A LAW is needed to ensure landscape architects are held responsible for the work they do.
Institute of Landscape Architects Malaysia (Ilam) president Assoc Prof Dr Suhardi Maulan said as professionals, landscape architects should be accountable for any project they undertake.
“This is to ensure that during the design and planning stage, they have thoroughly thought about the plants and materials used and that standards and safety aspects specified are met.”
Dr Suhardi said there should be a Landscape Architects Act, similar to legislation like the Town Planners Act 1995, Architects Act 1967 and Registration of Engineers Act 1967 to regulate professionals in the field.
“For example, under the Act, a civil engineer could be held responsible for the collapse of a bridge if it was found to be related to the design aspect.
“The same principle would apply for landscape architects and landscape design if a Landscape Architects Act is in place.
“It would ensure better quality and safety in project management.”
In the absence of an Act, Dr Suhardi said Ilam has taken the initiative to ensure the quality of landscape architects in Malaysia.
“In order to become an Ilam corporate member, a landscape architect is required to work for two years before sitting for an exam conducted by Ilam.
“Although the exam is optional, many local authorities require landscape architects to be registered with Ilam to submit plans to government agencies.”
Dr Suhardi, who is also Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Landscape Architect Department head, noted that the landscape architecture field has evolved over the years.
“In the early 1990s, there was already a guideline by the Town and Country Planning Department (now called Plan Malaysia) for developments to set aside 10% as green space.
“But the game changer was in the mid-1990s, when Malaysia embarked on the development of Putrajaya and the KL International Airport.
“That was when landscape became a key aspect of development projects.
“People started looking at landscapes differently, from just being about open spaces to an important aspect of development.
“Based on that spirit, many developments now consider landscape a very important part of their project and it has even become a marketing tool with new housing projects touting their greenery as a major selling point.”
However, Dr Suhardi said there was a need for a paradigm shift to include landscapes in low-end housing projects, government offices and schools.
“Our expertise can be used to design open spaces and classrooms of the future.
“Learning should be fun and not constrained within four walls,” he said, adding that landscapes should cater to the masses and not just high-end projects.
“In the west, there is recognition that landscape should not be a commodity which is available only to people who can afford it.”
Dr Suhardi said climate change, such as more frequent thunderstorms, has made maintenance of landscape elements such as trees, shrubs, walkways and playgrounds more challenging for local councils and landscape architects.
“As the new president, I hope to create greater awareness among the public and policymakers on what landscape architecture is all about, and broaden the scope of work for landscape architects in Malaysia,” said Dr Suhardi, who was elected Ilam president for the 2018 to 2020 term.
“A landscape architect’s role encompasses more than just trees and shrubs.
“We are involved in public spaces that are important for the people’s well-being as well as conservation of natural resources.
“People should understand that when properly done, landscaping can bring economic prosperity to the country in many ways, such as tourism and higher property value.”
In terms of broadening the scope of work, Dr Suhardi said Ilam plans to offer courses to enhance landscape architects’ capabilities.
“The certification will be to enhance their skills or expertise in areas such as landscape construction management, landscape hydrology, visual quality assessment and landscape character assessment.
“We hope to work with universities that have the expertise to offer such courses,” he said.
Dr Suhardi hoped that landscape architects could be involved in other aspects of development, such as serving as environmental impact assessment consultants.
“We want to be part of the planning team by working together with planners and architects on the development order, structural plan, local plan and urban design.
“We believe that landscape architects can be part of a multi-disciplinary team to come up with solutions for developments.”
Dr Suhardi was speaking ahead of the Malaysia Landscape Architecture Awards (MLAA) and Ilam Gala Night 2019, which will be held on April 20 in Petaling Jaya.
Positioned as one of the most prestigious awards for the landscape architecture industry in the Asean region, MLAA aims to inspire the implementation and creation of new design trends and lead the direction of landscape development in Malaysia and beyond.
New to the 11th edition of MLAA are the Lifetime Achievement Award and CSR Category – Green Initiatives Award for projects or campaigns by corporations or NGOs.
The Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to a person Dr Suhardi described as a pioneer in the landscape architecture field.
“He is still practising; many consider him a mentor.
“This person has contributed to the industry – not only to Ilam but landscape architecture development as a whole.”
MLAA 2019 is one of Ilam’s initiatives leading up to the International Federation of Landscape Architects (Ifla) World Landscape Architects Summit 2020 that will be held in George Town, Penang, in August that year.
Ifla 2020 will give delegates a platform to share issues, ideas and inspiration to ensure the landscape architecture profession is ready to seize opportunities and face challenges over the next decade.