pro landscaper magazine
pro landscaper magazine

Designing for tomorrow: An in-depth exploration of landscape architecture at Birmingham City University

by | 06 Mar 24 | Landscape Architecture, Long Reads

Birmingham City University (BCU), an institute dating back to the 1840s, has long been supporting the regional and national landscape architecture industry.

For well over 60 years the University’s Landscape Architecture postgraduate courses have been helping support students take the first steps to becoming a chartered Landscape Architect.

BCU offers a one-year MA in Landscape Architecture for those with an existing undergraduate degree in Landscape Architecture, and a two-year MLA Landscape Architecture (conversation masters) course, available to undergraduates with a degree in any subject.

Course director, Dr Sandra Costa with students © Birmingham City University

Courses are accredited by the Landscaper Institute and recognised by the International Federation of Landscape Architects.

Academic lead and course director, Dr Sandra Costa shares her insight into how the courses are structured to enhance student employability, as well as providing multidisciplinary connections across the university.

“All modules are supported with lectures, tutorials, workshops, seminars and, importantly, site visits and study trips are a must.

“The design studio is the primary educational venue where knowledge exchange and ideas are developed and discussed. It is used for learning about design by giving students a simulated experience of resolving design issues and briefs in a diverse range of situations.”

Every year the courses accept between 25 – 40 students. MA students can study one year full-time or two years part-time, “building on their existing knowledge and skills acquired in their previous Landscape Architecture degree.”

While MLA students have the option to study full-time for two years or part-time for three, “helping students develop key design and communication skills that support all aspects of projects in a studio-based environment.

“Year two builds on this and develops further their design across scales exploring further their creative, artistic, technical and intellectual thinking.”

Final year MLA student, Relina Beresford, made the shift to Landscape Architecture after finding herself “captivated by the idea of transitioning from the intricacies of indoor spaces to the vast and dynamic world of outdoor design.”

Opting to pursue her passion at BCU owing to its “comprehensive curriculum that aligns with my passion for creating sustainable and aesthetically pleasing outdoor spaces.”

Costa comments that the course curriculum is “constantly evolving” in an effort to meet the current environmental and societal needs. Its most recent modification “represents another step forward, emphasising excellence in integrating sustainability and climate literacy across modules.”

She goes on to say the course’s approach “encourages students to cultivate critical thinking skills and adopt a comprehensive, self-reflective stance in dealing with the challenges inherent to the profession.”

Master of Arts in Landscape Architecture graduate Amrutha C Raj

Recent MA Landscape Architecture graduate, Amruha Raj, recalls a particularly challenging module, “Design Theory and Practice- although initially daunting, it demanded a shift in my thinking and approach to design.

“The module pushed me to think critically, consider the broader context, and integrate diverse elements into my designs.”

Costa expands on this, saying the course aims to position students at the “forefront of devising design-based solutions to the threats faced by our planet.”

It is no secret land-based industries are suffering from a skills shortage, from the current ecological climate and rising demand for more nature-led solutions, encouraging more people to consider a career in a land-based role has become of increasing importance.

Costa encourages “all those with an interest in the field to start their journey- the planet needs more talented landscape architects.”

To find out more about the course or Birmingham City University, visit their website at, or attend the up-coming open day on 23 March to explore its historic campus.

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