Landscape Architecture

Sprout Conference 2019

Hello Cape Town!

Hello Cape Town!

In the first week of June Carien Momsen from Pureline Interior Design joined me for the #SproutConference2019 to Cape Town. It was a lightning trip packed to the brim with experiences that included art, culture, beautiful landscapes, delicious food and even time with good friends.

Our Itinerary

Our Itinerary

Our first site visit was the breathtaking Dylan Lewis Sculpture garden in Stellenbosch. A truly memorable experience that really showcases how the landscape can be a sculptural element in itself. Dylan Lewis laid the paths out over many years with great attention to detail and the recommended visitors walk allows one to appreciate the sculptures in a dynamic way from many perfectly planned angles. The planting is focused on indigenous plants, particularly fynbos, of which a large selection of unusual varieties have been sourced from Kirstenbosch. The landscape and amazing planting combinations really were a highlight of this trip!

Sculptures, water, mountains - a language of beauty and nature

Sculptures, water, mountains - a language of beauty and nature

Loved the lime green and striking red colours of these Crocosmias

Loved the lime green and striking red colours of these Crocosmias

Our celebratory lunch was held at Tokara’s restaurant where wine and fine dining was a feast for the senses. We also enjoyed the Art on display including the enormous and intricately woven tapestry (two sections, each 2.2 high x 3.5m wide) by Sayed Mahmoud from Egypt. A different type of tapestry was the woven pathways of the gardens at Babylonstoren which we explored even though it started to rain!

Fine Dining

Fine Dining

Tapestry at Tokara

Tapestry at Tokara

Our second day of exploration and inspiration started with a visit to Truth Roastery and 117Kloof for coffee and croissants as well as the Company Gardens - always a treat to visit. I love watching how people interact with this space and the different activities that take place here. The entrance to the Gardens is dominated by a massive timber Arch installed as part of the Design Indaba 2018 to honour Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.

Company Gardens

Our next stop was the impressive urban precinct known at the Silos at the V&A Waterfront, particularly the Zeitz MOCAA (Museum of Modern Contemporary Art) Art Gallery. The building feels like an artwork and has been crafted out of forty-two concrete columns, each 33 metres tall with a diameter of 5.5 metres. It was designed by London’s Heatherwick Studios and the central atrium space, polished concrete surfaces and layout of the building generates an awe-inspiring reaction.

Following our experience of the museum we had a quick delicious lunch at the restaurant on the top floor with a beautiful view over the harbour and then spent some time exploring the V&A Waterfront.

Zeitz MOCAA
Exploring the Waterfront

Exploring the Waterfront

Our final site visit was the Norval Foundation in Tokai where we again saw beautiful artwork inside and outside the building. The sculpture park has beautiful indigenous planting combinations and although it was raining at this stage we still enjoyed our time here. We had a quick coffee break at Skotnes Restaurant before heading to the airport for our flight back to Johannesburg.

A huge thank you again to my amazing, incredible Executive PA for arranging this conference! It was a wonderful experience that filled us with inspiration for the year, hopefully until #SproutConference2020 :)

View of the Wetland running adjacent the Norval Foundation

View of the Wetland running adjacent the Norval Foundation

Indigenous Planting

Indigenous Planting

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 https://www.ilasa.co.za/ for further information.

5 Things to Consider when Upgrading your Office Garden:

Whether your business is big or small it’s important that your office gardens look good. Here are 5 things to consider when considering an office landscape upgrade:

1.       Main Entrance. This is the first impression your client gets of your company and it should be a positive and inviting experience. It should look well designed and invoke a sense of delight. I often like to include plants that are striking or sculptural as well as plants that are colourful and make a big impact. Often using plants that match the company’s corporate colours is a way for the landscape to enhance the company signage on or around the building.

Existing Entrance

Existing Entrance

Example of a Proposed Entrance Upgrade Impression

Example of a Proposed Entrance Upgrade Impression

 

2.       Parking Area. Consider how your client will move from the parking area to the reception or main entrance and what they will experience along that journey. Are the paths easy to find, do they invite people towards the building, is the pathway easy to navigate and are there trees to provide shade? For other pathways in the office park you may want to consider seating benches, litter bins, drinking fountains and a variety of spatial experiences as people move through the landscape.

How do Clients move from your Parking Area to your Reception Area?

How do Clients move from your Parking Area to your Reception Area?

