Campus News

UK landscape architecture: Explore its new campus home for creativity and college collaboration

UK Landscape Architecture: Explore its New Campus Home for Creativity and College Collaboration

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 21, 2024) — The Department of Landscape Architecture (LA), housed in the University of Kentucky Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, is celebrating its official new space in the Gray Design Building on campus.

Located at one of the most prominent entries into Lexington, LA students now have a centralized, creative hub for dynamic learning with other UK design disciplines, including architecture, interior design, historic preservation and product design.

All the design disciplines living under the same building for the first time is special for our students,” said Christina Wilson, LA academic coordinator at Martin-Gatton CAFE. “From the fabrication labs, spacious design studios, updated lecture space and more, our students can better explore, navigate and be creative.”

LA program faculty believe the new space will offer students a better opportunity to advance, reimagine and design how to help communities in Kentucky and beyond. In addition, they believe it will offer a shared place for student creativity, collaboration and community.

What is landscape architecture? It’s multidisciplinary.

Martin-Gatton CAFE Associate Professor Ryan Hargrove said LA crosses over and blends so many elements together.

“Landscape architecture brings together design, art and science, and problem-solving. It’s exploring, navigating and solving complex problems in the environment, Hargrove said. In this new space, our students are learning by doing, collaborating with other creative students and producing creative design solutions.”

According to Hargrove, there's not one right answer to any design problem, which makes UK’s design disciplines so unique. Thus, broadening one’s perspective and inviting diverse ideas to the table is paramount. He says finding solutions is not always done at a desk or even in the studio, but in the community.

Much of what we do in landscape architecture is outward facing,” Hargrove said. “We are going out into community spaces to talk, listen and observe. Taking what we know about those issues and supplementing it with other perspectives, we then use design elements to imagine and translate real, tangible ideas for people in their communities.”

According to Hargrove, students who would enjoy LA as a career often share several traits and characteristics. But it begins with curiosity.

We get really curious students who want to go out into the world and solve complex problems. They want to act through their imagination, creativity and innovation,” Hargrove said. “Our curriculum will give students the technical, communication, creative and digital competencies to act, build and engage over a long period of time.”

What can you do in landscape architecture? Dream big!

Senior lecturer in the LA department Carolina Segura Bell teaches an urban design studio, called LA 425 Landscape Architecture Design Studio V.

In this course, undergraduate students in their senior year put all their skills together and apply them to real-world project scenarios. These learned skills include developing ideas, solutions, community engagement, graphic communications, digital media and more.

An example of this application is the Ohio Riverway Studio project in Carrollton and Carroll County focused on towns along a 240-mile stretch on the Ohio River from Portsmouth to West Point, Kentucky. The second leg also included Milton and Trimble counties.

Bell and her students demonstrated a series of design strategies to better connect Trimble County and the city of Milton to its land, water and people. Additionally, they envisioned a more accessible and welcoming recreation corridor that knits the many vibrant towns along the Ohio River.

“My students got a unique experience of canoeing the river and talking to people,” Bell said. “Students bring back to the studio what they learned, start thinking about what the strengths are and then brainstorm potential solutions for those towns."

Bell believes LA uniquely merges art, ecology, the environment, science and people. She added it’s important that potential and current LA students know that they will have opportunities to experience real-world experiences through hands-on projects, study abroad and valuable internships. Bell wants her students to embrace all the possibilities.

I always tell the LA students to dream big,” Bell shared. “Every space is different. Every site, landform and community are different. We are creating and customizing ideas and solutions, which is very unique to our profession.

Landscape architecture is more than design.

After flooding impacted Eastern Kentucky in 2022, LA lecturer Jordan Phemister and her students are helping communities transition from the damage in Fleming-Neon, Kentucky, in Letcher County. After natural disasters like this, FEMA will invite community members to determine ways to recover and rebuild in more sustainable, resilient ways.

Phemister’s Fleming-Neon studio class was invited to work with the regional National Park Service, Rivers Trails and the Conservation Assistance Program. LA student projects included helping the community transition from an extractive economy based on coal mining to a community building on the great natural assets such as forests, trails and tourism opportunities.

“The students looked at a broad range of projects, all the way from a large ATV and RV resort to a small downtown site,” Phemister said. “Students are helping people think about new ways to create opportunities for wellness and improve health in outdoor spaces. They are providing communities a vision and imagining what the possibilities are in the future.”

Phemister believes LA is all about building partnerships and designing everything beyond physical structures that people interact with in their communities daily.

“You are partnering with architects, civil and structural engineers, along with communities and clients,” Phemister said. “In landscape architecture, it’s about what you experience outside the door of a building. It's everything around. It's parks, gardens, parking lots, parkways trails, recreation and downtown urban sites and beyond.”

To learn more about the Department of Landscape Architecture, visit To view all current and upcoming building projects at Martin-Gatton CAFE, visit

The Gray Design Building, formerly known as the Reynolds Building and a tobacco warehouse, houses the UK College of Design. The College of Design broke ground on the new Gray Building in August 2022, resulting from a $5.2 million gift from Gray Inc. and other donors. 

New Gray Design building
Shared place for student creativity
Picture of landscape sketch
Students along the Ohio River
Landscape architect students in their senior capstone studio
Gray Design building view

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.