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About Soweto

Soweto is a township of the City of Johannesburg in Gauteng. Its name is an English syllabic abbreviation for South Western Townships.

Soweto is mostly composed of old matchbox houses, four-room structures built by the government that were meant to be cheap accommodation for black workers during the apartheid era. However, modern-day Soweto has seen a rise in bigger, smarter homes, especially in the more affluent suburbs such as Diepkloof Extension and Pimville.

The City Council has implemented the planting of more trees in order to improve the parks and green spaces of the township, giving it a greener, more lush makeover for the 21st century.

Some of the architectural landmarks in Soweto include the Mandela House and Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital.

What does a Landscape Architect do?

It is the responsibility of a Landscape Architect to design attractive and functional public parks, gardens, playgrounds, residential neighbourhoods, and public spaces. In addition, these professionals also help plan the proper locations of buildings, roads, walkways, shrubs and trees within these areas.

Similar to Architects and Interior Designers, Landscape Architects make use of various technologies in their day-to-day work, such as computer-aided designs (CAD). They present these models and designs to clients for feedback before preparing the final look of a project. A lot of Landscape Architects also use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) which offer GPS coordinates of different geographical features. This enables them to design different environments by offering clues on the best spots to start planning and how to anticipate future effects of the landscape.

The typical daily duties of a Landscape Architect

  1. Meeting with clients, engineers and building architects to get more information on a project.
  2. Preparing site plans, specifications, and cost estimates.
  3. Coordinating the arrangement of existing and proposed land features and structures.
  4. Preparing graphic representations of plans via CAD software.
  5. Choosing the correct landscaping materials for projects.
  6. Analysing environmental reports on land conditions, including drainage and energy usage.
  7. Scrutinising the progress of a landscape project to ensure a productive and successful process.
  8. Seeking new work opportunities with marketing activities or by giving presentations.

Why are Landscape Architects necessary?

Nobody will force you to employ a Landscape Architect, but consider the fact that a high-quality landscaping job can increase a home's value by as much as 14-20%.

In addition, a professional Landscape Architect's plans can:

  • optimise the use of your land / yard and outdoor space,
  • minimise the amount of chemicals necessary to maintain your property,
  • maximise the use of trees, plants and structures to decrease energy usage (and decrease the amount of future utility bills),
  • conserve water usage, and
  • improve the value, look, environmental friendliness, and function of your outdoor spaces.

When do you need a Landscape Architect?

Not every project involving a yard or garden necessitates a Landscape Architect. Think about whether you really need to hire one or if you just want them to create a design plan for you. In the following instances, the services of a professional Landscape Architect might be appropriate:

  • When you want something truly unique. Think of those eye-catching garden / landscape designs seen in design magazines. Rather employ a professional if that is what you're after instead of trying it the DIY way – there's a reason why it takes year to hone a craft like landscape architecting.
  • When you want complicated features like wheelchair access, outdoor fireplaces, exterior kitchens, etc. Safety codes and smaller details are all vital with such features, which only an expert would know.

Hiring a Landscape Architect

1. Ask for references. While obtaining a list from the professional is good, you should also do your own research to find past clients and professionals who have worked with the Landscape Architect you are considering for a project.

2. Creativity and imagination. These are what separate the good from the great. Your Landscape Architect should help guide you through the entire process and make you feel comfortable about the project. If you can come up with ideas better than theirs, they are probably not the right person for the job.

3. Payment. Before you hire a Landscape Architect, they need to tell you the depth of the work involved in order to achieve the desired results. Project deadlines and a proper timeline need to be agreed on before any contracts are signed. Also find out how the professional requires payment – similar to a contractor, they may need a deposit before the project commences, with the final payment to be given near the end or after completion of the project.  

4. Budget. Although projects can differ considerably, the general rule of thumb is to invest no more than 5 – 10% of your home's market value. This is to prevent you from overspending. Don't agree to an inflated pricing plan that breaks your budget.

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