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.

  • Theme 1: Preemptive Territorial Design - How can the risk of vulnerable territories be minimized through design strategies that not only understand and integrate geographical and environmental factors, but also take socio-cultural and economic complexities into account? How can change in climate, demographics, and material flows be anticipated, modeled and designed? How can investments in climate change protection and response maximize the long-term value of such inevitable expenditures? Can substantial urban afforestation and reforestation, for example, be used as a strategy to reconstruct or provide a frame for settlements, support and structure further development, and provide natural but nevertheless forceful resilience? Can such strategies contribute to water management, improve microclimates and environmental quality, potentially diversify the economy, and generate more beautiful cities?
  • Theme 2: Cultural Agency - In addressing such societal demands and challenges, how do landscape architects avoid the disciplinary rifts of the 1970s/80s/90s that polarized the field between the “science” of environmental planning and the “art” of landscape design? How can landscape architecture address the climatic threats to culturally meaningful places? How might conversations regarding landscape architecture’s utilitarian mandate optimize the discipline’s imaginative capacity? How do we continue to strengthen the representational practice of landscape architecture in the context of these dire challenges? Can landscape architecture’s “cultural agency” or instrumentality be positioned to address issues of social inequity, vulnerability and environmental justice?
  • Theme 3: Water Urbanism - How can the natural systems and processes of water dynamics be integrated into the development of land use and infrastructure policy and design to reduce damage from sea level rise and the increasing severity and frequency of floods? How can landscape measures for mitigation be developed hand-in-hand to strengthen and qualitatively upgrade waterfronts (oceanfronts, riverfronts, bays, lagoons and lakes)? How can waterfronts be (re)established as the primary organizers of territories and distinct eco-systems to create regional identity and insure more secure economic and supported socio-cultural activities? How can we turn the linear processes of water extraction, water consumption and water disposal into more ethical and equitable, cyclic and ecologically responsible processes?
  • Theme 4: Landscapes of Infrastructure - How can new forms of infrastructure strengthen and enhance the identities of the places they inhabit? How can present mobility systems be rethought in light of the coming post-petroleum era, become part of an integrative effort to reduce social marginalization and segregation, and stimulate new forms of interaction and forms of public space? How can we envision the integration of infrastructural thinking, ecology and regional planning? Technological developments and societal evolution indicate that the future of decentralized systems offers greater security compared to currently highly centralized systems in the face of climate change. How much can and should be effectively decentralized and how do these evolving infrastructural systems impact the landscape and vice versa? Where are economies of scale compromised?
  • Theme 5: Productive Landscapes and Food Security - In the face of climate change, how can landscape architects work to develop new strategies that simultaneously address the urban / rural interface and complex challenges of global food security? Can new coalitions with scientists lead to rethinking relations between the productive countryside and the consumptive megapolis? Increased climate variability will significantly affect agricultural productivity; can landscape architects develop strategies and farming typologies for new crops that respond to local needs and geologies (including soils and water), and that also tackle specific health issues? Can a new typology of a 21st century park complement the social, cultural and environmental deficiencies of the city, just as the 19th-century park did for the speculative metropolis of the industrial revolution?
  • Theme 6: Energy Fields - How can the natural forces of wind, water, air, and sunlight be harnessed to efficiently supply energy at scales from the household to the nation? How can the technology of energy production be combined with the aesthetics of landscape architecture and the integrity of ecological systems across scales, cultures, and geographies to move from the machine in the garden towards context-embedded, ecologically-supported energy landscapes? How can alternative sources of energy liberate the city and its people from expensive, heavy-handed, centralized systems of energy provision?


There will be two types of moderated and respondent sessions — papers and pecha kucha. Submissions for each type will go through a double blind-peer review process. Speakers should submit an abstract of no more than 300 words and 5 keywords; please indicate which of the 7 conference themes the work is intended to be presented in. Submissions for the pecha kucha should also include five images of the twenty for the presentation. Proposals should be submitted between June 15 and September 14, 2015 to the conference website in the requested format and with all required information. Papers may not have been previously published, nor presented in public. Only one submission per author will be accepted. No paper may have more than two authors.

The sessions of the conference will work as follows:

  • Paper sessions will allow each presenter 20 minutes to present his or her work and designated respondents to comment. This will be followed by a moderated general discussion. Final papers for the conference proceedings should be no more than 2500 words in length. Up to five images and a biography should be submitted at the same time.
  • Pecha kucha (20 slides, 20 seconds each) sessions will have a designated respondent who will also comment vis-à-vis a pecha kucha. Following a number of back-to-back presentations there will be a moderated general discussion.

Upload submissions here: EasyChair for LAND 2016 1(You will need to create an account in order to upload.)

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