The Anthropocene refers to the most recent geological period of the Earth as being human anthropogenic or influenced based on the worldwide evidence that atmospheric, hydrologic, geologic, biospheric and other processes of the Earth are being changed by the humans. People are changing the environment at an increasing rate. The acknowledgement of the Anthropocene epoch in the time scale of geology balances the changes humans have caused to the Earth system to produce stratigraphic signatures in ice and sediments different from the Holocene epoch. This paper focuses on the skills landscape architects possess that enable humans to actively address the impact of human intervention on the environment and the challenges of the modern era, and provides a discussion of the importance of such skills.
The anthropogenic deposits of recent times contain rock types and new minerals indicating the rapid distribution of novel materials around the globe. The materials include concrete, elemental aluminium, and plastic that quickly evolve into techno-fossils. The combustion of fossil fuels distributes inorganic remnants, black carbon and particles of spherical carbonaceous globally. There has been an intensification of the Anthropogenic sedimentary fluxes including widespread erosion from road construction and deforestation. Delta subsidence has come about as a result of enhanced retention of sediments behind dams. The geological signatures include increased levels of polychlorinated, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, pesticide residues, and biphenyls, as well as leaded gasoline’s 207/206Pb. The content of phosphorus and nitrogen has doubled in the past 100 years due to increased fertilization, producing extensive signatures in the Greenland ice levels that have risen higher than during any other period in 100,000 years history (Waters et al. 2016, p.137).
The human forces blamed for the anthropogenic signatures are a multiplier of linked aspects that include rapid population growth of human beings, increased rate of resources consumption, and accelerated development in technology. These events have led to the growth of demand and use of fossil fuels, minerals, metals and fertilizers that enhance crop production as well as increase land and marine ecosystems transformation for human utility. The effect of the activities, processes and events have negatively impacted the existence of natural biomes, consequently leading to the loss of such due to the construction of roads, cities, agriculture and other human replacement of plants and wild animals by tamed species to meet the food demand (Waters et al. 2016, p.139).
The landscape architects harmonize the coexistence of the nature and man. Without them, the imbalance is bound to arise as the environment deteriorates with time. To avoid this, the landscape architects are equipped with various skills and technological know-how to deal with effects of anthropogenic signatures as outlined above. They are familiar with the stages and strategies of the process of landscape design, which encompasses awareness of complex ecological, social, and economic forces that motivate urban environments. They have the ability to convert an idea into strategy, space and form. The architects can synthesize advanced inventory into master plans and site designs (Dinep and Schwab 2013, p.230). They work in the physical realm, assisting to shape the extensive landscape and urban environment where people reside. They have deep knowledge in site engineering and the means in which design objectives are effectively transformed into built form. Their expertise also covers site planning that includes storm water management, landforms, structural elements designs such as walls, soils, and earthwork, as well as road designs and sight layout (Dinep and Schwab 2013, p.182). While the human activities have continued to degrade soils, which, according to Ian (1969 p. 60), is the basic factory and the farmer being the landscape gardener, landscape architects have always strived to develop projects to ensure maximum soil protection not just to prevent erosion but also for other purposes such as aboriculture.
The landscape architects’ skills in landscape planting look at the significant roles of planting in the design of the landscape from two broad perspectives; horticultural knowledge and planting designs. They understand the design processes and ecological, functional and the aesthetic characteristics of plants and how they are employed in the designing. The architects are acquainted with useful knowledge to a great scale designing and examining the significance of such practices concerning the urban environmental issues. The landscape responses architecture and interrelated progress that shape the context of modern practice, particularly the explosion or reshaping of urban centres through globalization and the changes within the regional and urban economies. According to Cliggett and Pool (2008, p.291), the development of environmental skills and consciousness, technological units, especially data computational advances and information collection and processing. The developments, as well as shifts in conceptual framework, have forced the landscape architects to become more strategic and engage catalytic styles of practices to advance the knowledge's central relevance and expertise in designing the scales.
The tree related issues are the area that landscape architects do not take for granted. They have vast knowledge concerning trees in the urban environment. They have significant skills in drafting surveys for trees and are aware of how to strategize and approach risk assessment for trees in the sites. The complexities of interior planting projects, their design, and implementation and significance of plant and light acclimation are areas of expertise for modern architects. The architects are knowledgeable in plant scheme maintenance including the approaches for the implementation and maintenance regimes through the appropriate use of contracts and key performance indicators application. Arboriculture is the area of practice that has witnessed rapid growth for the sphere of landscape architects. They are skilful in the science of arboriculture and its applicability concerning densely populated urban centres. The knowledge includes urban environment trees, woody plants physiology, street trees planting and maintenance, management of particular trees, and urban forest management. Such knowledge enables the landscape architects to manage the urban trees and preserve their life.
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The processes such as assessing appropriate trees for transplanting, the circumstances the trees can be transplanted considering site constraints, tree ages and species limitations are specific areas where the landscape architects applies their expertise. They know the best ways to manage the urban trees or forests as well as possess the understanding that the city requires deeper comprehension of frameworks of administrate city composition. They acknowledge the effects of space and configuration on human interactions and urban functioning. The knowledge on how dimension and impacts in a street influence movements and connection also enable the landscape architects to deal with urban populations and patterns.
