From Central Park in New York City to sea oats blowing in the Gulf Coast breeze, landscape architecture aims to breathe life into the scenery and inspires everyone it touches. It covers everything under the sky and beyond the front door, blending community with the environment to transform the natural world.

Landscape architects plan and design while landscape contractors build and manage. They work together to create the projects that can, ultimately, define communities.

This year, Mississippi State University celebrates 50 years of blending design, planning, building and managing through the Department of Landscape Architecture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The department itself is like a living entity. Its deep roots, sturdy base and strong branches support an ever-expanding canopy of new growth. The program’s roots include the work of individuals like Cameron Man and Robert Callaway, whose vision to establish a landscape contracting and management program within the department established Mississippi State as the only university in the country to house both programs under one roof.

“Mississippi State has deep roots in advancing the landscape architecture and landscape contracting fields alike,” Man explained.

Department head from 1989-2006, Man, who served as president of the American Society of Landscape Architects and the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture, made significant progress in advancing the department.

"My proudest achievements at Mississippi State were initiating the development of Master of Landscape Architecture program, bringing together stellar faculty that included alumni, and the move from Montgomery Hall to the current building,” Man said.

The current building, located on Stone Boulevard, incorporates regenerative technology and serves as a design/build laboratory.

Built in 2002, it focuses on conservation, using less energy and producing better air quality.

Under the leadership of department head Sadik Artunc, students and faculty have used this setting as an outdoor laboratory and studio. Students have spent the last three years building the outdoor space, which now features a courtyard, rain garden and tree grove. Plans for an outdoor wetland education center are being developed in partnership with the College of Forest Resources.

The tree grove was dedicated during a celebration of the department’s 50th anniversary. The Glenn Cook Tree Grove now honors the longtime faculty member who died in 2014. Cook served as a professor and faculty adviser in the department for more than 30 years.

“My proudest achievements at Mississippi State were initiating the development of Master of Landscape Architecture
program, bringing together stellar faculty that included alumni, and the move from Montgomery Hall to
the current building.” ~ Cameron Mann

“Professor Cook was loved by his students, the university and the entire Starkville community,” said Cory Gallo, an associate professor in the department. “He dedicated almost half of his life to educating students.”

Gallo said the legacy of the space is a testament to those like Man, Cook and founding faculty member Edward Martin, who helped build the program, adding that the development of the master’s program elevated the department’s profile.

“Faculty members expanded research efforts with the development of the graduate program,” said Gallo, who joined the faculty shortly thereafter.

As current faculty members, Gallo and his colleagues serve as a sturdy base that branches out and supports department growth and vitality. He credits a curriculum redesign in the last few years as helping promote that growth.

The Bachelor of Landscape Architecture degree is the only accredited program in the three-state region of Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee. The curriculum went from five to four years, Gallo explained.

“The changes gave landscape architecture students their own studio space a year earlier,” Gallo said. “They are now fully integrated into studio life by their sophomore year. The updated curriculum also encourages greater engagement between the two majors.”

Gallo said community service opportunities for students are on the rise as well.

One such effort was the Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum. The project paired the department with the College of Architecture, Art and Design, and received several national awards. Additionally, the location’s pavilion will be featured in an upcoming Smithsonian exhibit.

"Projects like the Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum give our students the opportunity to see a design through to completion,” Gallo said. “It is also a chance for them to see their efforts directly benefiting the community.”

Students like DaVartay Miller and Preston Sorrell are the canopy, pushing out into the world, hoping to change communities for the better.

“Projects like the Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum give our students the opportunity to see a design through to completion. It is also a chance for them to see their efforts directly benefiting the community.” ~ Cory Gallo

Miller, originally from Memphis, Tennessee, anticipates graduating with a bachelor’s in landscape architecture in May 2017. He hopes to own his own company and work toward eradicating environmental injustice.

“Environmental injustice happens when people in low-income communities don’t have access to healthy environments,” Miller explained. “I would like to fight against this inequality and plan, design and build regenerative communities in low-income neighborhoods. I hope to begin in a single neighborhood and set a precedent for the surrounding communities.”

Like Miller, Sorrell hopes to center his career on designing and building with a purpose. He plans to graduate in May 2017 with bachelor’s degrees in both landscape architecture and landscape contracting with a business minor.

“Growing up, I was interested in landscaping and the environment,” Sorrell said. “In my career, I hope to design with purpose, helping individuals and communities solve problems that matter most to them.”

The Birmingham, Alabama, native sought to solve one such problem in Greenwood as a design project.

“Storm water from Greenwood’s downtown area runs off into the Yazoo River,” Sorrell explained. “My idea was to design green infrastructure to help mitigate the runoff. This cuts down on pollutants entering the water. It may also help prevent flash floods downstream. My hope was to create a design that could serve as a standard for other cities along the Yazoo River.”

  • Cory Gallo, an associate professor in landscape architecture, consulting over plans with two students.

  • A illustration provides an overview of the courtyard.

  • Students work to construct the first wall that will snake through the courtyard.

  • The Glenn Cook Tree Grove is situated on the south side of campus near the landscape architecture courtyard. The courtyard is being built by students and MSU Facilities Management. It serves as a teaching laboratory for a design/build course.

 

The two students with different career goals show how the department prepares its graduates for entering varied fields within the industry. The faculty’s focus on education, research and outreach ensures that though the department has hit the 50-year mark, it continues to grow and produce graduates who can meet the changing needs of the world.

“We’ve created a broader educational experience where students learn about urban design, regional planning and large scale problems that go beyond an individual site,” Gallo said. “Students in both majors graduate with a clear grasp of how landscape architects and contractors interact in a working environment."

“The programs we offer equip our canopy of students with the tools they need to solve all the problems that exist beyond the front door.”

By Vanessa Beeson | Photos by Megan Bean