Landscapes as Pretty as Portraits

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Builder

It’s not just buildings, bridges and dams that need architects; landscapes need them too. Shreeja Mahambre finds out what it takes to be a builder of gardens and open spaces

Architecture is the art of designing and building structures. But there’s more that meets the eye. Architecture, like many other subjects of study, has various branches, and one of these branches is landscape architecture. Landscape architects design the surroundings of structures in a way that helps preserve the environment and also benefits the general populace. They create green spaces in overly congested cities, offices, residential areas and places of recreation. Everything from local parks to huge offices in industrial areas comes under the ambit of these architects. Outside of commercial interests, landscape architects also take up goodwill projects like the preservation of mangroves, detoxification of rivers and restoration of other endangered areas.

THE FIELD
Landscape architecture is about creating a balance between the natural environment and the built one. This is achieved by planting trees and creating green spaces in concrete-filled cities. This isn’t restricted to parks and gardens; nowadays landscape architects are hired to design and accommodate greenery in residences too.

THE JOB
Landscape architects usually work with companies, contractors or freelance. At the beginning of any project they are required to visit the site and survey the area, the water sources available and the condition of the soil. They then make a design for their clients keeping the conditions of the site in mind. They are also mindful of future changes that may affect their design, like climate changes through the year, seasonal scarcity of water, changes in the soil chemistry, and so on. They also have to follow up on their designs periodically, to make sure that it they are well groomed and in proper shape.
The architects try to make the optimum use of the available resources so as to overcome the limitations of the environment. They try to make outdoor spaces green and healthy. It isn’t enough that their creations are pretty to look at; they need to be harmless to the environment too, as  well as benefit the people who might inhabit and use the space.

THE STUDY ROUTE
In India the route to this profession is via the bachelor’s degree in architecture offered all over the country. “During the architectural education you should be clear about what you want to do your master’s in,” advises Kalpak Y. Bhave, a professional landscape architect. “You should consult practicing architects in various fields to know more about it. You should have your focus on landscape through your entire study of architecture and you should enrol yourself for any related seminars and workshops and electives on landscape and environment. Your final year thesis also shall be landscape oriented. After your graduation you shall preferably work with a landscape architect for a year or two to have the practical flavour of the field.”
As Bhave mentions, landscape architecture may be studied in-depth as a master’s degree. Nearly all degrees and diplomas offered in India in this subject are at the postgraduate level. Undergraduate study is possible abroad.

THE PERKS
* Variety of projects to look forward to, as no two spaces are identical.
* Opportunity to be self-employed and therefore fix your own schedules, pay and work flow.
* Lucrative and has employment avenues in a number of places – government agencies, private firms, nurseries, etc.

THE CHALLENGES
* Constant follow-ups for maintenance and housekeeping of past projects.
* Deadlines for projects can be close and tight, therefore architects may need to put in inordinate number of hours at work.
* As part of a firm, one has no say in the projects assigned. An architect will thus be straddled with difficult spaces with little development scope along with the more pleasant ones.

THE SCOPE
With an increasing need to have a healthy environment and greener surroundings, the scope for this career is increasing by the day. Landscape architects are hired by corporate companies and builders of the numerous high rises dotting our cities. Not only companies but individuals too who feel the need to make their homes greener seek them out. In a way, landscape architects are the rock stars of their field.

Main image by Urban, Wikimedia Commons

CAREER FACTS

LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT
Job profile: A landscape architect designs green spaces and incorporates them in a structure’s surroundings, so that people may obtain optimum utility from the surroundings.

Income: A fresher may earn Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 25,000 per month depending on the firm and the kind of projects they undertake. Pay increases considerably as a senior architect and especially when running your own firm as you dictate your fees.

Skills: Creativity, love for the environment and outdoors, understanding of space and design, aesthetic sense, knowledge of environmental processes and their effect on structures. 

Study:
* University of Pune, Pune
* Karnataka State Open University, Mysore
* CEPT University, Ahemdabad
* California State Polytechnic University, USA
* Cornell University, USA

Volume 4 Issue 3

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