Landscape architects push for legal recognition

From left; AAK President Florence Nyole, Architecture and Quantity Surveying board Chair Silvester Muli and the CEO of the board Mwongera Rukaria. [David Gichuru, Standard]

Landscape architects are pushing for international recognition as a distinct profession like other built environment professionals.

The push was part of the discussions during the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) World Congress, held in collaboration with the Architectural Association of Kenya (AAK) at a Nairobi hotel that was attended by delegates from 44 countries.

They discussed how pivotal their profession is in shaping the future of transformation and long-term sustainability.

The two-day conference explored new forms of collective problem-solving and cooperation while keeping climate change matters, social inequality and biodiversity at the forefront.

According to statistics, there are more than one million landscape architects in the world with the 75-year-old IFLA representing 78 national members and more than 50,000 in five regions including Africa.

However, despite the huge number, there is still a need to create awareness and recognition of the profession just like other building professionals like quantity surveyors and engineers.

IFLA President Bruno Marques said in some countries, the practice of landscape architects is well established with education standards and titles protected in the law.

“There are some countries that have not recognised landscape architects but only architects who do everything. This is because they lack laws that recognise them and license their practice, and that is what the IFLA is trying to correct,” he said.

This, he said, is despite landscape architects being distinct from other architects in the role they play in a construction site.

“For landscape architects, whatever we do, if we do not do it properly we kill the ecosystems and therefore there is need to navigate that very thin balance between understanding the different systems of landscape and how they interact with each other and how we design to preserve those ecosystems.”

Mr Marques said Kenya follows South Africa in entrenching the landscape architects among the only eight members of IFLA in Africa. Landscape architects in Kenya even have a chapter at AAK.

The Landscape Architecture course is only taught aSt Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT).

On how architects can build sustainable houses and cope with effects of climate change, AAK President Florence Nyole said the association has an environmental design that handles issues of environment and in 2021 they launched Safari Green Building index to rate green buildings based on their environmental performance.

“We need to stop talking and start acting and Kenyans should start thinking of owning green buildings by building responsibly and sustainably, ensuring they use green materials and landscape architects,” she said.

Swedish Ambassador to Kenya Caroline Vicini lauded the efforts made by the built environment professionals of both countries to learn from each other and discuss climate change.

“It is important to build smart, healthy and efficient cities where people can integrate, communicate and move freely. Landscape architecture plays an important role in shaping sustainable development,” she said.

Speaking to Real Estate, AAK President Nyole raised concern on the influx of quack architects and developers, which has contributed to increased collapse of houses in the country.

“Right now in Kenya, we have around 2,000  architects against a population of 50 million coupled with a lot of construction going on in Nairobi and across the country,”  she said.

“Developers have neglected professionals and use quacks and contractors in the name of saving costs, thus leaving only 20 per cent of work in construction done by built environment professionals.”

Nyole said this is happening when there is a law, CAP 525, that recognises architects and quantity surveyors, and which requires that all construction sites must be under the watchful eyes of registered professionals.

“The challenge is enactment and enforcement both by national and county governments of these laws that are in place and that’s why early this year at AAK, we launched Mlika Mjengo, where when you see a building under construction without a built environment professional, you raise an alarm.”

Board of Registration of Architects and Quality Surveyors Chairman Silvester Muli said no building should come up without a built environment professional involved.

“Developers have been crafty in that they just  involve an architect to get approval but when the construction work starts, there is not a professional involved yet the county’s enforcement officers are supposed to supervise the construction till the end,” he said.