What is ILASA?

ILASA logo

 If you are working in the green industry in South Africa you will most likely have heard of ILASA (Institute for Landscape Architecture in South Africa). ILASA  is a voluntary organisation that is mandated to grow and promote the profession and concept of landscape architecture in the South African environment.

 Goals of ILASA (taken from their website)

·         Advance dignity and competence of the profession

·         Uplift previously disadvantaged societies

·         Advancement of professional competence through education

·         Support sustainable ecological planning and management

·         Support of public involvement in planning and design process

·         Promotion of excellence through peer review recognition

·         Increase visibility of the profession to government and society

·         Promotion of the landscape architecture profession

ILASA shares information to its members that is relevant to the landscape architecture profession as well as highlighting national and regional events that are of interest. There is also a page on their website where companies post job vacancies so if you are looking for employment as a landscape architect this would be a good place to start.

I love ILASA because it is a means of holding the landscape architecture community together. It provides opportunities to acquire CPD points through various events which are educational and enjoyable. Events are often an opportunity for old friends and ex-colleagues to see each other and catch up. All the events are arranged by the regional organizing committees (Gauteng, KZN and Cape) and this includes the conference and awards function.

I volunteered on the Gauteng committee for a number of years and really enjoyed the interaction with other landscape architects as well as growing relationships with the other committee members. I encourage other landscape architects to become involved and volunteer their time towards the ILASA committee so the load can be shared and the benefits can be enjoyed by all.

ILASA provides valuable opportunities for networking, business connections and experiences that are enriching and educational and it is worthwhile to be a member.

 Visit for further information.

ILASA Conference - Re-interpreting Landscape

The ILASA Conference was held on 29 and 30 September 2016 at the CSIR International Convention Centre in Pretoria and attended by over 120 delegates. The theme for the conference was “Re-interpreting Landscapes” and the various sessions raised questions about what future landscapes will look like and how people will respond to them. Global environmental crises were discussed as well as the importance of landscape and the benefits it provides.

ILASA Conference

Some of the highlights of the conference included the following key note speakers:

Mario Schjetnan, received the Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe Award 2015 by the International Federation of Landscape Architects, which is the highest award of Landscape Architecture Worldwide, and is the first Latin American to be awarded this honour. Mario started his firm, Grupo de Diseño Urbano / GDU in 1977 and in his presentation at the ILASA Conference showcased several of their projects spanning over the last few decades. Mario highlighted the similarities between South Africa and Mexico and expressed how the various attributes shared by the countries can be used as opportunities (youth, the natural environment and rich biodiversity) in the rapidly changing landscape we are experiencing in developing countries. Two projects that he discussed in detail which I found intriguing were: Natura Garden, Bicentennial Park; an old refinery that was cleaned and recreated into a series of parks and Rehabilitation of Chapultepec Park in Mexico City. Chapultepec Park is a deeply historical park in the heart of Mexico City that is 686ha large and receives 50-70 million visitors annually. During one of its upgrades the lake was dredged in order to clean it and a whole host of unusual items were found, so much so that the National Museum of Anthropology took the paraphernalia and made an exhibition from it.

Mario’s work is truly inspirational and I am sure that every person at the conference wished that projects of this scale and calibre could be realised in South Africa. Mario closed off by sharing with the audience that he knows his projects are successful when he sees the following happening in his landscapes: people taking photographs, families visiting or young lovers kissing because then it means that they feel safe to be there.

ILASA Conference

Tunji Adejumo, president of the International Federation of Landscape Architects Africa Region (IFLA Africa) as well as co-founder of Generation Twenty One Consult in Nigeria, gave a theoretical presentation covering problems faced by landscape and suggestions as to how to introduce identity consciousness. He called for the creation of a national landscape charter to determine “what people were, what people are, and what they want to be”.

