It’s not often you get the chance to sit in a room for 1.5 days, with collectively over 200 years of experience shaping the built environment. As an observer of the jury deliberations for the 2023 Victoian and Tasmanian Landscape Architecture Awards that was my recent privilege.
Without breaking confidences, what kinds of debates were had? This may serve as a primer for those entering future awards.
Once the small?!
esoteric questions were resolved; “what is landscape architecture?”, “what is urban design?” “what is our threshold for excellence? ”, the group settled into the rhythm of debate, narrow, decide.
Conversational threads that ran through most categories were questions of equity, both contextual and budget. Whether a site was too immature to consider its merits; a case of “come back in 2 years”. The disappointment when too many projects “let themselves down” by not providing a clear visual of “how everything connects to its context, its agency in the broader landscape” or “didn’t go far enough” in resolving a design for its environment and users. The vigorous agreement that “retaining existing trees should be a baseline of design’, yet a recognition that getting trees in can be much harder than we’d like.
Debates centred on the technical. “Is the shared path wide enough to reduce user conflict?” “Does the design truly activate the space?” “Has the microclimate been achieved for year-round comfort?” Is the balance between privatisation, economic activation, and public space right, or has it steered too hard towards privatisation? Is the rigor of research evident and how is the design living AILA’s RAP.
There were moments of joy, such as designs that introduced soundscapes or “a new shade tree into the lexicon”, as well as moments of humour... “is there a bean bag strategy?”
While perspectives diverged and converged, the constant in the room was a passion for elevating designs that connect to their current context and future needs, and in doing so promote the power of the profession. If you get the chance to judge or observe, I can highly recommend it.
Georgina de Beaujeu was an observer of the 2023 Landscape Architecture Awards