Give landscape architect Daniel D’Souza a bare piece of land and he’ll stun you by turning it into a beautifully luscious green garden, finds Cassandra D’Roza
Where takers are few, Daniel D’Souza is perhaps Goa’s most prominent landscape architect. He has a career spanning 14 years and an impressive clientele list to boast of. In fact, his first few projects were the gardens of Deepak Rajani, Remo Fernandes and Geeta and late Frank Simoes. But boasting is not his cup of tea. “I enjoy working on every project I undertake. I treat each personally. Even if it has just a Rs 500 profit, it brings me joy. I’ve always been passionate about my work ever since I was first commissioned by the Government to take up various projects in Panjim and Vasco,” he says. Despite receiving praise and adulations for his stunning work back then, Daniel felt his creativity would have been stunted if he continued to work for an organisation in a routine nine to five job. Daniel’s areas of expertise include plant propagation, specific care and miniaturization, hard landscaping including insertion of pavements, rock gardens, flower beds, water bodies and colour co-ordinated plant material. Armed with these skills, he decided to venture out on his own and in 1997, he started Plant World.
Daniel’s work today is easily distinguishable from the other landscape architects in Goa thanks to a few signature design marks like the usage of otherwise discarded items like grinding stones, tree barks, laterite stone and flowers like aboli, spider lily, local roses and zayo zoyo that are indigenous to Goa in every garden. “When it comes to a hotel, I like including such elements because they are so true to the local character. The earthy, rustic look they create is always a winner with tourists. I also like including the element of surprise in my gardens,” says this architect who has specialized the art of drawing attention to focal points in a garden. “I believe in exposing a garden a little at a time. At every possible point I introduce something new so that the walk around the garden isn’t just a walk, but a complete experience,” he explains.
Swearing by minimalism, David uses material that can easily be changed around to create a completely different look if need be. These designs, which are mostly low cost, functional and practical, work well to create that extra appeal. “Discarded material usually inspires me to create something different,” he says.
There is a lot of conceptualizing and hard work that goes into each of his creations. When working on a hotel project, he works closely with the architects suggesting ideas for water features, azulejos tiling, mosaic work and sometimes, even naming a residential block. “Anything to incorporate the feel of Goa and provide an enjoyable holiday experience for the hotel guests,” he says. For Sonesta Inn, Daniel planted the fragrant Night Queen flowers along the path heading towards the restaurant, to create that very local feel to the place.
With the help of his team of around 20 people, Daniel takes anywhere between one month to a year to complete a garden. “I’m very hands on while at work. If the employees don’t see their boss getting his hands dirty, they will not work as enthusiastically. After all, we all go on hands and knees for the things we love,” he says.
Another part of his signature style marks includes the use of oversized terracotta figures and strategically placed lights. For this, Daniel works with an artiste from Bicholim areas, Zilu who specializes in pottery and lighting which, he says, further highlights his preferred gardening style.
Work keeps Daniel busy almost 24x7. He says, “Thanks to extensive travelling and lifestyle preferences, people have realized the importance of beautifying and maintaining their gardens. Unfortunately there are not enough professionals in Goa. Also, where will they come from? A B Sc student graduating in Botany has neither the tools nor the necessary exposure to venture into this field and start out on his own. At times, when I’ve been invited as a guest lecturer or to moderate events, I have expressed my disappointment because this trade remains untapped in a state that is known for its greenery.”
But on a positive note, Daniel looks forward to a bright new year for the company and his trade. He has recently taken the role as consultant for Kenilworth Resort in Utorda and is hoping to undertake more projects in South Goa. For now, he looks forward to complete his work at designer Ritu Kumar’s property in Reis Magos and Farhan Furniturewalla’s property in Altinho-Panjim.