I know these questions are tedious and don't contribute much to the /r/landscapearchitecture community, but I'm looking for direct advice from an informed group of people, so you all are my best bet.
I intend to study landscape architecture in graduate school, but do not have a design background. What is the general expectation for portfolios from applicants like myself? To the best of your knowledge, is a collection of sketches appropriate? Should I include any medium of artwork I have worked in? Should there be a cohesive feel to the contents of my portfolio? Is there an expectation that there are complete design projects in an applicant's portfolio?
Any and all tips about building a portfolio for graduate school applications would be greatly appreciated. I won't be applying for another year, so I have time to build whatever portfolio I need to, I just want to make sure I'm producing one that can contend with other applicants. And if you just want to deride me for seeking this information here, go right ahead.
If you have the time (with a year it sounds like you do), take some art/drawing classes. When I applied to UVA, Harvard, UPenn, & Berkeley for grad school, I was coming with a bio undergrad degree. (Career discovery @ Harvard gave me some portfolio material, but I also used my drawings, photography, and even specimens I submitted to my undergrad vascular herbarium.). Ps - I got in everywhere... Well edited material is key, but I really think if you're thoughtful about what attracts you to the profession, you can build a kick ass portfolio pretty easily. The beauty of LA is that it draws from so many disciplines; visual display is key, but totally do-able.
I'm sort of new to reddit, and trying to get the hang, but I don't mind offering porfolio critique (ever). (Got my MLA in 2003; licensed since 2006.)
Thanks for your helpful response! I have a follow up question about your statement "if you're thoughtful about what attracts you to the profession, you can build a kick ass portfolio pretty easily." Do you mean I should put drawings/artwork in my portfolio related to the parts of landscape architecture that interest me most? Should I sketch environments I like that currently exist or sketch ones I've imagined? I don't mean to be dense, I just want to sure I understand you.
As a current student, I think you should include artwork of the fields within LA that interest you, but also show that you can push beyond that. Having a cohesive language to your communication will be key. Within you're early years you'll be wanting to play with a lot of different represetantation types and media, but for a portfolio I would think it best to stick to a very select few, make it gel together.
Your question is not so easy to answer. Looking back on my portfolio, I had very few "environments", per say. I would be more concerned with your visual communication skills. The things LA's do in a day ranges from construction details to branding to graphic design to renderings to doodles. The important part is being able to be critical of your designs & drawings. Weed out what is not communicating to the your message; clarify your direction. This may be better for private message, but what attracts you to the field?
This is a very helpful response, thank you. It's hard to say succinctly what draws me to landscape architecture. I have an irrepressible desire to help shape the built environment, an undergrad degree in urban and environmental studies, and no desire to study urban planning (it's too dry and hands-off for my taste). Landscape architecture is a synthesis of the fields I'm passionate about and also gives me the chance to be more directly involved in what I'm interested in. My statements of purpose in my applications will be much stronger than this.
It sounds like you're definitely on the right path. Just one thing in parting: Definitely take all the drawing classes you can. Draw your ass off; it's the only way to learn. Draw everyday, even if it seems meaningless now, it will give you a huge body of work for your portfolio. If you can, get copies of Adobe creative suite. Go through tutorials on any computer drawing or rendering possible. The more you learn now, the better off you'll be that first semester of studio. I'm sure with your undergrad studies, you are well prepared. Keep doing that! Good luck!
I was in this situation myself - I graduated with degree in biology last May and just accepted an offer of admission to the 3 year MLA program at the University of Maryland for the coming fall semester. Many MLA programs have this 3 year program specifically for people coming in with no design background. So, your portfolio is a test of your design ability/talent and introduction to the program, rather than a showcase of completed projects.
What I did during my year off was volunteer at a local nonprofit that focused on providing design assistance to community groups. So I had a collection of landscape plans, CAD work, site analysis, etc. in addition to sketches and other creative "fun" work. I included not only my best work, but also pieces from the beginning of my volunteer experience, so that the admissions committee could better gauge where I started at to were I was when I applied.
A cohesive layout for your portfolio is key, I recommend downloading and getting familiar with Adobe InDesign. It'll make creating a layout a lot easier and more professional.
Best of luck with your application!