCASLA also regularly holds mixers, local firm visits, and volunteer projects around the community.

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