New IFLA president heading our way

The head of the International Federation of Landscape Architects is heading our way.  Australian James Hayter, who was elected to the role of president of IFLA in July,  will be here next week delivering a series of lectures. 

Professor Hayter is the Founding Director of Oxigen, a landscape architecture practice in Australia.  A graduate of Adelaide, Sheffield and Harvard universities, he currently serves as Professor in Landscape Architecture at the School of Architecture and the Built Environment at the University of Adelaide.

IFLA represents 76 national member associations of landscape architecture worldwide, including the New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects (NZILA). He is a Past President of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA).

 Professor James Hayter (centre) is the new IFLA president. 

Professor James Hayter (centre) is the new IFLA president. 

Landscape Architecture Aotearoa caught up with Professor Hayter ahead of his arrival in New Zealand. 

LAA: How will you approach the top job at IFLA?

JH: I see the President’s job as an enabler, helping firm the direction the federation might take into the future. IFLA is actually a very inclusive organisation that brings together many different cultures, skills and understanding of how landscape architecture can affect our communities and well-being.

LAA: Should we expect change at IFLA?

JH: I think you will see a more focused and well managed organisation. In the past we have tended to take on new directions and spend our energy towards the hot issues of the day, often encouraged and led by experts wanting to push their agenda. This is not an effective way to manage any organisation sustainably. We now have in place a strategic business plan with actions and timeframes for implementation. These actions relate to the core values we see IFLA delivering in conjunction with our professional partners – the IFLA regions, national associations and other NGOs representing professions globally.

LAA: How long have you been involved with IFLA ?

JH: My association started back in 1998 when I finished my term as AILA national president. The first meeting I attended had me hooked – it was a meeting of association delegates held in Costa Rica. Here were a group of dedicated professional landscape architects wanting to make the world a better place. The meeting was held in this central America country to advance the profession there. What better introduction to future involvement. To me it demonstrated the willingness those attending had in working not for themselves, but for the future advancement of the profession of landscape architecture worldwide.

 Professor Hayter is a graduate of Adelaide, Sheffield and Harvard Universities.

Professor Hayter is a graduate of Adelaide, Sheffield and Harvard Universities.

LAA: How important is the orgnisation in your view?

JH: It is important that national associations look outside of their borders. As practising landscape architects, we do this everyday, connecting to overseas practice, projects and theory. Our profession is a social one. We rely on benchmarking our work against others and continually testing our projects and the way we do things against others. With a, generally, booming global economy, there is little excuse to pull our heads in and ignore what others are doing elsewhere. As landscape architects, we actually thrive on this global interaction. To, perhaps, two thirds of our membership IFLA plays an incredibly important part in professional recognition in their country. In New Zealand and Australia we benefit from widespread acceptance and recognition of our profession. The same does not apply in many other countries.

LAA: Why do we need LAs from around the world to come together under an organisation like IFLA - what can the combined strength of the group achieve?

JH: I think of my practice – Oxigen - as a collective. We value everyone’s opinion notwithstanding gender, cultural background, age or experience. The same applies with IFLA. We have this wonderful opportunity for all landscape architects to share their knowledge and ideas, and by doing this to help each other, under a common banner. This makes IFLA a very powerful and inclusive organisation.

LAA: What do you hope the group will achieve under your stewardship?

JH: In the past, IFLA has gone through some difficult periods with less-than-ideal management and a dilution of effort caused by trying to do too much and be everything to too many people. I hope we can move forward now with confidence and focus on being an effective organisation that works to complement the work that our member associations, universities, other global professional bodies, practitioners and thinkers are currently engaged with. 

LAA: Coming from our region - do you think your approach will differ to those who have led it previously?

JH: We mustn’t forget that IFLA grew under the leadership of your own Diane Menzies. Her energy and commitment to the landscape architecture profession globally is still very much evident. One of my aims is to improve communications with IFLA member associations and the landscape architects they represent. In my first month as president, I’ve been in conversation with leaders in South America, Africa, India and China. I hope to be able to work with these to make a real difference to both education and professional recognition and practice in these regions.

LAA: What are the biggest issues facing LAs internationally in your view?

JH: Landscape architecture is an emerging profession globally and, in my opinion anyway (and of course I’m biased), is currently the most relevant of the design professions. In an expanding field, are we educating our new professionals to accept the leadership roles landscape architects are taking in the built environment? IFLA is currently reassessing the core values of our profession with a view to restating the definition currently adopted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). This is a very important task as it will define the broad scope of our profession into the future.

 James Hayter is delivering lectures in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch in mid September. 

James Hayter is delivering lectures in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch in mid September. 

LAA: What would you like from NZ LAs in terms of IFLA?

JH: New Zealand landscape architects are some of the best trained in the world. They have a wonderful appreciation of their country and the importance their communities have in design. They are principled and believe in the value that good design can bring to improving the health of our cities. I would love New Zealand landscape architects to share their way of thinking more.

LAA: Thinking back over your career so far - what project stands out for you?

JH: I have been lucky in my career to have worked in the public and private sectors and as an academic. Now I’m really only interested in working on projects which have a strong community focus and which lead to improving the health and well-being of our cities and rural environments. Projects which are visually trendy or fixed as aesthetic set pieces are less interesting to me. Landscapes are living, growing, changing. I want the projects I work on to change in time and ideally still be relevant and enjoyable well into the future.

LAA: If there were no barriers - what would your dream project be?

JH: Really, I enjoy every project I work on. I just love my profession. We are working on an adaptive reuse project for the old Royal Adelaide Hospital in Adelaide at the moment. This is a dream project in that it seeks to recover the history of the former use of the hospital site as well as acknowledge the original pre-European inhabitants that managed the land as country. The site has ambitions as South Australia’s second innovation district – the rise of the innovation district is a worldwide phenomena that should be of great interest to landscape architects.

LAA: Do you have any thoughts on what you are seeing from NZ in terms of landscape Architecture?

JH: From my perspective, there are probably three hot spots in landscape architecture globally – the west coast of Chile, New Zealand and the south of Spain. You could also add the north-east coast of Australia as a fourth contender. To me, landscape architecture in these regions delivers powerful statements relating to society and environment. Here I see genuine projects that celebrate humanity and a deep respect for nature. I feel lucky to be aware of and part of this movement.

People, OpinionClaire WatsonIFLA