About this Project
In 2020 we published the edited book The Big Asian Book of Landscape Architecture. While we were pleased with this research, we were acutely aware of the limitations of image and text, along with the use of English to present the culturally diverse work of Asian landscape architects. The Landscape Architects as Changemakers project emerged out of this frustration. This bi-lingual project funded by the Toshiba Foundation and Asia-link replaces image and text with the expanded potentials of digital media. With the help of RMIT’s School of Media and Communication, we learnt how to film, record sound and interview. In November 2022 we travelled to Japan to work with four esteemed designers to document a deeper understanding of how they responded to their complex economic, social, and urban conditions. Before we left, we were fortunate to cross paths with recent architecture graduate Saran Kim who initially came onto the project as a Japanese translator but soon expanded her role to contribute to filming, editing, and eventually building our website.
A further grant from the Australia -Japan Foundation expanded Landscape Architects as Changemakers into a bi-lateral exhibition, matching the Japanese content with Australian. In an interesting twist, the Australian projects were not identified at the time of submitting this grant. It was only near the end of our month in Japan that we began to consider what Australian projects to feature. With our minds deep in Japan, dominant framings of Australian landscape architecture (urban, infrastructural, nation building, climate change) were dislodged, and we looked to projects that engaged more intensely with ideas of temporality, experience, inhabitation, planting, questions of publicness and materiality. Japan allowed us to see the familiar with fresh eyes.
Produced in less than 6 months, the exhibition officially opened on May 18th, 2023, as part of Melbourne Design Week. Events included bringing three Japanese landscape architects to Melbourne for three days of talks, presentations, and informal Australian socialising. In November 2023, the exhibition along with some Australian designers will visit Tokyo. The Landscape Architects as Changemakers project has been logistically and intellectually challenging, requiring extensive collaboration and organisation across two very different cultures. But the ability to disseminate and show case work through film, exhibition and a website demonstrates a new way for thinking about academic research and its links to practice.