ACT Presidents Message - 21 June 2019

"One's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions." 


 Oliver Wendell Holmes


This quote has such great resonance!  


Every Landscape Architecture project, be it residential, urban square or a park management plan, presents a different challenge that demands from the designer or design team a fresh idea. The continual expansion of our minds and the thrill of discovering something new about ourselves, other people, the ecology, the land, the place, is surely a very good reason to be in this profession!


Then there is the client and the users of our creations interacting with these new ideas.  The thought that perhaps we may have stretched some one else’s mind, brought a deeper understanding, a sense of delight or the potential to participate in the ‘landscape’, has to be another very good reason to be a Landscape Architect.


And, of course the quote clearly resonates with the competition, Remaking Lost Connections! This must have stretched the minds of the entrants. I know that it stretched the minds of the jurors who have reported that the entries sparked robust, provoking discussions and brought new insights. Those who visit the exhibition of the entries at Regatta Point will certainly have their minds well engaged and stretched with the myriad of ideas around how Canberra can uniquely address the various impacts of climate change.


One aim of the competition was to demonstrate the value of local knowledge and the deep appreciation that this brings for what is special about Canberra’s landscape. This is not a new ‘idea’ but the ideas presented show the depth of talent and originality amongst our local members.  The entries certainly prove that there is the capacity to generate meaningful solutions to addressing the impacts of climate change; solutions that help to empower the community and strengthen our relationship to the ‘Bush Capital’.


I made sure I was not around the jury while they deliberated. However, Dr. Andrew MacKenzie, who acted as Jury Advisor and Secretary, reported that the Jury was incredibly thorough and had a very long, short list. Every entry was discussed and critiqued. I would like to thank the jury for being so generous, giving us their time and expertise. I would like to thank Andrew for the tremendous effort he made in assisting the jury and pulling the results and commendations together.


Of course this competition would not have happened without the backing of the National Capital Authority, the Environment Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate and the City Renewal Authority.  The assistance of these organisations and their staff was instrumental to the success and public outreach of the competition.


As Registrar, AILA ACT President and a passionate Landscape Architect, a huge personal thanks goes to all those Landscape Architects who contributed time, money and emotion resources in developing and putting in an entry.  Every scheme is a winner.  Because of your efforts the local ACT Chapter of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects is the biggest winner.  You have raised our ‘voice’ in this city.


Hopefully you are still reading as there is still more to cover in this message!


The Territory Plan Review – this is a very big idea and provides the opportunity to move every ‘dimension’ pertaining to the Canberra’s landscape quality. 


EPSDD are still scoping the consultation plan. The purpose of the two workshops I attended in May were to help develop that consultation plan. Ben Ponton, the Chief Planner, opened up the workshops stating that ‘to get different outcomes then you did to change the processes’. (I remember using similar words myself when in planning so this was VERY gratifying to hear!)  To cut to the chase, the policies and structure of the Territory Plan are up for change. There is a recognition that the one size fits all ‘zoning’ is not necessarily appropriate for a city as diverse in form and character as the Canberra. EPSDD are committed to simplifying the Territory Plan, make it clearer, more direct and ‘positive’.


This review demands a strong, collective voice from our Chapter. There is an opportunity to influence change and establish a ‘planning and operating’ environment that enable the profession to deliver innovative, excellent outcomes.  To effectively contribute to this review and push the dimensions we have to engage with each other, discuss the issues, share our experiences and develop a collective position. This is not a consultation exercise that can fall to a few people in the Executive. As a parting exercise from the Presidency, I will draft a proposal for an engagement strategy for the Chapter.


Which does bring me to the last item – the Annual Chapter Meeting!    This has been scheduled for 25 July, 5.30 pm at the National Office. A separate email will be sent out with the agenda in a week or so.  Members have already been advised that the current Executive are intending to stand down.  The current Executive Team has delivered some new initiatives that have raised the profile of the profession as well as some great social and networking opportunities.  Thanks to the commitment and enthusiasm of this Executive there is some some momentum building in our Chapter – there is some great work for a new Executive to build on.  Nominations are open!



Q         If you had a Tardis where would you go (when and where) and your reason

A         I would travel to 101 years from now, the year 2120, to see what climate change has wrought to the planet’s polar ice caps and iconic flora and fauna; as well as to my home, to see how well my humans and landscapes are adapting.


Q         If the good fairy of LA could grant you one wish for the profession what would you ask for?

A         That the landscape architecture profession be held in high esteem across society, with our work in bettering the lives of humans and caring for nature, known, valued and well funded.





The exhibition of the entries to the ideas Competition Remaking Lost Connections.


Gay Williamson