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Shapers of the outdoors

Landscape architects endow open spaces with aesthetic style and beauty, says Syed Amir Ali Hashmi.

education Updated: Sep 22, 2011 11:56 IST
Syed Amir Ali Hashmi

Though landscape architecture as a profession was grossly misunderstood earlier, it is now seen in new light. The role of landscape architects in the design of open spaces and their role in creating sustainable environments has received widespread acceptance. What started as rudimentary garden design now involves site selection, site planning, environmental impact assessment, conservation, restoration of degraded land, and ensuring the most efficient use of natural resources like land, water, soil, and vegetation.

While the simplest assignments may involve designing parks, landscape architecture goes on to cover recreational areas, campuses, corporate building sites, residential districts, sports fields, golf courses, and water fronts, among others. It doesn’t end there. Landscape architects’ role extends to landscape planning for entire regions, taking into consideration physical, social and cultural contexts.

Rajesh Shukla, landscape architect, Quintessence, says he chose this career as it offers him great opportunities to work on large-scale projects.

“Each site offers potential and constraints in its development. Landscape architects are best suited to evaluate project requirements and site considerations. One gets to work on interesting sites like hilly regions, coastal areas, barren tracts, tea estates, riverside developments, historical sites – some of the most scenic areas.

The range of projects may include golf courses, parks and recreational areas, conservation parks, botanical gardens, and zoological parks etc,” says Shukla, who has worked on Sahara India’s Aamby Valley near Pune, which boasts many celebrity residents.

Landscape architects now play such an important role that they are brought in right at the inception of projects. They now contribute to the development of the masterplan and formulating guidelines for development keeping the environmental impact in mind.

Shukla has also worked on Integrated Sports Academy at Jaypee Greens, Greater Noida and also on a green building commissioned by Wipro Technologies in Gurgaon. He states three reasons because of which this profession is going to gain a lot of importance in India. These are:
. Environmental laws are becoming stringent, thus expanding the scope and demand for landscape architects.
. The pace and scale of projects has recently grown while qualified professionals are few in number.
. Open spaces in larger cities are shrinking and their proper utilisation is important. The focus is also shifting from cities to smaller towns, which translates into greater demand for landscape architecture professionals.

Landscape architects draw demand from private developers, government organisations, corporates, industrial houses, and the hotel and tourism industry.

Individuals also consult such professionals, especially if the site is larger than half an acre. Shukla says, “Some of the most rewarding experiences have been competitions where our firm was selected among the top three entries. This included August Kranti Udyan (in the area surrounding India Gate in C hexagon), Botanical Gardens (Noida on spread across 200 acres), the School of Planning and Architecture, Bhopal campus, spread across 70 acres, Sikh memorials in Punjab, and Ambedkar University in Lucknow.”

What's it about?
Landscape architecture is about designing open spaces to add aesthetic value and find the best way to use such spaces. Industrial, residential and institutional spaces, all fall under the gamut of landscape design. Services of landscape architects are used in architectural design, real estate development, site planning, town or urban planning, parks and recreation, and in historic preservation. The scope encompasses urban design, site planning, town or urban planning, environmental restoration, parks and recreation planning, visual resource management, green infrastructure planning and provision, private estate and residence landscape master planning and design

Clock Work
10 am: Check mails and prepare to go to project site
11 am: Reach project site and assess progress, share plans for next phase of landscape development
1 pm: Quick lunch
2 pm: Return to office and create presentation for prospective client
4 pm: Discuss costing for another project with team of architects and financial advisors
6.30 pm: Send out mails to suppliers and other vendors with delivery plan for ongoing project
8 pm: Head home

The Payoff
As in any other field, payoff is directly proportional to a person’s ability to take responsibility. The starting salary for a landscape architect working with an architect’s firm could be between Rs30,000 to Rs 40,000 per month. Corporates and developers usually pay more. If a person starts his own practice, the earning potential can go well beyond the above figures

Skills
. Keen observation skills
. Creativity and originality
. Proficiency in geometrical modelling
. Desire to update oneself with latest developments in structural techniques and materials
. Good communication skills to manage teams, clients and contractors

How do i get there?
Landscape architecture is taught through diploma or degree courses in different schools of architecture throughout the country and abroad. Admission is on the basis of an admission test, which evaluates a candidate’s aptitude for physics, chemistry and mathematics, as well as proficiency in drawing. The minimum educational qualification is successful completion of plus-two or equivalent

Institutes & urls
. American Society of Landscape Architects
www.asla.org
. School of Planning and Architecture,
www.spa.ac.in/d-landscapearch.aspx
. Architectural Association School of Architecture, London, UK;
www.aaschool.ac.uk
. Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology, Ahmedabad,
www.cept.ac.in
. Harvard University Graduate School of Design,
www.gsd.harvard.edu
. Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology,
www.rmit.edu.au
. Andhra University,
www.andhrauniversity.info/engg/arch/index.html

Pros & Cons


.

Opportunity to set up one’s own practise or consultancy after working with an architect firm for five-to-six years


.

Opportunity of travelling on assignments


.

Project-oriented work rarely lets you get bored


.

Get a chance to transform spaces


.

Play an important role in large-scale project development

Understanding urban form and open spaces

A professional says landscape design is now an integral part of any major project

How are the prospects currently?
Prospects in our country at at this time are quite good because more and more clients understand the importance of this field.

Why did you decide to study landscape architecture?
After finishing my studies in architecture, I realised that to understand the urban form, studying architecture is not enough. The study of landscape architecture and urban design seemed very relevant. I choose to do landscape architecture because it covers aspects of natural resources along with the urban form.

What are the most challenging aspects of this profession? What’s the most fulfilling part?
Being a landscape architect, one has to understand not only architecture but also interior and external services to some extent, because designing projects today involves team effort. When all the aspects of a project harmonise with each other, you get the best result. The best part of being a landscape architect is that you not only deal with inert objects but also with flora and fauna.

What can students do to increase their chances of being successful in this profession?
You have to have passion for the subject, not only to get selected but also to become a good professional.

What technological tools do landscape architects use?
There are a few specialised software programs for landscape architecture like LAN CAD and terrain modelling, but it is not necessary to know these before getting into a college.

What are some of the common myths about your profession?
One common myth is that it is mainly about plants and gardens, although that is just one aspect.

How easy are internships to come by?
After a degree in architecture, students can apply for training in a landscape architect’s office to learn more about the subject before applying for any course.

Sujata Kohli, managing director, IPDM Services (India) As told to Syed Amir Ali Hashmi