About the Conference

As climate change rapidly takes its place at the forefront of contemporary global challenges, landscape architecture is becoming an ever more urgent necessity. Landscape architecture is uniquely able to synthesize ecological systems, scientific data, engineering methods, social practices, and cultural values, integrating them into the design of the built environment. At the same time, its creative capacities, and its visual and spatial vocabularies contribute to shaping questions and formulating novel approaches in more exclusively scientific or data-driven fields.

This three-day conference intends to promote intensive debate by bringing together complementary and contrasting positions that have recently arisen around the politically charged issue of global climate change. Daily plenaries will feature globally renowned writers, academics, activists, landscape architects, and scientists engaging in discussions across scales and geographies. Paper sessions will allow practitioners and academics to present work in more intimate settings. An expanded discussion between landscape architects, writers, activists, and scientists will widen perspectives and encourage cross-disciplinary conversations.

Expanding and sharing platforms and interests will activate greater comprehension of the value of landscape-based strategies in environmental decision-making. Landscape Architecture as Necessity seeks to demonstrate, through international built work and ongoing design research, that the professions of the built environment, together with expertise from a wide range of relevant fields, are essential to moving beyond rhetoric to address the myriad challenges confronting urban and rural territories alike. Within the design community, landscape architecture has come to be seen as a savior of urbanism. Yet landscape architecture is still frequently overlooked as a design framework for restructuring environments in the face of impending human-caused challenges, including the increasing incidence of droughts, floods, forest fires, landslides, as well the complex dilemmas of both massive urbanization and cities with shrinking populations. Landscape architecture must step up and demonstrate its value and capacity. Landscape architects must engage with these challenges by integrating data, insights, values, histories, knowledge and constraints brought forward by other disciplines into their work. Finally, in addition to addressing such pragmatic requirements, landscape architects have the responsibility of sustaining the discipline’s cultural mandate. Landscape architecture is both a utilitarian instrument and a representational practice, thus requiring significant intellectual agility.

Los Angeles, which in 1971 Reyner Banham famously read as a construct of four ecologies, will be an ideal urban nature setting for such an event—one where urgent contemporary issues can and must be addressed while testing the boundaries of design research, design thinking and implementation. The growing ecological crises and intense population pressure of the city’s coasts, flatlands and foothills are a pars pro toto, a microcosm, of the challenges facing state, nation and globe, ones that necessitate a paradigm shift to complex systems thinking. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization, many of the world’s most vulnerable populations live in areas predicted to be significantly affected by climate change, endangering food, water and shelter security. The overuse and debasement of the words ‘sustainable’, ‘resilient’ and ‘adaptable’ mean that now more than ever real flesh and blood projects must rise to the fore and counter the onslaught of politically-correct eco-speak. Complex and continually evolving social and environmental conditions require innovative thinking and systemic design explorations in order to develop thriving societies and landscapes. The physical and mental health and well-being of societies across the globe require environments that are safe and nurturing and that balance economic drivers with ecological systems. Landscape architecture also creates environments that allow people to imagine and dream, ones that activate the creativity necessary to envision different and better futures. Using design-based research, activists, policy makers, governments, industries, and private developers must work with strengthened synergy. This requires a trans-disciplinary capacity, approaches that reach across scales, and the combining of the tangible and the imaginary to provoke conversations that promote social equity, environmental justice, and space for creative expression. In short, it is the moment to see Landscape Architecture as Necessity.