3.       Spaces for Employees. Employee satisfaction can be greatly increased by providing outdoor spaces for them to enjoy their lunch or have a smoke break in an attractive outdoor space. Providing seating areas for small group gatherings for break away discussions is also an important consideration. Courtyards can be activated, gardens can be redesigned so that there are smaller sheltered spaces for people to sit in.

Create Spaces for Employees to Sit and Relax in the Landscape

Create Spaces for Employees to Sit and Relax in the Landscape

 4.       An Element of Fun. We all need a break from the stress of the office and what a great way to treat your employees on a Friday afternoon or on that special occasion. A large area of lawn can be used for a variety of functions, from putting up marquees to playing a game of soccer. You can also add this element of fun through creating a herb or sensory garden or you may have a pool area on site where these types of events can happen. Make sure these spaces are well defined and attractive to be enjoyed to their full potential.

 

5.       Maintenance. A very important factor to consider for any garden. Who will keep those newly planted plants alive, trim them, mulch them, check for pests etc. especially over periods when the company is closed and no-one is around to see that they need attention.

Those are 5 of many things to consider. Obviously an important consideration is budget, but it helps to have a landscape masterplan in place so that the installation can take place in phases or as the budget allows. The first step is to have a design and plan in place of what you want to do.

If you would like me to help you redesign and upgrade your existing office garden or if you are building a new office park then please contact me to arrange a site visit. #loveyourgarden

Gina Switala

Landscape Architect

gina@sproutlandscapes.co.za



What is a Professional Landscape Architect and How do I become one?

i want to be a landscape architect

Firstly, let’s clarify what Landscape Architecture is: According the University of Pretoria’s description, “Landscape architecture is the science and art of the design of outside areas for the use and enjoyment of people. Parks, game reserves, recreational areas and marinas are only a few of the environments which the landscape architect designs. They create urban oases in the form of plazas and pedestrian routes, and design environments around shopping centres and residential developments. The landscape architect can join a private firm, start an own business, or accept employment in central, provincial or local government in departments that handle water usage and research, forestry, environmental matters, sport, recreational and fishing areas, and nature conservation.” (https://www.up.ac.za/faculty-of-education/yearbooks/2017/pdf/programme/12132019 accessed on 4 February 2019)

 

The first step to becoming a landscape architect is to study a course in landscape architecture at an accredited institution. At the moment in South Africa there are only two institutions that offer this course: the University of Pretoria offers a three year undergraduate programme (BSc LArch) and two year post graduate programme (BLHons and ML(Prof)) and the University of Cape Town offers a two year postgraduate programme (BLHons and ML(Prof)). Sadly, there is talk that the University of Pretoria is planning to close the undergraduate programme down.

Once you have completed the course you need to register as a candidate with SACLAP (South African Council for the Landscape Architectural Profession). SACLAP is the governing council that oversees the Landscape Architectural Profession. A candidate will then work under a mentor (registered professional landscape architect) for a number of years learning and gaining experience until they feel competent enough to write the professional exams. A portfolio also needs to be submitted and SACLAP will grade individuals and promote them from candidate landscape architects to professional landscape architects according to this assessment and their exam grades.

Once registered, a professional landscape architect is required to pay professional fees and submit CPD documentation on an annual basis. Certain projects can only be carried out by professional landscape architects.

 

Institutions to contact for further information:

 

  • SACLAP

    http://saclap.org.za/

  • ILASA

    https://www.ilasa.co.za/

  • University of Pretoria

    https://www.up.ac.za/architecture

  • University of Cape Town

    http://www.apg.uct.ac.za/apg/landscape-architecture

     

House E Indigenous Planting

Indigenous Grasses with Cycads and Aloes. Trees screening neighbouring house.

Indigenous Grasses with Cycads and Aloes. Trees screening neighbouring house.

House E is a stunning example of the beauty that South African flora holds and makes use of indigenous grasses with several focal plants in between.

A grass mix including Aristida junciformis and Melinis nerviglumis was interplanted with several bulbs such as Ornithogalum thyrsoides, Dierama spp, Eucomis autumnalis and Eucomis comosa, which formed the main planting theme.

Several feature plants grow out of the grass mix including Aloes, Proteas, Cabbage Trees and Cycads.

Trees: Large Olive trees were used as the primary screening elements which were interplanted with Loxostylis alata, Dombeya rotundifolia, Heteropyxis natalensis and Nuxia floribunda. Dais cotinifolia were also added as feature trees.

