Over the past decade, we have seen landscape architects moving out of shadows and increasingly leading projects from residential developments, placemaking, urban design and climate change initiatives including Resilient by Design projects or reimagining a city precinct or leading a conservation and tourism plan. The profession of landscape architecture has increased in profile and also influence in designing cities and places.
Mark Jensen of Jensen Architects was quoted in Architecture Record “Getting involved in projects at the earliest planning stages is a critical step. It used to be that landscape architects got hired last on a project, and now they’re often hired first because we’re paying more attention to how buildings and land use must work together,”. Jensens statement is one of a recent indicators from architects and other allied professionals that show recognition that landscape architects are taking the lead on projects. Another was the recent “Repair” exhibition by Australian Institute of Architects’ at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale although contentious for its curatorial statement it showed an understanding that “It requires a coming together across disciplinary boundaries and a widening of the architectural knowledge base to a front end detailed understanding of a site across multiple scales; where the very small scale action has a role in the large scale, and a facilitation of repair of the environment through the many decisions we make.” and that landscape architects are key at widening that knowledge of nature and the built environment.
The shift from being hired last to being hired first is great for the profession, however, we need to harness the energy of this shift to improve the profession and also increase our influence on shaping the built environment. There are numerous changes and movements occurring including smart cities, increasing urban density, water shortages, social inequality, climate change that we need to voice our opinions to ensure that the cities are changing for the better.
Landscape architects cannot shy away from the hard discussions about urban environments, social sustainability, technology, and need to also influence budgets and showcase the added value that good landscape architecture brings to projects. We need to bring the value of the landscape architecture profession to the attention of decision-makers and stakeholders. On the other hand, the profession needs to seek knowledge and education about the economics of landscape including the value (perceived and empirical) of trees, spaces, transport, smart technology and more so that when we lead other disciplines we can empathise with others and bring them together to promote a holistic approach to designing cities.
Landscape architects are “generalists” in nature and have a broad understanding of the built environment. We need to use this knowledge to work with allied professionals by leading and uniting teams to create greater environments for people. By becoming leaders we will greatly improve the environments and create places that allow everyone to thrive.
Article Written by Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of WLA.
He is also a registered Landscape Architect and has extensive experience as a landscape architect in Australia, Canada, and China.