Recognition may be just around the corner for Moroccan landscape architects and designers!
If the denomination “landscape architects and designers” has been protected and recognized in France since 2016, people plying the same trade in the Kingdom of Morocco are not (yet) recognized. But the AAPM (the Moroccan Landscape Architects and Designers Association) is working hard to promote a fast-changing profession and provide a framework to fight climate change! Architect and landscape designer AAPM President Akram El Harraqui opens the door onto landscaping in Morocco.
The Moroccan landscaping sector, a tradition now operating on a bigger scale
Good news for landscape architects and designers based in Morocco: recognition of their expertise is growing! “Initially, the Moroccan private sector mainly used jobbing landscape gardeners as designers for small residential projects, but that is changing. Landscape designers are now considered to be professionals and the business, although off to a slow and sometimes awkward start, is becoming recognized by public authorities as a meaningful contributor to larger-scale projects”, explains Mr. El Harraqui. Designers are now involved in much bigger projects, like public parks, green spaces and urban developments.
« Landscape designers are now considered to be professionals and the business, although off to a slow and sometimes awkward start, is becoming recognized by public authorities as a meaningful contributor to larger-scale projects »
This transformation is rooted in a vast project adopted by the Moroccan government: “Over the last ten years, there has been a vast change in policy with the creation of several Local Development Companies with the legal status of Public traded companies to provide major support for local authorities. One of the great advantages for the development sector is that these companies are not governed by politics, unlike public authorities. Because they are no longer limited to short-term projects, they can plan for the future!”
As a result, these agencies are recruiting and consulting landscape architects and designers as members of multi-specialist teams to run projects. However, much remains to be done before the profession is recognized, despite an age-old national gardening heritage, which can be seen in the spellbinding Majorelle botanical garden, one of Morocco’s main tourist attractions. Landscape engineering goes much further than gardens, for example the Kingdom’s urban and regional landscapes which are in the purest Morrocan landscaping traditions: the layouts of the four imperial cities of the Kingdom and Casablanca were designed by landscape creators!
A landscaping sector based on the French model, with its own difficulties - and new opportunities
In France, landscape design is a profession which has matured over time and achieved objectivity. But although Morocco has an administrative structure which is, in many cases, similar to France’s, the profession is experiencing some difficulties in obtaining recognition.
“Although the denomination “landscape architects and designers” is recognized by the UNO International Labor Organization subsidiary and that the title of “landscape designer” has been recognized and protected in France since 2016, we still have difficulties in getting recognition for our trade in Morocco. Without this recognition, not enough young people are attracted to studying landscaping in our country. They are more interested in architecture - a relatively saturated sector”, says Mr. El Harraqui.
However, new opportunities are opening up in the fast-changing landscaping market. “In France, most urban developments are finished. French landscape designers work in a relatively mature market, where it is more difficult for the new graduates to make a name for themselves and create private landscaping businesses. Very few branch out on their own in the private sector. Most join already existing firms or increasingly specialized public authorities. One result is that graduates look for work outside France. In Morocco, 20 to 30% of landscape gardeners working in companies are French!”
The landscape architect and designer’s profession needs to be revalorized…
This profession is much more complex than the general public and public authorities think: it’s not just about beautifying gardens! As Mr. El Harraqui emphasizes, landscape designers can solve national problems.
“There are no projects without sites. Whatever the nature of the project, everything starts with understanding a place, including its landscape, its topography, its climate, its inhabitants, its history, etc. So each project must have a landscape architect and designer. For example, the management of the morphology of the plot – and what that implies for water management. Without landscape architects and designers, water management, for example for drainage, would be less than optimal and present life-threatening risks for people, fauna and flora. There may be a whole panel of experts on hand, but landscape architects and designers are essential for taking account of local, natural, biophysical, geological, meteorological and many other factors. Every man-made construction impacts the environment – the difference between natural and artificial landscapes. Our goal is to reduce – and even erase - this impact. Who other than landscape architects and designers is better placed to understand the uniqueness of a site? However, too often, landscape architects and designers are only called in at the end of a project, whereas they should intervene at the beginning, working in symbiosis with the other specialists and mainly with those concerned by architecture with whom they have the most affinity.”
…to fight climate change
Every country faces its own environmental challenges. The greatest cause of concern in Morocco is water management.
Mr. El Harraqui explains: “The World Resources Institute ranks Morocco among the 20 countries most prone to water scarcity. Our government is strongly committed to a sustainable development policy. We even have a framework law in our constitution for an environmental and sustainable development charter but the general public has not taken this problem to heart. For me, recognition of landscape architects and designers is essential because, with nearly a third of greenhouse gas emissions generated by Construction and Urban Development sectors, landscape architecture is a way to solve the problem. I am convinced that, in the fight against the climate change, our profession will become a major weapon, but for that we need more experts!”
To resolve the problems of climate change and find the right solutions a new synergy is essential between all the trades involved, positioning landscape architects and designers at the center of urban development, landscaping and gardening.
The Moroccan Landscape Architects and Designers Association (AAPM)
Founded in 2010, this association, recognized by IFLA (The International Federation of Landscape Architects) works to obtain recognition of the profession of landscape architects and designers in Morocco.
The AAPM promotes the profession in many ways, including:
- increased vigilance in the respect of good professional practices;
- the local and international promotion of landscape architects and designers in Morocco;
- the creation and conservation of landscapes;
- the promotion of international educational and professional exchanges;
- skills enhancement for association members;
- the development of specialized teaching courses.
In 2017 the AAPM organized the African Symposium on the Landscape and the Environment with IFLA Africa on the topic “Learning from and teaching Landscapes: towards a sustainable world through new and ancestral knowledge”.
The problems, opportunities and challenges in the Moroccan landscape architecture and design sector attract foreign talents. But, like many other countries, Morocco will need to become more aware of environmental issues before landscape architects and designers get the respect they deserve! For an international overview of landscaping, come to Paysalia from 3rd to 5th December in Lyon, France. In 2017, 22% of Show exhibitors were from outside France!
Our thanks to Akram El Harraqui for his contribution.
© Photo credit: Erik / stock.adobe.com