Manifesto about the Profession’s Future
June 10, 2016
Co-founder and CEO, Grupo Verde Ltda
This presentation was part of the Landscape Architecture Foundation’s The New Landscape Declaration: A Summit on Landscape Architecture and the Future held in Philadelphia on June 10-11, 2016. Each of the 25 invited speakers was asked to write a 1,000-word “Declaration” of leadership and ideas for how landscape architecture can make its vital contribution in response to the challenges of our time and the next 50 years. These Declarations were then presented at the Summit.
Manifesto about the Profession’s Future
The major dynamics of the 21st century — global urbanization, natural disasters and climate change — all involve landscape architecture. They are interrelated, and landscape architects can and must address them with scientific knowledge, holistic prespectives, and creative imagination. Clearly, we stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history at which we must choose our future. We are certainly living in a time of intense change with an amazing revival taking place as society, governments and stakeholders begin to appreciate the true value of the landscape.
The adoption of the European Landscape Convention, the UNESCO Recommendation on Historic Urban Landscape, the proposal for an IFLA/UNESCO International Landscape Convention, the Landscape Declaration of Florence 2012, the Latin American Landscape Initiative (LALI), the Canadian Landscape Charter, the Asia Pacific Landscape Charter, and the African Landscape Charter have established the role of landscape as a vital component of collective well-being and have highlighted the need for its management at all scales throughout the regions, including the urban and suburban, the cities and the towns, particularly degraded everyday life, as well as places with high values for heritage and natural significance.
Landscape is a shared vision in which, and to which, a vast array of disciplines converge and make contributions. Such initiatives are gaining adepts, interest and support around the globe. We may have different approaches to landscape, and each culture and community may understand it in a different way, but doubtless landscape is a crucial component of our daily lives.
The fact that landscape represents the direct experience of people in their day-to-day life explains the growing interest in the landscape. Locally, people increasingly envisage the landscape as an engine for development and a way to boost self-esteem, identity, and quality of life.
Today we speak of landscape as a system of ecological services, as an expression of social relations, as a result of everyday experience, a balance between designed open space and wild areas, as a superposition of layers of meaning and values expressing life in a particular site. And this all is central to the identity of each place.
Nowadays, Latin American is a continent with new ideas and solutions. The landscape symbolizes a coming together of the natural world, human society, and people’s needs. Cultivating these initiatives demands a new type of professional. We champion the landscape and the landscape profession, through advocacy and support, to inspire friendly and sustainable places where people want to visit, live, work, and feel they belong. For this reason, we need to work on the significance and power of the landscape and the need to accredit suitable university courses, to promote professional development, to ensure that landscape architects deliver the highest standards of practice, and to promote initiatives to foster international, regional, and local recognition of landscapes.
Landscape Architects in Latin America are especially focused on working holistically on the social component. We must bear in mind and be aware of the identity of the people who shaped the Latin American soil. These people are diverse; they originated in diverse landscapes, which should house them and provide them proper working conditions. People should be able to use their environment. Landscape architects are closely linked to the design of environments in which humans life elapses. Therefore, we are uniquely placed to help to protect existing ecosystems, to improve constructed human ones, and to regenerate those that are lost or were damaged. We can do this with our thorough thoughtful intervention. We must cultivate professional recognition, in order to continue with our task.
Landscape architects do not receive nearly as much recognition as urban planners usually do. It is now the time for landscape architecture to stand with a meaningful proposal according to our present challenges.
In the past decade, landscape has been the model and medium for the contemporary city. A wide range of alternative urban practices have emerged across the world. Many of these practices explore the ecological, cultural, and territorial implications for urban changes.
Our profession has increasingly evolved away from aesthetics, garden clubs, and parks, into larger urban and rural scales. Sustainable infrastructure, community well-being, landscape resilience and social ecology are core themes for the practice of contemporary landscape architecture. Through novel projects and new narratives, in Latin America, we have ratified the role of the landscape architect in a more social/human-centered approach.
Through urbanism and landscape design, cities can be transformed to reach the level that present society demands. By adopting an inclusive and innovative approach to urban renewal, cities can achieve what they have long struggled for: creating a strong culture towards change.
Culture-landscape-sensitive development acknowledges diversity and promotes the ability of individuals to participate freely in cultural life, in gaining access to cultural assets as well as building a culture for “living together,” helping to prevent tensions and confrontation. Thus, landscape architecture contributes to peace, conflict prevention, and reconciliation.
Landscape design has become more than greenery that heals decades of violence and fear. It is a strategically designed tool that opens civil society both physically and metaphorically.
The cities and landscapes of the future must be increasingly resilient and adaptable to changing environmental influences. Latin American natural disasters have shown the vulnerability of cities and villages. They also have proved the ability of humans to exacerbate the magnitude and intensity of man-made natural hazards. Post-disaster reconstruction makes an immense prospect for landscape architects to enhance resilience, adaptability and regeneration of their environment.
Thus, through our praxis, we have a huge opportunity to make a difference by creating resilient landscapes, affordable landscapes and landscapes of happiness, where people are the most important resource, allowing us to build for happiness and well-being.
In synthesis, our work as landscape architects:
- It is about now and tomorrow.
- It is about connecting nature and culture.
- It is about connecting practice and landscape policy.
- It is about influencing landscape change towards sustainability and resilience.
- It is about creativity, heritage, and sense of belonging, knowledge and diversity.
- It is a transversal and cross-cutting concern and, as such, affects all the dimensions of development.
- It is about teaching people awareness and the meaning/value of landscape architecture.