Landscape architecture is the discipline concerned with mankind's conscious shaping of his external environment. It involves planning, design and management of the landscape to create, maintain, protect and enhance places so as to be both functional, beautiful and sustainable (in every sense of the word), and appropriate to diverse human and ecological needs.

The modern history of the subject has a particular European dimension. This can be traced from mediaeval beginnings in monastery cloisters and secular pleasure gardens - with their roots in Roman, Byzantine and Moorish traditions - through the humanist gardens of the Italian Renaissance, the magnificent French Baroque gardens of André Le Notre, to the English landscape tradition of the eighteenth century. During the 20th century ideas from the Scandinavian countries, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain played an important role in shaping contemporary European landscape architecture. Over recent decades the discipline has expanded to encompass wider environmental concerns, by combining approaches from the natural sciences and the planning disciplines, developing strategies, methods and techniques for the assessment and amelioration of environmental impacts and also for the treatment of issues associated with sustainability and the conservation of the cultural landscape heritage.

The exceptionally wide-ranging nature of the landscape means that the subject area is one of unusual breadth, drawing on and integrating not just material from the two sides of the traditional divide between the creative arts and the natural sciences, but incorporating many aspects of the humanities and technology as well. This complexity is closely reflected by the diversity of approaches to the discipline which can be found throughout Europe, a diversity which is clearly illustrated by the range of different types of higher education institutions across Europe in which landscape architecture teaching has been established. These range from universities specialising in the fine arts to those dedicated to agriculture and forestry, and encompass technical universities as well as the more broadly-based 'general' universities.