Karen Botes

Staff Profile 


MTech Hort. Cum laude (TUT) BL (UP)

Researcher, Lecturer

Contact no: +27 (0)12 420 2128

Email: [email protected]

Office: 3-5 Boukunde Building


Karen is a Landscape Architect with extensive experience in landscape architecture and environmental impact assessment.  She founded and successfully managed a micro-enterprise in Gauteng for 20 years, after which she joined the University of Pretoria as a lecturer in January 2019.  Ian McHarg's viewpoint that humans are part of an ecological system inspires her to adopt an ecological-based planning design approach.  She is passionate about innovative green infrastructure implementation for enhanced ecosystem services.  Karen was the principal landscape architect for numerous green-star projects involving green infrastructure for enhanced ecosystem services.  Karen received two awards of excellence from the South African Landscapers Institute (SALI) and one from the Institute for Landscape Architecture in South Africa (ILASA).  She completed her Master of Technologiae (Horticulture) Cum Laude at the Tshwane University of Technology in 2007.  Her research focus for her PhD entails growing Traditional African Vegetable (TAV) species in modular living wall systems (LWSs) for food security.  Career highlights include the 2020 Department of Architecture and EBIT Faculty Teaching and Learning awards and winning the World Building Council's abstract competition in Melbourne in 2022 with her abstract titled: "Traditional African Vegetables in Modular Living Walls: A Novel Approach Towards Smart Cities".  Karen is a member of the Unit for Urban Citizenship (UUC), the Institute of Landscape Architecture in South Africa (ILASA) Gauteng branch committee and has served as a regional judge for the South African Landscapers Institute (SALI) Gauteng branch since 2015.

Course involvement and teaching philosophy

Karen believes that students are inspired to learn best by adding real-life experiences to their theory through positive education pedagogy. Her teaching practice therefore aims to develop a positive learning environment in which students are not only motivated to develop a cognitive knowledge of their field but also to become capable and skilled professionals with integrity and an awareness of their responsibility towards our planet and its valuable resources.

Karen teaches Earth Studies to undergraduate students.  In the Honours course, she leads the Designed Ecology design studio and supervises students in Research Field Studies.  She also supervises students in the masters course and is involved in their Design Project Development studio.

Research profile

ORCID ID: 0000-0001-8227-8716

Department Research Focus Areas: Designed Ecologies

Research interests

A paradigm shift is necessary to reconfigure global and Sub-Saharan African (SSA) agricultural practices and food systems in response to growing planetary concerns.  The growing population, rapid urbanisation, poverty, and unemployment exacerbate food security, even more so considering climate change.  As significant carbon emission contributors, agriculture and cities must respond to global issues and integrate green initiatives to create climate-resilient livelihoods and food security.  Building facades comprise roughly double the area of building footprints in urban areas.  Over and above their biophilic value and ecosystem services, living walls on building facades can provide localised food production and promote sustainable agriculture by minimising food miles and waste.  Growing appropriately selected edible crops in living walls could.  Karen's research postulates that outdoor modular living wall systems with Traditional African Vegetables could improve the economic feasibility, resilience, and maintenance of living wall systems and contribute to local household food security as EGI in local urban environments (Gauteng, South Africa). 

Link to Research at Future Africa campus:



Research projects

Living walls with Traditional African Vegetables for food security. This project aims to test Traditional African Vegetables (TAV) that have potential for food production and cultivation in exterior living walls. This project is funded by Innovation Africa and the UP UCDP programme.

African Food crops in living wall systems. The objective was to analyse and define student learning through virtually engaging with a real-life project and cross-disciplinary collaboration (landscape architecture, landscape technology and horticulture).

Recent publications

Botes, K.L. & Breed, C.A. 2022. Traditional African vegetables in modular living walls: A novel approach towards smart cities. Proceedings: World Building Congress (WBC). Melbourne. 29 June.

Botes, K.L. 2022. Traditional African vegetables: living walls. African Journal of Landscape Architecture, Issue

Botes, K.L. 2022. African food crops in living walls. Unpublished paper presented at: Sustainable built environments. Elgin-Grabouw Valley. 29 March.

Botes, K.L. 2021. Reimagining experiential learning in landscape architectural education, unpublished paper presented at: Flexible Futures. Pretoria. 26 August. 

Botes, K.L. & Breed, C.A. 2021. Outdoor living wall systems in a developing economy: A prospect for supplementary urban food production? Acta Structilia, 28(2), pp. 143-169. http://dx.doi.org/10.18820/24150487/as28i2.6

Botes K., Botha A.J.M. 2021. Experiential E-Learning: A Creative Prospect for Education in the Built Environment? In: Zhou W., Mu Y. (eds) Advances in Web-Based Learning – ICWL 2021. ICWL 2021. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 13103. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-90785-3_9

Students supervised

ML(Prof) students supervised:


Robyn Smith, ML(Prof). A veined landscape of regeneration. A re-imagined Hennops River environment by choreographing the sporadicness that occurs within it.


Gareth Faul, ML(Prof). Living landfill: regenerating a waste landscape


Josias Potgieter, ML(Prof). Hedges against extinction: An Inner City Regional Riverine Botanical Park 

ML(Prof) students co-supervised:


Francois du Plessis, ML(Prof). Farming across boundaries: nomadic landscape system within a corridor of movement

Jill Williams, ML(Prof). Imag[ing] Arniston: A Landscape Architectural, value-based approach to the future of heritage and tourism in Arniston/ Waenhuiskrans.


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