Post-conference professional pride

By Matthew Bradbury - Associate professor, Unitec Architecture Pathway Group

All professional conferences are by definition self-congratulatory but the recent NZILA City/Tāone Conference in Auckland showed landscape architects do have something to be smug about.

Anyone who attended the second day of the April conference will feel the global reinvention of central Auckland over the past 10 years seems to have been accomplished single handedly by LAs.  The profession has innovated a practice to respond to a need for new kinds of urban spaces, from waterfronts to laneways.

 Bart Brands, Henry Crothers and Sacha Coles at the April conference.

Bart Brands, Henry Crothers and Sacha Coles at the April conference.

On reflection, there was nothing inevitable about this invention – many other professions could have stepped into this gap.  But conference speakers Dr Julian Bolleter, Thomas Woltz, Mike Horne, Ryan Gravel, Rachel de Lambert, Amalie Wright, Bart Brands, Joan Raun Nielsen, Sofie Willems, Sacha Coles, Kaare Krokene, and the éminence grise of the conference, Henry Crothers,  seem to have conquered all.  This global domination is now so ubiquitous as to be almost unremarkable. If the second day of the conference led to high fives all round, the first day showed that LAs have not forgotten the centrality of the social mission for our practice.

The invention of the profession in the 19th century was intertwined with the invention of the park, a landscape that sought to alleviate the social horrors of the newly invented industrial city. The subsequent history of the profession, the centrality of women in the post-war formation of the British Institute of Landscape Architects, the prescient environmental writing and teaching practise of Ian McHarg proudly continued by Richard Weller, all point to a professional practice that has always been keenly aware of the social milieu in which it operates and the consequence and obligation that landscape practice has towards our society.

 The student charette presentation which explored decolonisation - which Matthew Bradbury says is the issue of our times. 

The student charette presentation which explored decolonisation - which Matthew Bradbury says is the issue of our times. 

Decolonisation is the issue of our times.  We are all on the train and no more so than landscape architects. The student charrette organised by Dr. Dianne Menzies and hosted by Unitec at Te Noho Kotahitanga marae helped students from the three programmes in NZ and from other countries to understand what the process means and to explore way in which their own practice can help us all decolonise the landscape.

On the first day of the conference, Dr Ella Henry with Timmah Ball, Dr Rebecca Kiddle, Jaqueline Paul, Rameka Alexander- Tu-Inukuafe, Alayna Renata, Joel Umall, and William Hatton helped us all understand the centrality of decolonisation for our professional lives and practice.  Decolonisation is our generation’s challenge, the conference helped us all to plot a path forward. 

 Unitec's Matthew Bradbury says the recent NZILA conference highlighted how much landscape architects have contributed to the reshaping of Auckland. 

Unitec's Matthew Bradbury says the recent NZILA conference highlighted how much landscape architects have contributed to the reshaping of Auckland.