Let’s Talk About Sustainability.

Today’s most urgent topic for all professional groups everywhere must be how to give our planet and its inhabitants possibilities to survive. Never before has the professional field of landscape architects shifted its goals so quickly, as we have seen only over the last few years. The focus for landscape architecture nowadays is clearly sustainability. Design services are gone. Handling stormwater parks, heat islands, fireproof grasses, taming the high winds, preventing river flooding, and sustaining biodiversity have taken place. These are very difficult services that landscape architects are now asked to supply. But we work with biological systems and are thus expected to handle such questions.

It has been a very rapid journey from being someone who designs cosy parks with beautiful views, inviting seating and a rich social life into being a climate engineer. I am worried about these things not only because they threaten the planet but also because I am not sure we can handle them. I must admit I don’t know how to do this. My office lacks the expertise. I am also not willing to be responsible for something which arrives from much higher levels. I read that at the last G20 summit meeting, which includes the 20 wealthiest countries in the world, the participants didn’t agree on one single paragraph. Still, that is where these issues belong—CO2 emissions on a national level, coal mines in China and the USA, and wars. Come on, you guys.

I can design well-attended parks, lively squares, and attractive waterfronts. But I have to say I am sorry about not fixing the climate issues.

Thorbjörn Andersson, landscape architect LAR/MSA

editor’s note: please feel free to comment in the comment section below.


Published on November 14, 2023

3 thoughts on "Let’s Talk About Sustainability."

  1. Thank you Thorbjörn. This is a beautifully brief and brutally honest confession from a great of landscape architecture. It might take a while for me to process it.

  2. Dan Pingaro says:

    Thorbjorn, Thank you for your honest and concise note. After decades working on environmental issues from wetlands restoration, river water quality, ocean and coastal conservation issues, I am pivoting my career and working through a MLA program degree. There is a lot of talk about sustainability and working with and for the health of the environment. Yet, it is astonishingly rare for firms to actually bring these concerns into their design process, let alone incorporate people with this experience who can help round out a solid design team. Yet, I am hopeful as many of the students in my cohort see the environment as critical to our survival and not just a canvas for design.

  3. Ira says:

    Thorbjorn, Thank you

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