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Landscape Architecture Challenges

Martha Cecilia Fajardo
President of the IFLA (International Federation of Landscape Architects) from 2002 down to a few days before writing these lines for our newsletter

I would like to thank the Landscape Observatory (an extraordinary instrument seeking to heighten awareness of the landscape in society as a whole) for offering me the chance to reflect in general terms on the IFLA and the importance of landscape architecture, taking my last four years as president of that institution as my starting point.

What are the challenges now facing us? What role can we play - along with our partners in the Federation - in responding appropriately to what is expected of us? We are now moving towards a world that is very different from the world of 1948 when the IFLA was first set up. The world today is influenced by globalisation, technology and the virtual web. In everything from health to human rights, and taking in climate change, ecological disasters and capital movements on the way, our world is demanding increasingly global solutions.

As the world population becomes increasingly urban, political interest in the landscape is growing. And as the people call for a feeling of identity in a world that is ever more globalised, we landscape architects must take the lead in understanding and interpreting the special features of the space concerned. How can we landscape architects make a contribution to the future of human civilisation through planning and design?

Current trends are making landscape architecture one of the most exciting professions in the early twenty-first century. As a professional discipline, landscape architecture is increasingly taking the lead with regard to complex ecological, social and economic problems, and providing solutions for working on the chaos of the megalopolis. It provides landscape-based solutions for the problem of waste, water-quality management, city traffic and run-down cities. And it is drawing more attention to the search for urban and regional identities, the values of leisure and quality of life, and socially accepted environmental awareness, though without ignoring specific needs such as protection against flooding or depopulation.

The modernisation of buildings and cities in some countries in the world is the responsibility of landscape architects, who have the same status and the town planners in many urban renovation and development projects. European and American city designers have made a huge contribution to the degree of credibility enjoyed by the profession. Accordingly, we now have the chance to help in building up our profession's credibility all over the world.

In my view, the most important tasks for our profession worldwide are currently four in number. Firstly, moving towards collective leadership through cooperation and consensus. Common objectives and interests must be established, the visibility of the profession must be guaranteed, and the quality of design work in terms of sustainability must be defined. Secondly, the challenges we are facing must be regarded as pieces in an interconnected jigsaw puzzle: the environment, development, health and finance cannot be treated as separate matters. The quest for effective solutions on a global scale rests on the common wish to attain a sustainable future for the planet. Consequently, the future of landscape architecture depends on understanding and assimilating the successes of other disciplines and professions. Thirdly, we must work together in a global organisation able to deal with the following issues, all of which are complex:

  • An organisation that truly represents the new global context.
  • An organisation that prompts leaders to develop a policy of visibility and new challenges for the profession.

Last but not least, clear guidelines are needed for associations, institutions and the academic world for promoting a global strategy and common actions, aimed at:

  • A common strategy for achieving consolidation among international partners, national associations and the members.
  • A common strategy for achieving a sustainable environment, such as Green Solutions for a Blue Planet.
  • A commitment to an ethical code - focusing on people and values, nature and diversity, independence and globalisation - enabling our current challenges to be tackled.
  • A common strategy for raising public awareness with regard to the landscape-architecture profession: the profession must be "sold" to politicians, the media, and society in general.

I am sure that we will bequeath to future generations an organisation that is not only larger and more influential, but also one that is better organised, more democratic, and close to all landscape architects all over the world. Now is the time to stand out.

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