These skills are necessary for the identification of dimensional logics that orient the urban system’s multiple elements that result in urban experience. The landscape architects understand the primary principle of ecology, its sustainability concepts and how these principles underpin landscape design. They are equipped with the concepts of biodiversity, habitat structure, succession and ecosystem stability and can explore how the principles contribute to the failure or success of urban landscapes, rebuilding of degraded landscapes and habitat creation projects. The skills enable them to view ecological functions and sustainability as critical tools in landscape designing and the role ecology and sustainability play in this respect. The skills they possess are presented in different cultural forms; consequently, the landscape architects can explore their roles in the society across time. They examine the idea of landscape, nature and environment, their functions, forms and the manner the landscape shapes and reacts to cultural values. The interdisciplinary themes such as aesthetic philosophy, politics, social history, religion, cultural geography and urban planning are critical areas to the landscape architects as far as designing and environmental consultations are concerned (Haghighat and Kim 2009, p.37). Most of them are critical thinkers with ease comprehending landscape issues hence able to apply such knowledge and the ideas while undertaking the design practices in a pragmatic and ethical manner.
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The shifts in global geopolitical and economic trends have forced a reposition of the global practices from socially, empirical and environmentally deterministic practice to catalytic and operative where negotiation and strategy exist over the traditional planning methods. The landscape architects position these ideas, which are sometimes contradictory, in shaping the environment, an on-going struggle and a historic continuum over the disciplinary ethics, identity, and boundaries. They are well-versed with issues concerning socioeconomic settings of modern large-scale landscaping planning. Their skills enable them to engage the global challenges. The conceptual hydrology frameworks, as well as those of infrastructure and ecology, can be applied in the practice of landscape planning via projects. The landscape architects understand urban design as a catalyst and can approach the urban problems with skills that focus not only on aesthetic issues and form but with a purposeful intervention produced by long time activities. For instance, the design in Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou was a result of careful designing by the landscape architects (Haghighat and Kim 2009, p.51). When approaching urban designing, they are driven by the intention to address significant challenges like unsafe environments, fragmented interventions, and economic deprivation.
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The landscape architects are versed in dealing with the fundamental challenges of physical environment sustainability. The sustainability issues include water, food, energy and systems that consist of technology and communication, transportation, community, and governance, and health and environment. They can investigate the issues, measure and present an estimate of the required consumption of resources such as energy, water, food and the waste output. By doing this, they play a central role in offering crucial advice on the best way to utilise the available resource that ensures sustainability. They can help in the finding of lasting solutions to the problems of mineral depletion due to over consumption by the humans. Through the analysis of the systems, particularly transportation that encompasses road constructions, the architects can help prevent the widespread erosion that has become a common phenomenon in the contemporary world, presenting problems such as delta subsidence (Strom, Nathan and Woland 2009, n.p). Humans have worked with the environment as a means of culture expression and survival, and this relationship has to exist in harmony. However, the recent past has seen a tilt due to the unsustainable style of living, and the current landscape shows the abuse by the human's mismanagement. There have been movements initiated by UNESCO called Cultural Landscapes whose aim is to sensitize the world about the extent of human environmental destruction and the possible ways of restoration practices (Silva and Chapagain 2013, p. 192). With their vast knowledge in such matters, the architects have been vocal, besides initiating projects that are geared at protecting the quality of the environment.
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The architects’ site designing and engineering skills have proved useful to the current problems the humans are experiencing on Earth (Strom, Nathan and Woland 2009, n.p). They have offered help to the special populations’ and roadway design needs. Landscape designing concept particularly at hospices and hospitals is known for its healing qualities not just to ensure the ground is covered has gained momentum. Landscape architects have continued to discover both therapeutic garden designs and healing landscapes for horticultural therapy (Winterbottod and Wagenfeld 2015, p. 32). The exceptionality of landscape designs offered by the architects for hospitals and nursing homes for disabled and elderly is becoming internationally known. Their skills in planning, management and designing at different scales including conservation of resources has helped to solve few current problems. Farm planning is one major area that has utilised the landscape skills in the modern world. In the US for instance, the process has involved problem identification, opportunities, and processes. The Mississippi experiment station known as MAFES has placed their dairy close to Sessums to benefit from the conservation plan, and the state still wants to determine the landscape architecture role in the preservation planning process. Such practices are a representation of environmental solutions presented by skills in architecture (Mississppi State 2016, n.p). The architects’ knowledge of the procedures involving land and water reclamation including mine, quarry, and landfill reclamation has presented a solution to some serious land dereliction as a result of human activities.
The past few years have witnessed increased activities and interest in the efforts to reclaim the regions that have been derelict into recreational sites such as woodlands or large parks. It has been out of the realization by the landscape architects that such places may be toxic and too unstable to allow any other economic activity. The landscape architects have enabled reusability of such areas hence creating a sense of ecological sustainability. Montana State is an example that has embraced landscape architecture to turn former mining sites into diverse recreational opportunities currently earning the state revenue while, at the same time, the process has created environmental and ecological sustainability (Porterfield 2011, p. 30).
In conclusion, human beings have contributed to the deterioration of environment due to their unsustainable relationship with the nature. Their activities have led to depletion of critical minerals and important resources that may threaten their existence. However, the advancement in the knowledge of landscape architecture has restored some hope. The skills the landscape architects possess have enabled a significant restoration of degraded and derelict land that has lost its aesthetic value. An example is the Montana State that has turned the mines into recreational facilities (Porterfield 2011, p. 30). Urban and city design is also an area that has benefited from landscape architects’ skills. One such example is Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.