Last week I had the pleasure of speaking about the importance of living infrastructure at the Margaret Hendry Forum in Canberra. I was joined by esteemed AILA Fellow members Barbara Schaffer, Claire Martin and Gay Williamson.
Can, should or must Landscape Architects address how living infrastructure becomes an ‘ecological system’ in our cities?
Firstly, let’s unpack the challenges of today’s world. The urban built environment is responsible for 75% of the world’s global greenhouse gas emissions1. We are witnessing alarming canopy cover loss and, with one million of the world’s species under threat of extinction2, we are rapidly approaching a sixth mass extinction.3
Living infrastructure offers innovative solutions toward healthy landscapes and people through the creation of interconnected, resilient landscapes. By combining green and blue infrastructure, it builds on ecological science to provide social, environmental, cultural and economic benefits.
Social benefit – interaction with nature has psychological and physiological benefits for humans. Connection with nature promotes social cohesion, mental health, concentration and productivity. Studies in the US have found a correlation between the increase of tree canopy coverage with a decrease in crime rates.4 Tree lined streets encourage people to use the public realm, increasing passive surveillance and decreasing anti-social behaviour.
Environmental benefit – open spaces allow opportunities for ecological enhancement and biodiversity. Human interaction in reserves promotes an educational role, inviting contribution to conservation and sustainable living through appreciation of nature. Large canopy trees reduce urban heat island effect, whilst green links reduce the risk of fragmentation and allow fauna to access habitat, food and mates.
Cultural benefit – living infrastructure can benefit cultural groups and provide a platform for cultural knowledge exchange, such as fostering Indigenous land management practices and Connection to Country.
Economic benefit – landscapes can be a catalyst for economic growth – great places that people want to live, visit and work. Properties in green leafy suburbs and in close proximity to open spaces are known to have increased value. Living infrastructure provides operational and maintenance savings, such as reduced heating and cooling costs through the implementation of green roofs or green walls.
Landscape Architects have the ability to see the bigger picture; understand the complex relationships between our cities, the people and the natural environment; and design living infrastructure to enhance the ecological systems of our cities.
“We are the first generation to feel the effect of climate change and the last generation who can do something about it.” (Barack Obama)
Margaret Hendry (1963 - 1974) was the first female landscape architect at the National Capital Development Commission and a Senior Lecturer in Landscape Design at what’s now known as the University of Canberra. She played a pivotal role in establishing AILA and in shaping the landscape of Australia’s national capital.
I am incredibly honoured to have had the opportunity to celebrate her contribution to the profession.
Jasmine Ong AILA