Shrubs: a screening hedge of Dodonea angustifolia created a green boundary and smaller shrubs such as Polygala myrtifolia, Coleonema alba and Euryops virgineus were added.

Before and During Construction

After Implementation and then the greener images are taken 4 months after installation.

Jardínes del Turia in Valencia, Spain

"The Turia Gardens is one of the largest urban parks in Spain. It runs through the city along nine kilometres of green space boasting foot paths, leisure and sports areas, and romantic spots where you can unwind. From Cabecera Park to the City of Arts and Sciences, the Turia Gardens are the perfect place for runners, cyclists, families and nature enthusiasts. Crossed by 18 bridges full of history, the former riverbed passes by the city's main museums and monuments on either bank. The vast gardens are built on the former riverbed of the Turia, whose course was altered to prevent constant flooding in the city.

After a devastating flood on 14 October 1957, the Turia's course was diverted south of the city, leaving a huge tract of land that crosses the city from West to East, bordering the historical centre. Several urban planners and landscapists designed different sections of the park, recreating the former river scenery. They created a unique itinerary of palm trees and orange trees, fountains and pine woods, aromatic plants and ponds, sports facilities and rose beds. The gardens were inaugurated in 1986. The Cabecera Park and Bioparc border the huge gardens to the west, and the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences border it on the opposite side, near the mouth of the river. " (http://www.visitvalencia.com/en/what-to-visit-valencia/parks-gardens/turia-gardens)

I visited the Jardin del Turia a few years ago but wanted to post these pictures because I was so impressed with this park and it is a reminder how a successful green space can contribute positively to a city. The green belt is actually an old river bed that has dried up and been converted into a park and stretches over 9 kilometers. It is frequented all year by joggers, cyclists, families and tourists. It is a great connector for various parts of the city and a wonderful precedent of how a linear park can become the seam within a city - bringing things together to provide positive public space.

According to Project for Public Spaces (PPS) successful public spaces all generally have these four qualities in common: they are accessible; people are engaged in activities there; the space is comfortable and has a good image; and finally, it is a sociable place: one where people meet each other and take people when they come to visit. PPS developed The Place Diagram as a tool to help people in judging any place, good or bad: 

https://www.pps.org/reference/grplacefeat/

https://www.pps.org/reference/grplacefeat/

This park is certainly all those things, with emphasis on the access and linkages point, and you can see how successful it is by the number of people that make use of it. You can also see that there is an organisation managing the park with importance placed on safety and comfort as well as maintenance.  It may not be realistic to look at European parks as precedents for application in an African context because the challenges we face are so vastly different (crime, vandalism, homelessness, lack of funding etc.) but there are still lessons that can be learnt from them.

Some images of the Park follow below:

europe 074.jpg
Jardin del Turia
Map of Park
Bridge
Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias

Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias

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” (http://mlagreen.com/projects/la-river; 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.

Max van der Stoel Park, Prague

Lovely lake with large slabs of stone where people can sit on its edge

Lovely lake with large slabs of stone where people can sit on its edge

Lots of grass and trees

Lots of grass and trees

When we were planning to visit Prague we asked our host to recommend some outdoor spaces that we could take our daughter to and one of the ones she recommended was Max van der Stoel Park. Travelling with a toddler is not the easiest but it helps that I actually love spending time in parks and would rather be outdoors than inside a museum anyway.

Prague is in fact a city that begs to be explored on foot with so much to see and experience in the outdoor realm. I was amazed by the beautiful sidewalks and took several pictures of the cobbles and the patterns and details they were constructed in. 

Even the manholes are beautiful!

Even the manholes are beautiful!

Variety of colours and textures in the sidewalk paving in Prague

Variety of colours and textures in the sidewalk paving in Prague

So much attention to detail

So much attention to detail

Before I get carried away with describing the delightful vistas and beautiful buildings that are found in this magical city, let me get back to this gem of a park.

The central focal point is a long, linear water feature that is interactive and a real delight for little ones. You to get up close to the water that merrily winds its way to the bottom and it allows you to manipulate the stream in various ways.

Beautiful long linear interactive water feature

Beautiful long linear interactive water feature

Start of the water feature - the source of the stream - follow it and have loads of fun!

Start of the water feature - the source of the stream - follow it and have loads of fun!

