Prior to 2020, the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA Europe 2020) defined landscape architects in terms of the products that they planned and designed, such as parks, institutions and residential sites. IFLA’s updated definition reveals a shift in emphasis of the profession beyond product towards addressing concerns such as sustainability, well-being, memory, heritage and culture and spatial justice. The papers in this issue take us across Africa - from Kenya to Botswana to Tunisia to Malawi to South Africa - and reflect this shift in focus in Community Design. Identified in the 2019 IFLA World conference as critical issues in landscape architecture, indigenous culture and community participation in design feature prominently as themes in this issue.
Chris Mulder’s paper Place-led community design in urban and rural settings: two case studies highlights the potential of a community design when a comprehensive, self-sufficient development is guided by an interdisciplinary team led by landscape architects. Mulder proposes three strategies for place-led community design and unpacks the design process of two case studies in urban and rural contexts: Thesen Islands in Knysna and Crossways Farm Village in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, respectively.
IFLA’s updated definition of landscape architects recognises that memory, heritage and culture are becoming stronger informants in the design of contemporary communities. Increasingly, value is being placed on indigenous culture and heritage. Three of the papers in this issue explore the potential of building on indigenous knowledge and practices to address contemporary challenges such as climate change, urbanisation and environmental degradation.
Grace Nyaguthii Kamweru’s paper An analogy of indigenous and contemporary landscape urbanism in Kenya: Samburu settlements vs modern Swahili villas unpacks the Samburu manyatta homestead layout in terms of its resilience and response to cultural and environmental contexts. She presents the modern Kuruwita villa project as a case study of how landscape architecture can pay attention to the way in which indigenous communities designed settlements in the landscape. The result of this attention is a community design project that draws on the natural qualities of the landscape to meet socio-economic, aesthetic and ecological needs.
In The traditional spatial demarcation and formation: the case of kgotla setting, Lethugile describes the traditional form and spatial experience of the kgotla, a formal public assembly space in Tswana heritage, and evaluates how analogous spaces are formed in contemporary urbanised contexts. The paper shows a concern for the growing lossof cultural fabric and calls for the new generation of community designers to address urban challenges while continuing to respond to cultural practices.
Nicola Chidyaonga presents her master’s research in her paper titled Woven with water. Her work is located within a stressed ecosystem in Nsanje, Malawi and seeks an intervention that is grounded in the place and cultural practices of the community. Chidyaonga’s project engages in community design through the narrative of a fish trader and artisan. She uncovers a century-old practice of harvesting and weaving reeds and palm leaves and builds on this knowledge to propose a resilient and multi-functional aquaculture system.
Chidyaonga’s project demonstrates how landscape architecture tackles issues beyond ecological design by valorising cultural heritage and socio-economic resilience. Trishana Naidu, Pieter Louw, Lorraine Mashau and Bobby Gould-Pratt’s Integrating urban form through multi-functional open space paper achieves a similar effect. At first glance the project addresses a failing stormwater system by proposing a series of stormwater ponds along Sheffield Road in Philippi East Cape Town, a community still marginalised by apartheid planning. The authors demonstrate the depth of the project beyond its product: the design harnesses opportunities to develop multi-functional, positive open spaces that create moments for growth in the community.
Landscape architecture is making greater efforts to engage with communities-of-people in the process of the design-of-communities. Four of the papers in this issue speak to the changing role of landscape architects and the contribution of communities-of-people in (co-)design processes.
Writing about the traditional Tunisian Jessour system of harvesting surface runoff, Omar Wanas and Tasnime EL Tataouine prepared A continuum of time and space: Community design of runoff water-harvesting systems in Chenini, Tataouine. The authors highlight the importance of community cohesion in adapting to changes over time, and present the Jessour system in Chenini, Tunisia as an exemplar of a community design that successfully leans on both local practices and academic research.
Remote methods in community participation design of enabling learning environments by Hendrikse, van Rensburg, Kanyoke and Niebuhr write about their experience of the Urban Citizenship Studio led by Dr Carin Combrinck at the University of Pretoria. The paper describes remote methods for the community participation design of an action plan for a “life-wide learning” intervention in Mamelodi. The authors document the process and methodology of their co-design engagement as it moved through the stages from developing a brief to inviting participants to visualise the project in terms of its expression, location and materiality.
Amy Thompson together with Jackie James, Claire du Trevou, Asanda Bikwe and Ben Biggs share their thoughts on Working informally in Europe, an informal settlement in the Cape Flats. Similar to the approaches of Chidyaonda and Naidu et al, the project goes beyond the initial brief to design and install a small water point and infrastructure project by also creating dignified and positive public space. Thompson et al’s project is different to typical landscape architecture projects because of the way they followed a co-design process around ‘listening differently’ and earnestly working with the community. The paper acknowledges a greater emphasis on community based knowledge and reflects on the changing contribution of the landscape architect as facilitator or mediator in co-creation processes.
This collection of papers illustrates the range of how landscape architects approach community design. The papers cover a range of contexts from tourism villages, informal settlements, wetlands, rain-harvesting systems, but also illustrate how landscape architects engage indifferent ways, drawing on indigenous settlement patterns or collaborating with community members. The projects demonstrate how community design goes beyond interventions as products and positively contribute to community cultural-socio-economic well-being, place-making and ecological resilience.
IFLA Europe 2020. Report for IFLA World Council 2020.https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5d16e42a3ae2ee0001a08d34/t/5f85b3869a57e958abe43f8f/1602597795023/IFLA+Europe+Report+for+IFLA+World+Council+2020-K.HELMS+for+web.pdf
Banner Credit: CMAI Architects, 2021