Currently, the earth is undergoing an environmental crisis, affecting the wellbeing and livelihood of millions of ubiquitously. The unchecked Urban sprawl has resulted in the severity of environmental hazards: frequent flooding, air and water pollution, exhaustion\ Overconsumption of resources and energy, to name a few. Amidst mindless concretisation of the world post-industrialization, a disconnection between nature and the city began which continues till today. Urbanisation and densification processes have led to a loss of urban green space and biodiversity within cities, particularly within Asia. In response to these environmental hazards, there is a growing need to innovate healthier designs and planned sustainability for resilient urban environments. Enter Landscape architects.

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Design by Roberto Burle Max ©Archdaily

‘‘Landscape architecture involves the planning, design, management, and nurturing of the built and natural environments. With their unique skill set, landscape architects work to improve human and environmental health in all communities. They plan and design parks, campuses, streetscapes, trails, plazas, residences, and other projects that strengthen communities.’’                                       

– American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) 

What does a Landscape architect do?

Landscape architects have a holistic approach to design and closely work with allied professions (Architects, Civil engineers, Surveyors, etc) to prepare a proposal. They also collaborate with environmental scientists, ecologists, hydrologists and other professionals to find the best way to conserve or restore natural resources. Landscape architects create detailed plans indicating new topography, vegetation, walkways, and other landscaping details, stormwater drainage (integrate art and cultural elements). They then analyse the natural elements of the site, such as the climate, soil, slope of the land, drainage, and vegetation. At all stages, they evaluate the project’s impact on the local ecosystem.

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A sketch of a preliminary site analysis of a landscape project

For landscape architects, the ground has shifted in serious ways over the last few decades. The role of landscape architects has been redefined in the last decade, making it clear that it isn’t limited to designing gardens and highway beautification. Landscape architects have widened their perspectives and professional reach to take on more than merely the landscape: increasingly, the city, Communities, Ecology and the environment at large are the purviews of this evolving profession. Because of the sensitivity they carry, the landscape professionals are involved in different scales of work ranging from residential areas, street design, public spaces and parks to urban design and city planning.

1. Landscape architects contribute to City Planning and Policy Making

Landscape planning is a recognised subset of Landscape architecture. Landscape planners assess and resolve environmental, economic and social opportunities, advise on policy-making, prepare strategy within legal frameworks, prepare Green Infrastructure plans and implementation strategies, master planning for development and regeneration schemes.

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Zhangjiabang Park project master plan ©Sasaki Associates
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Zhangjiabang Lakefront urban block typologies ©Sasaki Associates

To view the Zhangjiabang park project by Sasaki associates in detail, you can click on the link below:

 https://vimeo.com/133351684

2. Landscape architects manage water and stormwater

Landscape architects instil the basics\foundational practice of water conservation across various scales. They use green infrastructure approaches like bioswales, retention and detention ponds, green roofs, rain garden, pervious paving to combat flooding during storms\disaster and conserve water in the times of water scarcity.

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Water management on site ©www.pinterest.com

3. Landscape architects design Transportation solutions

Landscape architects are often hired to design multi-use transportation corridors, which is inclusive of all users. A complete street accommodates the pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, people with disabilities and people who use Public transport. 

Wildlife corridors incorporated along with the streets protects the habitat and prevents fragmentation. (over\under wildlife bridge). Appropriate vegetation along the street can potentially reduce air, noise and light pollution, avoid soil erosion, provide shade and shelter, and mitigate the effects of the urban heat island. Native species can reduce the potential for invasive species along with linear habitat and provide a home to pollinators and insects. Landscape architects also use previous materials to manage stormwater quality through vegetated swales that filter pollution and recharge groundwater.

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Right of way section ©globaldesigningcities.org/

4. Landscape architects support active lifestyles by creating community/ public and open parks

City spaces and Public Parks are a tangible reflection of the quality of life in a community. They provide an identity for citizens and are a major factor in the perception of the quality of life of a given area. Parks and protected public lands improve water quality, protect groundwater, prevent flooding, improve the quality of the air we breathe, provide vegetative buffers to development, produce habitat for wildlife, support mental health and provide a place for children and families to connect with nature and recreate outdoors together.

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Meadow at central park, New York ©globaldesigningcities.org/

5. Landscape architects contribute to sustainability goals and energy saving

Sustainability is a very integral component of landscape design approaches. Landscape architects try to achieve the same in various ways:

a). Improving Energy efficiency through planning: 

Physical parameters such as temperature, precipitations and humidity can be adopted through landscape interventions to fight extreme climatic conditions throughout the year, helping in reducing the consumption of energy.

For example, incorporating Green (vegetated) roof and vertical gardens, to reduce household heating and cooling load and Use trees and shrubs to shade windows, doors, and walls of the home.

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Energy efficient planning of Ananas University community, Manila

 b). Improving Water Management: 

Water can be managed on-site by Installing landscape structures that help to protect landscapes against flooding, as well as drought, while also conserving and recycling available water. Some of the design measures used by landscape architects are bioswales, bioretention ponds, rain gardens, rainwater harvesting, water recycling, and drip irrigation.

c). Incorporating Healthy ecological designs: 

Native landscapes support pollinators and connect ecosystems across areas. A good landscape design supports and reinforces local, native ecosystems. This reduces excess water, energy, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides that damage natural ecosystems, as native plants are adapted to local environments. 

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A meadow on a lakeside property in Lakeville, Connecticut ©Larry Weaner Landscape Associates with Jaime Purinton Landscape Architect

d). Use of Low impact materials: 

Use of local materials reduces transportation cost and celebrates local\traditional context. Low impact materials are pervious and allow water to infiltrate aquifers rather than go to stormwater and sewer systems. Using reflective materials reduces impacts to air temperatures and reduces home cooling.

6. Landscape architects work towards climate resilience \ post-disaster mitigation\redesigning of cities

Sustainable landscape planning, design and management are essential if we are to adapt our environments to a changing climate and to mitigate future change. Landscape architects are trained in systems thinking, ecological planning, and cultural literacy and provide a holistic approach to the protection, conservation and enhancement of urban and rural landscapes which takes account of environmental, social and economic conditions.

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Yanweizhou Park during dry season ©Turenscape
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Yanweizhou Park during the wet season: Sponge Cities retain and slow down the flow of water through the use of terraces, ponds and dykes. Urban landscapes become active systems that absorb excess water during monsoon rains, retain and filter it within a meandering landscape, and release it for use during dry seasons ©Turenscape

As our cities become more crowded, and green and public spaces (big or small) become more vital, the multidisciplinary balancing act required for managing spaces within the city becomes more and more complicated. After the infamous pandemic hit the world, Parks, recreational areas and other outdoor urban infrastructure are no longer seen as obsolete, but instead are finally being recognized as a requisite. This pandemic has re-established our connection with nature and People are incorporating more greenery to their life, either in the form of balcony greens, kitchen gardens or by being regular to the nearest community parks\gardens. 

This change in the perception and approach is a piece of great news for landscape architects and has opened up new avenues for the profession. With the increase in demand to come up with more creative ideas of connecting people to nature and improve resilience in urban dense cities, the future seems eminently promising for landscape architects and allied professionals.

Author

A landscape architect by profession, Neha has an immense love for art, movies, and poetry. She has a significant interest in research, writing, and documentation. Alongside renders, models, and drawings, she firmly believes that writing is an essential skill for an architect to communicate ideas, encourage explorations, and engage with communities.

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