The Park has comfortable seating and play equipment for children of various ages. The seating and most of the play equipment is made from timber so the park has a natural and warm feel to it. I liked the fine pebble crush that was used beneath the play equipment – a much nicer material than the rubber matting we mostly use in South Africa. It crossed my mind that a park like this would probably not be robust enough in a South African setting.

Play equipment has fine gravel surrounding - easy on children's feet. How does it not spread with no edging I wonder.

Play equipment has fine gravel surrounding - easy on children's feet. How does it not spread with no edging I wonder.

Pathways requiring some maintenance - gravel washed away by rain

Pathways requiring some maintenance - gravel washed away by rain

Lots of trees have been planted and properly staked. Like every garden, maintenance is required and some of the gravel pathways have washed away. I am sure these will be quickly repaired. 

Very nice chairs. Likely to be stolen if used in South Africa

Very nice chairs. Likely to be stolen if used in South Africa

Love the curving paving and curving chair

Love the curving paving and curving chair

Visit http://www.praha.eu/jnp/en/life_in_prague/environment/park_for_everybody.html for more information. You can also view videos of the water feature posted on YouTube

It is situated on the tram line at Hládkov station and on Google Maps it is called Park Maxe van der Stoela. 50°05'27.7"N 14°23'10.5"E

ILASA 2015 Year End Function

On the 6th of November we spent the morning exploring the incredibly beautiful Nirox Sculpure Park (http://niroxarts.com) 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.

Scan_20151109 (2).jpg

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!

IERM Convention: Leratong Park Site Visit

The annual IERM convention was held on the 28th,29th and 30th of September at Glenburn Lodge in Johannesburg. After two days of informative and insightful lectures everyone was excited to spend the third day out in the field to view some of the parks developed by Johannesburg City Parks (JCP). The atmosphere was relaxed and jovial as everyone climbed onto the luxury air-conditioned buses that the City of Joburg had sponsored, which we were so grateful for when the temperatures soared into the high thirties.

The first park we visited was Leratong Park where you are welcomed by a large red steel sculpture, consisting of several hands on tall masts shaped in the hand signal that means “I love you” in sign language. The park is situated in Region C, located in the Greater Roodepoort area near Krugersdorp, in an informal settlement and named after the nearby Leratong Hospital. 

009.jpg

Puleng Ditabe, Regional Manager of Region C, shared insights into the park and described the two main challenges that they were faced, the first was finding suitable space for development. The park is in fact built on a servitude where Rand Water pipes run and ironically you will see signs throughout the park warning people to stay clear of the area because of the pipes running below, although this is quite the contrary now that the park has been built. Although it is risky this was one of the only open areas available and Rand Water and JCP were able to come to an agreement because the pipes do not need to be accessed regularly. The second challenge was vandalism as they had a recycling station that was burned. 

Puleng with David and Fortunate who are permanently employed to take care of the park

Puleng with David and Fortunate who are permanently employed to take care of the park

Vendor bordering the park

Vendor bordering the park

The park is 2 hectares in size and boasts numerous brand new facilities including: artificial turf soccer field, netball court, outdoor gym, braai areas, two playground areas, ablutions and a vegetable garden. The vegetable garden has not been handed over to the community yet and I imagine that managing this production in a public space has its own challenges. Planting Fruit Trees was raised as a question and Thabang Mokone from JCP mentioned that Urban Forestry and Food Security are priorities for the City of Johannesburg and educating people is what is needed for fruit trees to become successful. 

Playground

Playground

Soccer Field

Soccer Field

Food Garden

Food Garden

As with any successful park the community needs to take ownership and adopt the facility as its own. Only in this way will the community take pride in it and make sure that it is maintained and cared for. We met two of the community members who have been permanently employed to work in Leratong Park: David, head gardener, who reports to a senior horticulturalist and Fortunate who not only looks after the ablutions, but acts as a mother and caretaker to the park.

Leratong children

Many Olive and Bushwillow trees have been planted which is in line with the City of Joburg’s drive to make the Southern suburbs greener. The park is not fenced off and neighbouring houses are encouraged to have gates that open onto the park so that they can use and enjoy it. Phase 1 was completed in 2014 financial year and cost R1.7 million while Phase 2 was recently completed in 2015 and cost R2.4 million. A large amount of money was invested into this flagship park and it is evident that its investors care deeply about it, now it is up to the community to fall in love with it too.