Institute News

Conference 2003
Greening the City:
Bringing Biodiversity Back
into the Urban Environment


Reading the Layers: Knowing the Past to Plan for the Future

Di Lucas (Landscape Planner, Lucas Associates, Christchurch)

To design for landscape change a landscape analysis is required. Landscape analysis is about reading the stories - the stories of nature and the stories of culture in a place. Analysis involves identifying the threads that are woven into a place, some visible, some not.

Along with managing other dimensions of the landscape, landscape architects have opportunity to influence the presence, role, extent and abundance of vegetation in a city or town. They have a responsibility to be respectful to the stories in a place.

Landscape architects can be significant decision-makers on the presence and selection of plant material, not only in the projects they design, but also in policy and planning work such as their influence on projects seeking consent, also in developing guidelines, and, in their teachings and advocacy. Landscape architects can thus influence trends in plant use. It is important we work closely with other plant professionals to ensure we maximise these opportunities.

There is proven need for greater vegetative cover in urban areas to address a whole range of environmental conditions. To be responsible in plant selection, one requirement is to select vegetation that will contribute positively to a city on as many counts as possible, and provide minimal risk for remnant and recovering biodiversity.

For almost every urban site there is a plethora of species that belong naturally. We identified 54 species that belong naturally in Cathedral Square! The task is first to identify what belongs naturally and to test it for the purpose to see both if there are communities or particular species that meet the tasks - the physical, social and cultural requirements for a planting. Cultural traditions in vegetation also need to be respected.

The New Zealand flora has as yet been minimally explored for urban design opportunities. It's not about substitution - a hebe hedge instead of a box hedge! It's about re-thinking the role and potential for urban vegetation, and the opportunities our flora offers.

Conference sponsored by:

British Council NZ
The Community Trust
Landcare Research

Follow this link to view other organisations supportive of the conference

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Last updated: October 10, 2003