The recent AILA 2013 National Conference Sydney conference was not as well attended as earlier conferences due partly to the tough economic times, and perhaps a perceived shortage of ‘designer bling’ in a program that focussed on issues of climate change and the need for landscape infrastructure in our cities. But it was outward looking, with landscape architects from other countries including:
China, Kongjian Yu was an inspiring speaker about his practice and teaching based on reconstructing ecological infrastructure. He showed an impressive body of work and amazing progress in selling his message to the mayors of China.
Singapore, Damian Tang a Melbourne trained landscape architect presented similar large – scale projects that involved converting engineered stormwater systems into more natural ecosystems which provided new recreation opportunities.
Portugal, Claudia Justino Taborda, now teaching landscape at QUT Brisbane presented a compelling manifesto about contemporary landscape in its relation to prevailing social, economic and political dynamics.
Canada, Jane Wolff presented three landscape interpretive projects for different American settings that aimed to educate the public about complex sites as an aid to future planning.
Australian academics and researchers presented on a range of issues including:
Adaption (or failure,) of the entire Australian landscape to climate change under various scenarios in a compelling and clear presentation, ( Lesley Hughes.)
Indigenous values-led planning, (Darryl Low Choy and David Jones).
CSIRO research on health impacts of climate change in urban environments (Guy Barnett)
The sustainable sites initiative from the US, (Danielle Pieranunzi) and its possible transfer to Australia (Catherine Neilson)
Practitioners who were brave enough to address the conference theme included:
Wendy Davies from AECOM Brisbane who made a passionate plea for the development of national landscape assessment guidelines.
John Mongard spoke with equal conviction about the plight of regional landscapes and communities and the real issue of food security under the current controlling influence of the big supermarkets. He advocated sustainable communities developed outside the current planning system and expansion of community gardening in existing cities.
Overlaying the formal three day program was a layer of discussion generated by the NSW group for local interest while the interstate delegates were occupied with site visits on Thursday. A highlight of the Thursday program, repeated on Friday, was a presentation by Ben Peacock of the Republic of Everyone about the Horticulture Australia Limited commission of a campaign of 202020vision. This is a web based marketing campaign that aims to achieve 20% more green space in our cities by 2020. AILA have signed up and others, including local government and design practices are invited to join the campaign in time for the launch in October.
Further information on speakers, a conference summary and several full papers will be available on www.aila.org.au, along with video recordings of most of the presentations and subsequent discussion forums.