Academy of Art University Launches the School of Landscape Architecture

San Francisco has much to inspire the next generation of landscape architects. The city’s emphasis on environmental consciousness, innovation and green spaces make it a natural destination for anyone who wants to design and create engaging outdoor environments.

Now, San Francisco has an additional draw for those interested in landscape design and architecture. Academy of Art University, the nation’s largest private, accredited art and design university, launches the School of Landscape Architecture, offering accredited Associate’s (AA) and Bachelor’s (BFA) degree programs as well as continuing art education courses beginning Summer 2011 semester.

Heather Clendenin, Director of Landscape Architecture
Heather Clendenin
Director of Landscape Architecture

In keeping with the school’s rich tradition of preparing the artists and designers of tomorrow with instruction from leading professionals in their field, Heather Clendenin will take the helm as Director of Landscape Architecture.

Clendenin’s interest in landscape architecture began with one very memorable hike. Then a botany and rhetoric major, she returned with a group to a trail she had been on the year before. Her memory of the trail, which led out into a valley of virgin timber, was intense and inspiring.

“We got out to the overlook, and it had been clear cut,” said Clendenin. “It was then that I thought it was time to get out from behind the microscope.”

That is indeed what she has done. Clendenin, who is now a licensed landscape architect, has over 30 years of experience in professional and academic settings.

Throughout the course of her career, she has worked on such projects as the Advanced Concepts Center for General Motors in Malibu, Columbia University’s athletic training center in New York City, Carousel Park Playground at the Santa Monica Pier and General Motors Corporate Headquarters in Thousand Oaks, Calif., as well as a number of corporate, residential and urban renovation projects.

Crissy Field, a San Francisco Landscape Design Landmark
Crissy Field,
a San Francisco Landscape Design Landmark

Clendenin intends to bring that experience into the School of Landscape Architecture. Instructors who are also working professionals offer students a wealth of knowledge about what the future of the field holds. “Just walking from the office to the classroom, your pockets are full of anecdotes,” she said.

Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Design from U.C. Berkeley and a Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture (MLA) from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, Clendenin has taught in the departments of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at UC Berkeley, the University of Michigan, and at the Danish Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen where she was a Fulbright Senior Scholar.

With the hike that inspired her career in mind, Clendenin has worked to bring an emphasis on environmental literacy and responsibility to the field. “Landscape architecture’s very mandate is about sustainable practices,” she notes. “The challenge is to allow the understanding and analysis of natural systems to inform design decisions. That’s where the beauty of it, both literally and figuratively, comes into play.”

The deYoung Museum, a San Francisco Landscape Design Landmark
The deYoung Museum,
a San Francisco Landscape Design Landmark

As the program Director for the Landscape Architecture Certificate Program at UC Berkeley Extension, Clendenin initiated and directed the Sustainable Environmental Design and Stewardship Professional Sequence program.

In line with those principles, Academy of Art University’s School of Landscape Architecture will incorporate sustainable practices into the framework of all courses. Students will be instructed to analyze landscapes and make responsible decisions based on that analysis.

Ultimately, graduates of the program will be prepared to create inspiring, memorable and functional outdoor environments. “This program provides future generations of designers the opportunity to use San Francisco as their studio,” said Clendenin. “Then they can take that knowledge and design process anywhere in the world.”

See courses available for Landscape Architecture beginning Summer 2011 semester.