In 1987 the Brundtland report, Our Common Future, was published. It recognized that environmental problems were global in nature and urged the UN General Assembly to establish policies for sustainable urban development. My late husband Peter Oberlander, pressed this book into my hands and said, “This will change your landscapes,” and so it did as shown in projects over the last 20 years.
Today, the scale of our environmental challenges demands a new group of professionals for the landscapes of our future. I would therefore re-configure Sir Geoffrey’s table to include: (slide)
Urban and Regional Planner
Structural and mechanical and cost consultants
Selected projects of my work have all been undertaken in the spirit of collaboration, and showing my commitment to modernism, sustainability and ecological design.
A new model for Landscape Architecture is needed which will accommodate all of these professions. The eminent American Landscape Architect, Joseph Brown, defined the new model succinctly in Topos as art + engagement.
We must practice what I call the three R’s of every project: (1) responsibility, (2) risk taking and (3) research, which involves both analysis and synthesis. Above all, we must learn to collaborate and engage with related professions. We need what I call VIM, namely Vision, Imagination, and Motivation in order to accomplish these goals.
If we want to keep the biodiversity around us and keep the world green with healthy cities and healthy people, there is no time to loose. If we want landscape architecture to become the ‘art of the possible’ we must discover new aesthetically pleasing solutions that are both ecologically and technically sound. The planet is finite. Land is a resource, not a commodity. We must limit our footprint on each site, while revealing a new dimension and respecting nature. Advocates for both the built and natural environments will need to collaborate to meet these current and future challenges.
I dream of Green Cities with Green Buildings where rural and urban activities live in harmony. Achieving a fit between the built form and the land has been my dictum. This can only be done if all our design related professions collaborate from the very beginning of each project. This will help us to meet the enormous developmental challenges facing our increasingly crowded urban regions. We must work with creativity and imagination on a global scale for sustainable urbanization as it was discussed in 2006 at the UN World Urban Forum in Vancouver, “Turning Ideas into Action.”
Today, landscape architecture can be more than ever a leading edge profession. We are concerned with the bigger picture of our built and natural environments. We have learned from E.O.Wilson’s Biophilia Hypothesis, which suggests a biologically based, instinctive bond between humans and their environment. In short, the longing for nature is built into our genes. Contributions to the more recent publication Biophilic Design: the Theory, Science, and Practice of Bringing Buildings to Life (Kellert, 2008) stresses the need for an approach to architecture and landscape design which is based upon positive experiences of natural systems and processes.
Furthermore, studies have been undertaken to scientifically prove the restorative qualities of nature, called “Attention Restoration Theory” or ART. Children in our urban areas often suffer from nature deficiency disorders, which must be alleviated with education in nature and with nature. We must cultivate human and environmental well-being at a local and global scale. The challenges of climate change, hyper-urbanized growth, the loss of open space, agricultural lands – essential for our food security, and resource scarcity such as water, are expanding the scale, methods, and demand for our profession. We cannot solve these problems alone. As designers, we must sit around the ‘table for twelve’ and become members of teams to develop site-specific solutions in order to create healthy cities for healthy multi-cultural populations.