More than encouraging students and professionals to raise the bar of green design, one of the objectives of the second Annual Visionary Design (AViD) competition is increase awareness and appreciation of landscape architecture in the Philippines.

BluPrint, together with the Philippine Association of Landscape Artists (Pala), Philippine Institute of Interior Designers (PIID) and United Architects of the Philippines (UAP), launched the AViD competition last week. With the theme “Up on the Roof,” participants are challenged to design a “green roof” that requires the interplay of the three main design disciplines—architecture, interior design and, in particular, landscape architecture.

According to BluPrint magazine’s chief editor and architect Paulo Alcazaren, in general, the Philippine public is not aware of landscape architecture and the design professions as a whole. He argued that the public’s understanding of the profession of architecture is limited simply by the fact that Filipino architects and designers are relatively low key.

“Real-estate developers hardly credit them in press releases, much less in marketing materials for their projects. It is often the foreign consultants who are named,” Alcazaren noted, lamenting that landscape architects are often confused with ordinary gardeners and nursery operators.

As an example, he noted that while National Artist Ildefonso Santos was honored for his contributions as a landscape architect, the sad reality is that only a few really know of his work here in the country or abroad.

Pala president Dicky Altavas said there are only 231 registered and licensed landscape architects in the country, half of whom are abroad, compared with the more than 20,000 architects.

As an academic discipline, Landscape Architecture was first offered at the University of the Philippines-Diliman in the 1970s. Today it is also offered at the University of San Carlos in Cebu and in Bulacan State University.

The need for landscape architecture

Alcazaren stressed that the recent campaign of most companies to go green is best answered, orchestrated and made by landscape architects.

“Landscape architects have the professional expertise to ‘green up’ a building complex and to provide outdoor amenities for condominiums, shopping centers, hotels and resorts, and institutional grounds among others,” he said.

He added that the many Philippine architectural marvels, despite having great design, often look bad because the buildings do not have proper landscaping—or an urban design context, which Alcazaren likens to “having great valuable gemstones without a proper setting.”

One key reason for hiring professional landscape architects is that they can save money because they know how to design a landscape correctly. Most current designs by so-called gardeners can only survive for short periods of time, are difficult to maintain, and are mostly out of scale or do not relate to the architecture at all, Alcazaren said.

Hiring a professional landscape architect adds value to any development as they address both the functional, as well as the aesthetic, requirements of any project.

“We have few public parks and open spaces like plazas and civic centers. Landscape architects are trained to design these settings, and many Filipino landscape architects have done so in other countries,” Alcazaren pointed out.

Landscape architecture, Alcazaren continued, overlaps with environmental design in terms of sense and practice. Landscape architects in other countries are involved in multidisciplinary teams for regional planning and disaster-risk management for large cities, regions and geo-morphological areas such as watersheds, plains and wetlands.

As an example, land-use planning teams in the US and Europe will always include professional landscape architects. “Here [in the country] they are unknown and underutilized,” he said.

Parks, which landscape architects design, can help mitigate floods and disasters. Highway and infrastructure planning in other countries tap landscape architects, which is why their highways look and feel better, Alcazaren added.

“Urban design of cities and town benefits from the input of landscape architects in terms of streetscapes, shade tree planting and the provision of value-intensive green open spaces that provide relief to the concrete and blight of the city,” he said.

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