Martha Schwartz at The Garden Museum

Acclaimed US landscape architect and erstwhile Harvard lecturer, Martha Schwartz made a rare public appearance in the UK the other night at The Garden Museum.

Her main topic for discussion which is also covered in her new book was sustainability, how cities function and how people value their environments. The importance of advocacy – the prime examples being the Friends of New York’s HighLine and also Central Park’s Conservacy Group who have both worked wonders in saving and regenerating these civic spaces.Other key points included landscape as a cultural art form and the emotive power to connect people to place. If landscape is not just treated as an afterthought but conceived and even installed prior to a new development, the success of this new site will be far greater, as can be seen with the Dublin Docklands example. It was the landscape architecture that created a brand around the place attracting businesses to move in.The role of the urban space, namely the square was recently evident in the Arab Spring as they became the birthplaces of a new democratic era. As such the urban landscape is a great arena for socialisation, a melting pot which helps form the identity of the community by catering to its diverse elements.Cities evolve along with their inhabitants, so the landscape should reflect this. The redemptive power of landscape design to overcome the post-industrialisation of the cityscape is not just greening a space with trees and shrubs but incorporating meaning, value and aesthetics within the urban framework. Yes, we all have to work within the social, cultural and economic restrictions of a site, but there are many gradations between the private and the public realm and maybe landscape architects should take a leaf from garden designers book and scale up whilst aspiring to that pure art form of the garden.

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