A good definition of landscape taken from his presentation reads, “Landscape is a special entity that develops from geomorphic conditions and historical usages for economic, social, recreational, transportation, religious and agricultural purposes.”

Astrid Sykes gave the presentation as a representative of Mia Lehrer & Associates as Mia Lehrer was unable to make the conference due to the birth of her grandchild. Astrid shared the design principles of the firm as well as examples of their projects.  The most inspiring project was the work that the practice is doing to rehabilitate and revitalise the Los Angeles River. The river is mostly channelized at the moment with industrial development along the main spine with buildings that have turned with their backs towards it. It is Mia Lehrer & Associates dream to see the Los Angeles River become a recreational green open space that provides connections within the city and opportunities for the community. The project is documented on their website and includes the following definition, “A bold commitment is made to restore riparian habitat and to reconnect park-poor neighborhoods to green space. The regional open space network will provide trails, parks, and bikeways along the length of the river. Making the river green and accessible is expected to transform an undervalued asset into a valued amenity” (; accessed 2016/10/10)

ILASA Conference

The local icons were just as inspiring and included the two key note speakers Patrick Watson and Elsa Pooley. Patrick Watson gave a visual presentation showcasing the vast number of exceptional projects he has been involved in over the past few decades. Starting with Coromandel, then resorts such as Sun City, Mount Grace, several game farms, Apartheid Museum, Apple store in Sandton, The Saxon, Stark Studios, North Island in the Sechelles, to only name a few. His work covers a vast range of projects in countries all over the world. His design style is unique and he shared that one of his sources of inspiration is the sub-conscious and that he allows this part of his brain to work when working on a design. He is currently involved with Steyn City and is busy planting thousands of trees there.

Photo Fun at the ILASA Exhibition Stand

Photo Fun at the ILASA Exhibition Stand

Elsa Pooley’s love for plants is evident and she challenged landscape architects to really “know your plants” – how they grow, where they grow and how they look in every season. Maintenance is crucial and while we do not always have a say in this aspect we can design with it in mind.

Elsa explained her involvement in the rehabilitation of the dunes at the Durban Beachfront and it is amazing to see the before and after pictures of the rehabilitation work done. She also used Olympic Park in England as a precedent study to show how beautiful a meadow garden using only plants indigenous to South Africa can look. She shared a variety of indigenous species that she believes would make outstanding landscape plants but are not commercially available. After listening to her speak I am itching to go to the Drakensburg (she shared some accommodation gems) to see beautiful wild flowers in their natural habitat and maybe even join one of her botanical art workshops. Apparently she is also working on a book that will hopefully be available next year.

ILASA Conference

Be sure to attend the next ILASA Conference if you get the chance, not only are the presentations inspiring and educational, you also get to network with a great community of landscape architects.

ILASA 2015 Year End Function

On the 6th of November we spent the morning exploring the incredibly beautiful Nirox Sculpure Park ( situated in the Cradle of Mankind. The park manager Stephan du Toit gave us a brief history of the park and also some interesting insights into how the park was designed and how it functions on a day to day basis. The park is closed to the public but opens for special events and functions such as the upcoming concert with Freshly Ground. Stephan also informed us of an exciting partnership happening next year with Yorkshire Sculpture Park which will take the form of the winter sculpture fair, definitely something to look forward to.

The park is looking remarkably lush and green in comparison to the rest of Johannesburg where the heat and drought is taking its toll. Stephan said that he does not feel guilty about irrigating because the water is taken from the water system that runs through the property and the water ultimately works its way back into the same system.

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It really is something special to walk in such a large open area, woven with water bodies and beautifully maintained, and then discover beautifully placed sculptures that are intriguing and delightful.

The walk was followed by a delicious three course meal at Le Sel restaurant where refreshments were well received while enjoying the beautiful view. Eamonn gave a brief speech and the ILASA 2016 conference was discussed, urging everyone to put 29 and 30 September 2016 into their calendars. A great way to end the year off. See you all next year!