Looking into the future for landscape architects

Dr Julian Bolleter is Assistant Professor at the Australian Urban Design Research Centre at the University of Western Australia. He’s the first speaker at this year’s NZILA Firth Conference where he’ll be speculating on the future, and outlining the role landscape architects will play.

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LAA: In your experience do city officials and Government put enough thought into (designing for) population growth?

JB: Generally not. The problem for politicians (in particular) is that by planning for the scale of population growth projected, they are seen as endorsing this growth – which when it is linked to immigration can be political suicide. Ex Australian PM Kevin Rudd said he believed in a ‘Big Australia’ of 36 million people. This got him in a lot of hot water, and his own party later rolled him. His replacement Julia Gillard ran a more nuanced line saying she believed in a ‘sustainable Australia’ and was coy about an actual population figure. This situation is symptomatic of a larger situation in which, parochial and short-term politics, mean we fail to creatively plan for population growth at the scale required...

LAA: What role do landscape architects have to play in planning?

JB: Projections indicate the 21s t century will be the ‘urban century’ as global population swells and becomes increasingly concentrated in cities. This presents city builders with an unlikely to be repeated creative opportunity. Australasian landscape architects should be instrumental in the broad scale design and delivery of city consolidation, expansion and decentralization to ensure that the resulting cities are reconciled with the ecological systems that ensure their liveability, and indeed viability.

LAA: What will be your key message at the conference?

JB: My key message is landscape architecture should take up the challenges presented by this ‘urban century.’ In the next decades, the area of global urbanisation will increase by 1.2 million square kilometres – how we reconcile this growth with the planet’s ecological systems will be critical. Grappling with this conundrum (at all scales) is our defining challenge. Never have our landscape architectural skills been more needed. 

 Julian Bolleter's award winning book - Take Me To the River uncovers hundreds of ‘lost’ proposals for Perth’s foreshore.

Julian Bolleter's award winning book - Take Me To the River uncovers hundreds of ‘lost’ proposals for Perth’s foreshore.