ASLA’s the DIRT recently published an interview with Kristina Hill, PhD, Chair of the Landscape Architecture department at the University of Virginia. In it Hill addresses the role landscape architects can play in dealing with global climate change. The two big takeaways are; first that landscape architects really need to go beyond the role of just designers. Even the best, most materially appropriate and ecologically sound design can only have so large of an impact. Hill believes that because of their holistic understanding of ecology and design what is really needed is for landscape architects “to wade into some of the policy and planning debates that surround these investments of public money.” In the future landscape architects will not just design when a client calls. Rather, by taking a more activist approach they can share their vision(s) with the public and in this the way shape policy debates not just landscape.
Additionally, in the interview Hill discusses three categories of actions: to protect, renew, and re-tool, which designers and elected officials have begun to develop in response to the climate change problem. Specifically, in terms of spatial strategies which allow significant roles for landscape architects to change cities.
Finally, drawing on the work of conservation ecologists she emphasizes the need to reduce “matrix hostility” in order to increase biodiversity and develop permanent as well as shifting/temporary buffer zones and corridors for animal and plant species diversity, distribution and climate related ecological succession. All of these attempts to mitigate the effects of climate change on the environment have spatial implications and thus suggest possible roles for landscape architects to play. Also of note was Hill’s discussion about the re-introduction of animals into urban human life. Specifically, the growing number of human/animal interactions including the presence of crows and coyotes in urban and peri-urban areas. As she notes both of these animals are long associated by indigenous peoples of the Americas with tricksterism, wisdom and and teaching. Their growing contact with urban humanity is raising new concerns and questions about urban ecologies and Hill wonders “What happens to that relationship when the teacher comes to the city and really thrives there? Will urban people learn new things about their relationship to other species?”
Read more (here)