An Interview with Pamela Sarunya Pagana


Chiara Sonzogni

It's time to present and know better our team' members!

Let’s start with interview with Pamela Sarunya Pagana, from Philippines. She is a Landscape Architect and is in the role of Professional Practice and Policy Committee Chair, for IFLA Asia Pacific Region. We’ll share with you some of her inspiring words about the profession of landscape architect, with important reflections on the role of women, young architects, and on the challenges of the future.

Enjoy it!



The green book shows the important role that women have played in the foundation of IFLA. And today, what is the female contribution in the landscape? In and out of IFLA?

Pamela (P)Just as landscape architects are called stewards of the land, women are often regarded as nurturers and associated with nature itself. But women are also inclusive by nature, they have the ability to consider everyone and almost naturally see landscape as a synthesis of bodies and stories, as the result of a close relationship between people, environment and culture. For this reason, women play a fundamental role in being able to inspire, transmit and nurture a feeling of inclusiveness even of under-represented groups that actually, precisely because of differences in beliefs, views and identity, can contribute to new perspectives and points of view, which are necessary for the development of architecture and landscape. Fortunately today, in many countries, a new awareness is maturing on the role and power of women, who have a very important planning and design sensitivity for the future, capable of grasping the challenges, the needs, one above all that of climate change. And indeed, in the Philippines, the representation of women leaders in professional firms, organisations, and government bodies related to architecture and landscape architecture is increasing.


Asia is playing an important role in landscaping, what makes this continent so sensitive to the theme of landscape? (If you prefer, you can refer to Philippines)

P: In Asia we have a great landscape culture, not only related to the past but also to the present and above all to the future. Asia is one of the largest continents in the world, about 30% of the earth's land area, and we have many different landscapes, from mountains to seabeach, from forest to desert. We have also different approaches to the landscape. For example in Japan, and also in China, landscape is strongly linked to the culture and tradition; Singapore is more tied to the present with very specific policies: which are into vertical developments due to area limitations, the buildings are compensated by ensuring that once built they have an equal amount of landscape area or green space incorporated with the building. The Philippines is a country heavily influenced by tropical cyclones and numerous volcanoes and, from which we are also practicing in disaster prevention, in finding strategies and solutions to protect the environment itself, not just to restore and rehabilitate it. This diversity of landscapes, cultures and visions is a huge potential for the entire continent, which, in a way, is an observatory on the contemporary landscape and a laboratory where practices and solutions that can be adapted. Our multifaceted sensibility is a good example for all the continents of the world that can draw from our culture, our ability to react to the present and imagine the future.


What are the major challenges facing landscape architects?

PLandscape architects faces many challenges, which I have divided into four macro-groups. The first one is working on the recognition of the landscape architect, which, being a very young profession, is not yet able to fully assert itself. It is no coincidence that in the Asia Pacific region there are very few countries where there is a law establishing the obligation to engage the landscape architect in the project design, and one of these is the Philippines, in many other cases the intervention of the landscape architect is undervalued; instead we should work on getting people to recognise the key role we can play in the development of strategies that take into account the surrounding environment, ecology, people, traditions, culture and everything else.

And it is precisely to this that the second challenge is connected, which is to consider, when faced with a new project, not only the surrounding areas, but also the people and communities living in them, thinking about the changes they will have to face as a result of the new urban or architectural intervention, because people are also part of the landscape.

The third challenge is related to the project cost. Knowing how to manage budget constraints is crucial for a landscape architect, also because often the landscape design comes in at the last stages of the project wherein the landscape cost is being compromised. Often you then have to adjust your design based in the remaining budget, something that should be thought of differently, right from the start. The role of the landscape architect must be recognised as an integral part of the project team, from which his or her proposed design approach and/or solution for the project also considers the effect of the development to the natural and human environment in which it is placed.

The last big challenge is climate change. The first problem is that not everyone believes that there is already climate change taking place, and not everyone understands the consequences of anthropogenic actions that, for example, cutting down trees can have on air quality, on people's lives, and not just those living in the deforested area, but all over the world. The real challenge of a landscape architect therefore lies in asserting his/her role as an expert professional who is able to study, offer and propose design solutions to combat climate change.


Thanks to Pamela for these inspiring words and for the passion with which she carries out her mission of a young and female Landscape Architect.


By Chiara Sonzogni