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Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Degree

The MFA program provides advanced study for students pursuing a career in Landscape Architecture.

Track I is available to students who have already obtained an undergraduate professional degree, such as a BLA or BArch. Coursework emphasizes theories of open urban spaces, collaborative and interdisciplinary methods of design and implementation, sustainability, and advanced digital rendering techniques.

Track II is available to students with a BA or BS degree, who have limited or no experience with art and design. Coursework focuses on establishing the fundamentals of drafting, site engineering, planting design, ecological systems, site analysis and site design, and regional planning and analysis.

MFA Landscape Architecture Unit Requirements

Track I

Major 27 units
Directed Study 18 units
Graduate Liberal Arts 12 units
Electives* 6 units
TOTAL 63 units
Track II
Major 51 units
Directed Study 18 units
Graduate Liberal Arts 12 units
Electives* 6 units
TOTAL 87 units
*Per director approval

MFA Landscape Architecture Degree Requirements

  • Successful completion of Final Thesis Project
  • Minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA
  • Minimum grade of C in all required 63 units or 87 units

Additional Information

MFA Program Learning Outcomes

Graduate students will meet the following student performance criteria:


  • Demonstrate command of the basic principles , systems, and elements of design that inform two- and three- dimensional design and composition.
  • Produce defensible design, planning and management solutions that reflect knowledge of the cultural, historical, ecological and climatic factors of a given site.
  • Demonstrate effective and appropriate design choices at a variety of scales for pedestrian and vehicular circulation, grading, drainage, and storm water management.
  • Creatively solve design problems


  • Conduct sufficient research and analyze findings at appropriate junctures in the design process.
  • Explore sufficient concepts and alternatives, and test them against relevant criteria and standards
  • Work effectively with the natural forms, processes and elements of an indigenous landscape during the entire design process.
  • Prepare a comprehensive program for a landscape architectural project, including assessment of client and user needs, a critical review of appropriate precedents, an analysis of site conditions, a review of the relevant codes, laws and standards and assessment of their implication for the project.


  • Identify the indigenous components and processes found on any site (soil types, individual plant species, plant communities, wildlife, climatic conditions, and hydrology) and determine the resultant design opportunities and constraints.
  • Apply principles and strategies of sustainability to design work.


  • Demonstrate understanding of the diverse needs, values, behavioral norms, physical ability, and social and spatial patterns that characterize different cultures and individuals and the implication of this diversity for the societal roles and responsibilities of landscape architects.
  • Demonstrate understanding of the theories and methods of inquiry that seek to clarify the relationship between human behavior and the physical environment.


  • Apply the principles of sustainability to design technically accurate and ecologically sensitive grading and drainage plans and irrigation systems.
  • Select and evaluate materials that will enhance the aesthetic and ecological qualities of a given site as well as provide for the programmatic requirements of the client and/or user group.
  • Estimate cost of materials and installation.
  • Develop innovative construction details that solve complex structural, functional, aesthetic/environmental issues.
  • Demonstrate site design and implementation strategies applying appropriate technologies, materials and methods.


  • Demonstrate understanding of prevailing traditions (western, non-western, regional, and vernacular) in the built environment and the various factors (climatic, cultural, socioeconomic, and technological factors) that have shaped them.
  • Display a working knowledge of the theoretical foundations of and central ideas in landscape architecture.


  • Recognize the design opportunities and limitations of building and construction codes.
  • Demonstrate understanding of the landscape architect’s responsibility as determined by registration law, codes and regulations, professional service contracts, zoning and subdivision ordinances, environmental regulation, historic preservation laws, and accessibility laws.


  • Consolidate copious research and present complex ideas in a concise and convincing verbal presentation.
  • Select appropriate representational media, including computer graphics and freehand drawing, to express essential information throughout the design process
  • Make technically precise drawings, recognizing their importance as legal documents.


  • Work in collaboration with other students in pursuit of complex design solutions .
  • Demonstrate understanding of the need for landscape architects to provide leadership in the design and construction process and on issues of growth, development, and aesthetics in their communities.
  • Demonstrate understanding of the basic principles and legal aspects of practice organization, financial management, business planning, time and project management, risk mitigation, and mediation and arbitration as well as an understanding of trends that affect practice, such as globalization, outsourcing, project delivery, expanding practice settings, and diversity.
  • Produce a professional portfolio demonstrating their skills and design process.
  • Demonstrate understanding of the ethical issues involved in the development and application of professional judgment in landscape architectural design and practice.
  • Demonstrate basic command of construction documentation and administration.

Academy of Art University Learning Outcomes
Graduates of the Academy of Art University will demonstrate the ability to:

  1. Produce a body of work suitable for seeking professional opportunities in their chosen field of art and design.
  2. Solve creative problems within their field of art and design, including research and synthesis of technical, aesthetic, and conceptual knowledge.
  3. Communicate their ideas professionally and connect with their intended audience using visual, oral, and written presentation skills relevant to their field.
  4. Execute technical, aesthetic, and conceptual decisions based on an understanding of art and design principles.
  5. Evaluate work in their field, including their own work, using professional terminology.
  6. Recognize the influence of major cultural and aesthetic trends, both historical and contemporary, on art and design products.
  7. Learn the professional skills and behaviors necessary to compete in the global marketplace for art and design.


Please see Degree Breakdown for requirements for the program. Explore our course catalog and take classes based on your interests, either online or in our world-class facilities in San Francisco.

Graduate Degree Breakdowns

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

The MFA degree provides advanced study for students pursuing a career in Landscape Architecture. Studio courses focus on the techniques necessary to develop and master technical skills. Graduate Liberal Arts courses promote the expression of ideas and effective communication utilizing visual, oral and written presentation skills. The graduate Landscape Architecture program culminates with an independent final project. Students will graduate from the program equipped with a portfolio of work and prepared for professional opportunities in the field of Landscape Architecture.

Track I is available to those who have previously obtained a professional undergraduate degree such as a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA) or BArch. These individuals have the background to be successful within the intense and professionally focused 63 unit MFA Landscape Architecture program without needing additional preparation. Please see Track I degree breakdown for a sample outline of courses.

Track II is available to those who have a BA or BS degree, but have limited or no background in art and design. Courses focusing on basic drawing, drafting and computer skills as well as those in ecological principles and systems are offered in the first year to encourage success within the 87 unit MFA Landscape Architecture program. Please see Track II degree for a sample outline of courses.

The School of Landscape Architecture will be seeking application for professional accreditation from Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board (LAAB). Academy of Art University and the School of Landscape Architecture are regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

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