AILA National President, Linda Corkery shares her perspective on AILA’s last 50 years of service to the industry and what’s ahead for the next 50.
What are your reflections on the path AILA has forged in the last 50 years and how has the focus of the organisation changed during this time?
Over the past 50 years, the roles and influence of landscape architects have expanded immensely and, accordingly, AILA has grown and evolved to represent the scope and interests of its members. Landscape architects work on projects of significant scale and complexity in the development and redevelopment of urban areas—from high-density residential urban projects to greenfield developments in outer suburban and rural environments. We collaborate with architects and engineers on the design of major urban interventions such as streetscapes, motorways, public transport systems, bicycle and pedestrian networks, town centres and commercial precincts.
We also work strategically to plan and manage thousands of hectares of public open space that provide recreation facilities and areas for biodiversity conservation and renewal. Our influence spans local, state and federal agencies as well as connecting into the private sector, where landscape architects are found in design and engineering consultancies, the development industry, and with landscape product suppliers. AILA has a broad vision for the promotion of landscape architecture as a key partner with other built environment professions in the collective endeavour of creating liveable cities, supported by healthy ecosystems throughout and surrounding them.
What role do you feel AILA will fulfil in the industry in the next 50 years?
AILA will continue to advocate for landscape architects’ involvement at all levels in many different forums to address the pressing challenges around accommodating rapid urbanisation. This will include landscape architects operating in the political arena to influence policy and legislation aimed at ensuring healthy, sustainable, equitable and enjoyable environments throughout our cities and regional areas. We are big picture thinkers with a capacity to apply systems thinking and creative problem solving to complex projects, and we will continue to champion the integration of nature and natural systems in our cities. AILA’s essential ongoing role will be to support and represent the profession and disseminate the knowledge and experience landscape architects bring to creating liveable and healthy built and natural environments.
What areas of interest/focus does AILA identify as being the most significant in the industry right now?
The most pressing and significant issue for all of humanity is climate change and the associated impacts and challenges it will inevitably bring. A fundamental approach to addressing this issue will be conserving, protecting, enhancing and restoring urban ecology. AILA considers the integration of green infrastructure systems as crucial to building resilience and delivering climate change mitigation and adaptation measures. The Institute promotes green infrastructure (GI) as the networks of trees and other vegetation, public open spaces, parks, highway landscapes, green roofs and green walls, urban forests, and waterways that connect throughout cities and across the landscape. When designed, implemented and managed well these features deliver multiple benefits for humans and nature. Importantly, GI contributes to human health and wellbeing by supporting physical activity and encouraging public places for social engagement and participation. GI elements also comprise important assets that increase in economic value as they mature, as evidenced in reports from the growing field of cost-benefit evaluation of GI that is informing decisions on investments by public and private sectors.
How is AILA working to support/develop those interests?
AILA is actively endorsing the integration of green infrastructure systems in planning and designing for urban development as a means of ensuring ongoing sustainability and increased resilience. The Living Cities Alliance, the outcome of a successful AILA workshop convened in February 2016, is an example of AILA’s continuing commitment and investment of resources to extend the scope and involvement of landscape architects around this issue. Representing over 40 organisations, sectors and trades, the Living Cities Alliance is a national platform for promoting GI investment by cities and regions that will underpin more sustainable and resilient futures.
What is the growing-edge of the industry moving into the future?
We can’t ignore or underestimate the combined realities of rapid urbanisation and a changing climate. In response, landscape architects must be actively involved in policy development, research, education and new approaches to designing, building, and managing urban systems. We have to help our cities and neighbourhoods prepare to accommodate higher densities of population, safer and more efficient ways of moving around the city, plentiful and equitable access to greenspace, and robust urban ecosystems. Highly performing landscapes that incorporate green infrastructure systems will increase urban resilience and achieve not just environmental benefits, but also social and economic. Finally, we need to better understand and appreciate the deep connections between environmental health and human health and promote the central role of landscape architecture in addressing this relationship.
Photo courtesy of Street Furniture Australia