What does a Landscape Designer and Landscape Architect do?

It is crucial to state that South Africa is not delivering enough Landscape designers, credible Landscape Installers and Landscape Architects. In this article the Irene School of Garden Design will try to briefly demystify in layman’s terms what all this means, as well as indicate ways of getting there.

The Landscape Designer:

Landscape designers are generally more involved with residential works and refurbishments of gardens and small to medium sized landscapes. This would involve the design of a garden spatially or otherwise stated architecturally, to accommodate the needs of the client as well as address the ecology, the site and locality of the project. Secondly the landscape designer must fulfil a decorative role after the functionality of a garden has been sorted out to fill the beds with planting design, hard landscaping features and furniture. The deliverables are usually design plans, planting plans, three dimensional exploration, mood boards and illustrative palettes, bills of quantity, cost estimation and construction specification.

If one was to study at a design school such as Irene School of Garden Design in programs of one to two years, this would be more than sufficient to become a Landscape Designer as described above. The possibilities of future studies to become a Landscape Architect or Architect is also vastly augmented and entry of a well-rounded student with exposure background to universities is alleviated. (Also referred to as augmenting, or orientation) People who did not complete such courses should not call themselves Landscape Designers, Technologists or Landscape Architects. Apart from those who seek to become Landscape Designers, these courses also broaden school leavers’ understanding of various fields before they choose a career in the fields of:

  • Architecture
  • Horticulture
  • Landscape Architecture
  • Graphic design
  • Product Design
  • Ecology
  • Environmental studies
  • Town Planning
  • Quantity surveying
  • General Design
  • Introductory spatial design and interior decoration

These courses are not oriented or intended to be formal studies resulting in Diplomas or Degrees yet as registration and qualification is not yet possible in South Africa. The main focus of a prospective student should consider heritage, reputation, course content, support, industry involvement, qualifications of the lectures and outcomes. There are 2 schools in South Africa offering substantial courses to become a Landscape Designer of which Irene School of Garden Design is one. Short and introductory courses does not qualify. (Also see Gardener and gardening)

The Landscape Architect:

Landscape Architects typically work on new and larger scale projects of landscapes more than that of gardens. This would involve environmental research planning and design, more detailed construction knowledge and light engineering, quantification and cost calculations, contracts and law, spatial and detail design, large scale plant knowledge, storm water and waste management and ecology.

Landscape Designers should not work in the fields of the Landscape Architect, but a Landscape Architect may work in the fields of both Designer and Landscape Architect. Landscape Designers may also not call themselves Landscape Architects. Currently South Africa and the world is in desperate need of more Landscape Architects. This identified need makes working in almost any country particularly appealing. Landscape Architects also register with SACLAP (The South African Council Landscape Architectural Professions) and other international councils, and may submit landscape plans to municipalities. It is a career closely knit to Architecture but applied in the landscape. Landscape Architects seldom work in isolation and mostly form part of a team involving Engineers, Quantity Surveyors, Architects, Horticulturists, and Installers etc.

To become a Landscape Architect one must develop an aptitude for Architecture and Landscape Architecture, meet the demands of entry set by a particular University, and pass an admission process or examination. In this instance people who have already practised or have background studies might have a very unique advantage. The only BSc Undergraduate program in South Africa is presented at the University of Pretoria, and Post Graduate studies are presented at both Universities of Pretoria and Cape Town. Undergraduate programs are already eligible for registration with SACLAP provided the individual meets the requirements. Post graduate studies might provide for a higher category of registration.

The Horticulturist:

Horticulture refers to the science or the art of cultivating plants, and understanding plant societies and their environments. Both the Landscape Designer as well as the Landscape Architect need a basic understanding of Horticulture, but are not proficient enough in the field to call themselves a Horticulturist. Horticulturists should in the same way refrain from design unless they have done appropriate studies as above. Typically a horticulturist will follow a simple route through various Universities offering such studies, or a by means of a  Correspondence University like UNISA to achieve their goals in which case a course in Landscape Design, or continued studies in Landscape Architecture as above is an extremely beneficial addition. Similarly Horticulture is often an addition to the other.

The landscaper or landscape Installer:

The word landscaper and landscaping seems to a general slang term used in the industry making it particularly difficult to pinpoint exactly what their expertise are, but generally should refer only to installations of gardens. The Landscape installer on the other hand describes more precisely what they are proficient in. Landscape and or garden installations. It is important to note that they are not Landscape Designers, Landscape Architects or Horticulturists unless they have done the appropriate studies as above. By adding a Landscape Design Course installers are able to widen their field of expertise and become more turnkey.

The Gardener and gardening

The Gardener or Gardening refers to all of the above, but on a micro scale, at a leisurely level, as a hobby and mostly only for the self. It is restricted to residential property and talent or skill may even be shared amongst friends, but not done or performed as a profession or career receiving remuneration. In this case the unique ability of the nature of Design and Gardening allows individuals to experiment and have fun on their own property. Short courses and parcel courses focusing on one aspect is aimed at enhancing results and increasing enjoyment of personal outdoor spaces.

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