HKU landscaping programme offers bright horizons
Written by Wong Yat-hei
Landscape architects are in demand in Hong Kong and the mainland. The profession has grown in stature over the past 20 years as developers are becoming more aware of the value of high-quality landscaping. The University of Hong Kong (HKU) established its master of landscape programme to turn out professionals for the industry.
The only programme of its kind in Hong Kong takes a practical approach. Besides classroom lectures, students are encouraged to carry out research projects and participate in field trips, workshops and exchange programmes with overseas institutions.
‘The programme takes both practical and theoretical studies seriously. It provides students with fundamental design knowledge and skills for practice in landscape architecture,’ said Matthew Pryor, HKU’s acting head of the landscape architecture division. ‘Students spend about half the time attending lectures in landscape design history, theory, environmental sciences, planting, visual communication and professional practice. The rest of the time will be spent on undertaking projects within the design studio sessions as a means of learning and applying landscape design knowledge and techniques.’
As landscaping has become a booming industry around the world, it is common for Hong Kong-based landscape architects to work on projects on the mainland and in Southeast Asia, India and the Middle East. Training students to have an international view on landscape design is vital.
‘We want our students to develop a global vision and be exposed to high-quality designs. There are three-to-four-day trips to places around Hong Kong to study landscape architecture. In the second year, students will go on a two-week study trip to Europe or the United States at the end of October to broaden their horizons. Student exchanges with other universities around the world are also highly encouraged,’ Mr Pryor said.
Landscape architecture gives a high degree of job satisfaction because many practitioners can enjoy freedom in creating designs that benefit the community. Mr Pryor said that these advantages persuaded many professionals in other fields to switch to landscape architecture.
‘We have students from a wide range of backgrounds. There are architects, landscape architects, interior designers, urban designers, professionals from environmental sciences and management, fine arts, geography, biology and forestry. Some have worked in private practice or government before, while others come straight from their first degree,’ he said.
A strong interest in design and natural environments is an important factor. As there is no undergraduate course in landscape architecture, the course accepts graduate students with first degrees in subjects related to design, arts and environmental sciences. They should also have good verbal and visual communication skills since there are various oral presentations and essays.
The programme enrols 24 students each year in May, with the academic term beginning in September.
The course is only offered on a full-time basis for two years. Students are assessed through technical exercises, study reports, notebooks, research studies, essays, presentations and workshops. There are also written examinations.
Ronnie Siu Pui-kei, who is in her second year of studies, has a strong interest in landscape design. She took up the course to upgrade her professional knowledge. ‘I studied town and country planning at University College London. After graduation, I worked in the field of town planning and urban design. Landscape architecture is fascinating because I love to work with nature. And I enjoy using sunlight and plants in design projects very much,’ Ms Siu said.
Apart from learning many design aspects, theories and principles, Ms Siu has also learned to enjoy the design process rather than focusing entirely on the final product.
‘It is an important mentality to have when creating designs. I hope to become a professional landscape architect with a sense of environmental responsibility and to have my own signature design one day.’