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Speech by President, SLILA at First General Meeting

24th July 2009

First of all, I wish to thank you for entrusting me with the task of leading the Institute during its first year, and I promise that I will do my best to take landscape architecture to the fore in this country.

I would like to propose the following Vision for our Institute:

TO BE THE LEADING FORCE IN UPLIFTING THE LANDSCAPE PROFESSION IN SRI LANKA AND THE GUIDING LIGHT FOR SUSTAINABLE LANDSCAPE PLANNING, DESIGN  AND DEVELOPMENT THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY.

The landscape architect’s motto could well be “Design with Nature, for People” - and this is not a contradictory concept! Green Development, as we know nowadays, is economically and socially sound as well as environmentally obligatory. We must combine our particular blend of tech-no-how, aesthetic sensibility and environment consciousness in service to society. The nation is entitled to a beautiful and healthy outdoor environment and we have a major role to play in reversing the trend of degradation in the name of development. We must not only train our professionals for this but also educate the general public to recognize the need for it, even going to the extent of trying to inculcate an understanding and recognition of landscape quality and standards in schools.

We have to work towards the highest international standards while maintaining a uniqueness characteristic of our ecology and our culture. We have to ensure that landscape issues are addressed in all types of land development, at all levels or scales. We must  therefore  be essential members of the teams which formulate land use policy, which prepare physical plans at national or regional level, which prepare development plans for towns or rural areas, which prepare conservation plans for environmentally sensitive areas, which steer industrial development, and which plan infrastructure development.   We should lead the way in developing policies, regulations, standards, and specifications related to the landscape profession.

We must work together with other professionals in site planning and development from the very inception of projects. And we must make all the right choices in detailed landscape development – often called landscaping - while knowing how to get our designs implemented on the ground. Try always to make sure your employers and clients know that your involvement is essential in Landscape Planning and Site Planning as well as detailed landscape design (“landscaping”).

To ensure the involvement of professionally trained Landscape architects in every relevant sphere, we have to make both the public and the private sector aware of the dire need for us across the country. Our first opportunity will be on Thursday, the 13th of August, when we will have a ceremonial inauguration at Waters Edge, sponsored by the Urban Development Authority, with the Honourable Minister of Urban Development & Sacred Area Development as the Chief Guest. Subsequently, we will take the message to the provincial and local authority level besides all relevant branches of central government and the private sector.

There should be adequate numbers of landscape architects in organizations such as the National Physical Planning Department, The Central Environmental Authority, the Coast Conservation Department, the Road Development Authority, the Forest Dept., the Dept. of Wildlife Conservation, the Tourist Board,  the Education Dept., the Dept. of National Botanical & Zoological Gardens,  the Buildings Dept., and numerous ministries, besides every Provincial Council, Municipal Council, Urban Council and Pradeshiya Sabha.  Even to efficiently out-source sufficient design expertise and to prepare documentation seeking funding for landscape planning, design and implementation tasks, a professionally trained landscape architectural professional is needed.

Furthermore, there must be a wealth of landscape architectural companies and consultants in the private sector, while other private sector agencies should systematically hire professionally trained landscape architectural consultants for their projects.

And we must not just meet but exceed expectations to make all sections of the populace truly aware of our scope. We are custodians of the land, together with other relevant professionals, and we must take this responsibility very seriously in everything we do.

Not to be over-looked, of course, is the need for us to encourage the landscape industry in this country to widen its scope and improve its standards: we must therefore have a fruitful rapport with landscape contractors, nurserymen and hard landscape materials suppliers and manufacturers.

To meet our goals, it is imperative that we maintain the highest international standards in landscape architectural education, conforming to the education report of the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) and the definition of the profession for the International Standard Classification of Occupations/International Labour Office/Geneva, approved by IFLA.

Lastly, we must take steps to join IFLA as soon as possible, and we must build beneficial relationships with landscape architectural institutes and societies/associations of other countries.

In this context, I have a special message for you from the President of the U.K. Landscape Institute, who happened to be in the same “studio group” with me when we were doing our 2-year full-time Masters Degree course in Landscape Design at the University of Sheffield in England many years ago.