Designing landscape


ILAM president unveils the profession of landscape architect

Dean of Faculty of Design and Architecture UPM Dr. Osman Mohd Tahir

Dean of Faculty of Design and Architecture UPM Dr. Osman Mohd Tahir

Although it is a lesser-known profession, landscape architecture is an integral part of the construction process and a well-sought-after profession due to the scarcity of trained professionals.

Producing around 200 to 250 graduates per year, the job requires practitioners to be adept at balancing the principle of design and the ecosystem.

For the second instalment of the Careers in Real Estate series, Institute of Landscape Architect Malaysia (ILAM) president Dr Osman Mohd Tahir divulged his experience as a practitioner of landscape architect for 35 years.

Dr Osman was originally a student of Agricultural Science at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) when he was first exposed to the field of landscape architecture.

He said the course was only introduced as a tertiary education course in 1996 when the government established the National Landscape Department in Malaysia. It was then when universities started to follow suit and offer the course as part of their undergraduate degrees.

“There are five public universities, UPM, University Technology Mara (UiTM), University Technology Malaysia (UTM), Islamic Institute University Malaysia (IIUM), and University Science Malaysia (USM) that are offering landscape architecture as an undergraduate and postgraduate study.

“It is a professional four-year degree recognised by ILAM, with the syllabus encompassing subjects such as History and Philosophy of Landscape Architecture, Environmental Study, Plant and Ecosystem, Site Design and Construction etc,” he said.

Landscape Architect Versus Architect

Dr Osman is also the Dean of Faculty of Design and Architecture in UPM. He said that landscape architecture is different from architecture in which the latter tackles the topic of buildings, design and other physical structures, whereas landscape architecture focuses more on the environment surrounding the building.

He also shared that a landscape architect is responsible for building a conducive living environment for the public, by infusing their knowledge in art and science together.

“We need to understand the principle behind the design and grasp the basic ecological system knowledge. It is important for us to plan the landscape, taking into account the engineering, landscape ecology, social, as well as the economic aspect of the whole project,” he added.

Dr Osman said a landscape architect is in charge of planning and designing the landscape of development. To come out with the best layout that blends seamlessly with nature, landscape architects have to visit the site to do test and surveys. Then, they have to analyse the information collected and do further research on the subject.

“With all the information, the landscape architect needs to provide the best solution to propose to the clients or developers besides presenting the idea with the right tools,” said Dr Osman.

To obtain the LAr title, he said a landscape graduate student would be required to register with ILAM after their graduation before starting their work in the field.

After two years of practice, they are qualified to sit for a professional exam by ILAM and should they pass the exams; they will now hold the LAr designation.

“They could continue their practice, or they can opt to open their own landscape architecture company,” said Dr Osman, who added that it would usually take about four to five years after a student graduated to get the LAr title.

Guarding nature

“With the recent unpredictable climate change, increasing Urban Heat Island (UHI) effects, and more frequent natural disasters, a landscape architect’s role is much needed to counter these issues and help preserve the nature to be passed on the next generations,” said Dr Osman.

He said ILAM has been discussing to play a more influential role in the national development by proposing ten strategic focus areas under the Landscape Architecture Agenda 2050.

“These plans aim not only to prepare the landscape architects for the upcoming issues but also to establish the best practice standards for landscape architects in Malaysia,” said Dr Osman.

He said those who took up design subjects previously would hesitate to pursue the study of landscape architecture as they feel like they have to spend a lot of time doing sketches, drawing and thinking up of ideas.

“While the students need to do all the required coursework, the real value lies within the profession. They should be aware that by taking up this course, they are shouldering the responsibility of protecting the nature.

“They are now becoming the ‘Guardians of Nature’. It is a huge task to carry, but if we don’t care about the world, who else will?” said Dr Osman.


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