Landscape Architects respond to Moving Forward on Climate Change

Recently, I posted the article “Moving Forward on Climate Change” calling for landscape architects to address climate change and seek to make a positive change. At the end of the article, there was a call for landscape architects to respond and I received the following responses.

“Landscape architects are equipped to provide greater literacy about resilience to community residents facing choices or action plans.  We are able to communicate the technical, ethical and social issues to help place communities at the center of the dialogue.  In essence we can illustrate what risk means and help people evaluate the level of risk they can tolerate. Changes needed to advance adaptation can be hard to accept but landscape architects have the capacity to think broadly and into the future.  Building resilience to sea level rise, coastal and inland flooding demands a variety of strategies that need to provide multiple solutions that achieve the triple bottom line of social, environmental and economic benefits.”


Signe Nielsen – Principal, MNLA, New York

“This article is a call to action that no professional can afford to ignore. What stands out is the list of potential actions that landscape architects can take to improve climate-friendly outcomes. Almost all of these actions are at the core of our profession! Excepting new materials and technologies, all of these have been in the realm of landscape architecture throughout my 45 years of practice. Landscape architecture may be the most integrative and connective of the design professions. Our work links everything else together. When we conceptualize the entire landscape as a functioning ecological, environmental and social system, we are on the right track to reduce our carbon footprint while building healthier communities and treating our Earth with more respect.”


Mark Johnson, Principal, Civitas and Co-Chair of the Climate Council of the Van Alen Institute.

“It is patently clear that the climate is changing, and it is also patently clear that it will be impossible to get a consensus of action globally that will stop it or slow it down until things get much worse, by which time it will be clearly too late to change it. Landscape architecture will not be able to change it, though as individuals, rather than professionals who don’t like to express their opinions in case clients don’t like them, we should each consider what political and protest mechanisms we are willing to use as members of society to lobby government. Landscape architecture, however, is VERY effective at mitigation and site-based adaptation, and the strategies that you mention will be vital contributors to such responses. One thing that landscape architects on LinkedIn are starting to endorse, I notice, is geo-engineering, and one can imagine why, since it may feed into professional income streams/methodologies like visual impact assessment, etc. I would argue that if there is one political issue where the profession should unite, it would be to use our appreciation of the complexity of nature and the environment to categorically reject such interventions into the planet. We can agree that climate change is happening but we might disagree whether it is anthropogenic, so reversing modeling to the proposition and messing with the planet must be avoided. Our only precedent for that is the Anthropocene, and look at how that worked out.”

Julian Raxworthy PhD, Honorary Associate Professor, ATCH (Architecture, Theory, Criticism and History) Research Centre, School of Architecture, University of Queensland. Author of Overgrown.

Moving Forward on Climate Change provides an overview of both why incorporating climate change in design and planning is critical but also some of the specific and technical ways how we, as landscape architects, can do that. In order for us to maximize impact, we also need to use our expertise and communication skills to spread the word and engage the public to better understand the risks and opportunities.”

Gina Ford – Principal and Co-Founder, Agency

“Great article. And I was surprised at the number of things that Landscape Architects could do, actually. That’s a really positive message, that across different scales and time frames we can plan and design for a more resilient urban environment that uses less energy, but provides more flexible and adaptable places for health and social interaction. Spaces for sports venues and public artistic expression, water recycling to food production, civic occasions to community gatherings, ecologically rich reserves to walkable green corridors ”


Simon Morrison – Director, ICN Design, Singapore

These responses give us more to think about moving forward on climate change. Thanks to those who responded.
Damian Holmes – Editor WLA

Cover image credit – Flickr User
Kimberly Vardeman