2019 Landscape Australia Conference: Cultivating New Agencies

Today’s 2019 Landscape Australia Conference, held in Melbourne, brought together local and international speakers on the role of landscape in shaping our future through the design, planning and management of gardens, cities and regions.

The power and personal significance of places were themes touched on by Sanitas Pradittasnee of Thailand’s Sanitas Studio, whose background in landscape architecture and fine art shines through her work and focus on ‘sculptural space’.

With these ideas in mind, the work of Sanitas Studio can be interpreted as a meditation on contrasts – in materials, forms, history and culture. Take, for example, “Khao Mo Mythical Escapism”: a towering, immersive installation of mirrored boxes that encase a pile of soil, designed to offer city dwellers a moment of escape. Another work for the Bangkok Art Biennale 2018, “Across the Universe and Beyond” saw a transparent red perspex screen inserted at Khao Mor, Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn). “[It’s] not only a journey inside the installation, but a journey outside,” Sanitas explained.

Later on, Walter Hood of America’s Hood Design Studio expounded that by embracing “the freedom [to act] freely” in his practice, he could test the boundaries of conventional landscape architecture. Incorporation of cultural and historical context underpins Hood Design Studio’s oeuvre, demonstrated by projects like Nashville’s “Witness Walls”: public art commemorating the city’s role in the American Civil Rights Movement.

Henry Crothers of New Zealand’s LandLAB also advocated for site-specific/sensitive design through the practice’s Auckland Harbourside projects, which centre on bringing urban renewal, local ecology and Māori history to the forefont. Crothers also touched on their work turning a redundant ramp in the centre of a highway into a dynamic cyclepath.

Finally, Sanitas Pradittasnee, Walter Hood and Henry Crothers were joined by Roberta Ryan (University of Technology, Sydney) and Helen Smith-Yeo (STX Landscape Architects, Singapore) in a panel discussion chaired by Cassandra Chilton. The group reflected on the importance of believing in their work as landscape architects and the merits of subversion as a design objective. Helen Smith-Yeo summarised the day’s diverse program concisely: “Design teaches you about life.” Truer words were never spoken.


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