“Michael!”, my friend called. “Connor needs help pruning his shrubs and rearranging his flowerbeds, maybe you can help him, since you're a Landscape Architect." This is a conversation that I did not expect to be having regularly once I had completed my studies and started practicing landscape architecture. Unfortunately, this is the life of a Landscape Architect, a life to be forever mistakenly associated with gardening and flowers.
The reality is that Landscape Architecture is a profession which is practiced by enthusiastic and creative designers with a passion for the beauty of the natural environment, and an appreciation for providing a diverse variety of outdoor spaces and destinations. To many, the results of a landscape architects' work go unnoticed or even taken for granted. But ultimately, and unbeknownst to users, their work forms the very fabric of the experiences they encounter throughout the environment they are located in, whether it be in a dense urban setting or a historical garden or park. Landscape Architecture is a moment many have lived and felt, it is an instant many have seen and heard. It is a drive on the street, a run along the promenade, a stay at a hotel resort, a swim in the rooftop terrace pool, a picnic in a park, or a stroll through a plaza. It creates spaces that capture minds and intensify emotions, and forms places that encourage people to sit and relax, or to run and explore. The work of a landscape architect can be summed up as ‘The Outdoor Experience”.
The reality is landscapes and outdoor experiences that we create are just as integral to the urban environment as buildings and other forms of infrastructure. This is often referred to as ‘green infrastructure’. Landscapes have the power to direct people, encourage gathering, influence user comfort, and create spaces for recreation and improve health and quality of life.
Environmentally, we know that green spaces have the power to reduce storm water flow, cool environments, and provide shade on hot days, which is crucial to the success of a project in the Middle East given the extreme temperatures in summer months. They also remove CO2 from the atmosphere, amongst many other values. Trees are one of the few forms of infrastructure that will appreciate as they age. Trees have the potential to outlive many forms of modern construction and even people, yet still, landscape budgets are often the first to be trimmed back, mainly due to the values, previously described, not being understood or easily translated into tangible benefits.
However, there is hope, as developers in the Middle East are starting to understand the importance of landscape design to the success of their developments, specifically with mixed use retail, F&B, and residential developments. Nowadays, there is an expectation from the public for that ‘Instagram Moment’ when they visit a destination where they can capture a ‘selfie’ in a scenic and attractive background. These are most often the spaces designed by landscape architects. Through further exposure and increased public awareness I hope that one day the need to explain the profession will no longer be required and a greater appreciation for our work, on a level par with building architects, will be achieved.