Landscape architecture in Brazil and New Zealand
I have recently co-authored a conference paper with Glauco Cocozza. The paper compares the teaching of landscape architecture in Brazil and New Zealand, and made me revive some thoughts and impressions that I had and have about the profession. Moreover Marina Martins, who writes on PAISAGEIRO, has asked me to write about the differences between architecture and landscape architecture in Brazil and New Zealand. So here are some of my thoughts.
Starting with my home country, in Brazil landscape architecture is part of the architecture degree. Among many other subjects (such as building science, theory and history of architecture, urban design and planning, structural concepts and calculations) landscape architecture is part of a five-year degree. In fact landscape architecture is usually subject of two or three courses, covered in two or three semesters. This means we do not have a chance of covering many aspects of landscape, such as planting, ecology, biodiversity and so forth. Despite this structure, and based on what I understood by landscape architecture before moving to New Zealand, I have been predominantly against the idea of separating landscape architecture from architecture. I clearly didn’t know what I was talking about.
In New Zealand landscape architects have largely different skills. Here, architecture, architecture theory and history, building science, interior design, landscape architecture, planning and urban design are all independent degrees. Most of these degrees take around three years. My closest experience in New Zealand is at Lincoln University, and despite the early scepticism it later changed my mind about why landscape should indeed be a separated degree.
Here is how it is framed in the LU Landscape Architecture Booklet:
… Graduates can also look forward to working on a wide range of projects – from civic developments, urban design and tourism developments, to residential and lifestyle subdivisions and commercial, institutional and industrial projects. They can also work on parks, highways, heritage conservation, ecological restoration and revegetation, city or rural planning and resource planning.
This is an undergraduate degree we don’t have in Brazil. Our options are to study five years of architecture and urban design (including even calculations of concrete structures) and then add a couple more years to specialize in landscape; or we work with professionals from other areas such as ecology, agronomy, forestry and so forth. This is also unreal in many cases, especially when the budget for professional contracts is limited, resulting in aspects of the landscape being compromised. On the other hand, many different professionals are allowed to be ‘responsible’ or ‘sign off’ the designs, meaning that architects alone can design a park, for example. But how? Do we actually have the right qualifications to evaluate and plan the environmental impacts our designs can generate?
Landscape in Brazil has been evolving and shifting from a purely architectural profession to a broader, more environment based one. It is now recognized that the role of these professionals is much larger than the arty sketches and gardens they can produce. However, the view is still closely connected to architectural and urban design, implying that landscape is something that is constructed, and therefore natural and rural landscapes are outside the scope of the profession.
Studying in New Zealand has clarified the importance of having landscape architecture as an independent degree. The way landscape is structured in Brazil means we don’t have a professional who can bridge design, environment assessment and planning. I came to see this as a danger to the environment. Studying here in New Zealand has also highlighted why designing landscapes has for a long time felt or too simple, or overly complex. It is a garden, a park or nothing. Despite being fascinated by urban climate and human comfort, I felt providing shade and spaces for people wasn’t enough.
Where are you from? How are all these planning and design related professions structured in your country? Or are you from Brazil or New Zealand? If so, what is your opinion about the profession in your country?