World Landscape Architecture – 10 years on and the end of WLA Magazine

In October 2007, I was browsing architecture sites like Archdaily and found myself wondering why do landscape architects not have an independent blog for information and news. That day I registered the domain and put up a “Coming Soon” page and then went on published my first posts in November 2007.

At first, I was posting news articles and this then moved on to competitions and announcements along with the odd project. I was working as an Associate Landscape Architect in Shenzhen, China.

The initial idea was to create sites for each country and I started and However, due to my day job and the world economy on the verge of collapsing I shifted my focus back to one blog.

Over the coming years, it evolved from World Landscape Architect to World Landscape Architecture to WLA moving away from solely about publishing news and adding more projects, reviews, and competitions. It has always been about publishing work of landscape architects as a source of information and not a typical blog where one person states their opinion or idea on a project or subject.

The most interesting part of publishing is the readers, contributors and their feedback and excitement and joy from being published on WLA. I think that has been one of the greatest rewards of publishing WLA for the last 10 years. Also, it has been an honour to meet readers and contributors in real life at conferences and events and hear their stories about their projects.

Most people think that there is a team of people behind WLA, but many are amazed to hear that there is only one person publishing WLA (including the magazine). I have never sort the limelight and always wanted to make WLA about sharing and promoting landscape architecture.

Due to time commitments, and the changing way we absorb and research information, this will be the last edition of WLA Magazine. The website blog will continue to publish work and the WLA Awards will still seek to honour the work of landscape architects every year across the world.

I would like to thank my family and friends for supporting me (and understanding the numerous excuses for working weekends on WLA). I would also like to thank all the sponsors, readers and the designers and firms who have contributed work over the years as they are what truly made this fun and exciting to curate and publish.

I have published the final edition of WLA Magazine but look forward to continuing to publish the WLA blog and run the WLA Awards. It is not the end but allowing time to work on the blog and promote landscape architecture.

Launching the WLA Awards

I recently just launched the WLA Awards, in its second year. The first year was a learning curve and I hope that the coming awards will be as successful as the 2017 Awards. I am lucky that I have again have jurors who willing to volunteer to spend hours pouring over pdf files to score, comment.

I had a conversation with a few people at ASLA in Los Angeles recently and it was interesting that many said that their needed to be more awards to acknowledge the work of landscape architects. It reinforced my resolve to continue the WLA Awards as long as I can and promote the profession of landscape architecture to a broader audience.

I created the awards to allow for landscape architects across the world be honoured by their peers. I always hope to get jurors from different nations, backgrounds and experience. It allows for different views to be expressed and also for not one country or type of landscape project to win.

I also changed the award categories this year to include two scales for Built Award category – Small and Large. This change allows for the smaller projects to get recognition, I have had interesting conversations that big projects always seem to win the awards, so this year I set out to try and balance that problem.

Also I removed the Research & Communication category as it  received about quarter the entries of other categories and seem to be not acknowledged by academia(this is a common problem which I may write about at another time) and organisations as most entries were from design firms or individuals.

The next few months will be slightly stressful, seeing if firms will enter and organising the submissions for jurors, the chasing up and then the final announcement and ordering the awards. I feel for those who are in ASLA, AILA, Landscape Institute, who organise numerous categories and entries and then the final ceremony. I have thought of having a ceremony but it is hard to find a venue that would encourage winners to attend as they are spread across the world, let alone the cost of hold a ceremony.

I am looking forward to judging the Editor’s Award. It is always fun to look at the submissions and shortlist my own and then select one at the end. It could be seen as arrogant but after 10 years of curating this blog, I thought that I could have one indulgence. Hope you enter. Find out more at WLA Awards.

Changing the climate change message from the fear to solutions

Over the past few years it has struck me how the climate change movement and the numerous presentations I have watched in person or online try to move people to action through fear and numbers.

First, lets address the numbers issue. All too often referring to large scale problems whether it is gun violence, road trauma or other major issue refer to numbers as a means to get people to take action or adjust behaviour. However, over the past twenty years I have noticed that people cannot grasp numbers too well especially those of large proportions (e.g. millions or billions) as it is not a number they deal with on a day to day basis. Also, time and numbers also creates a numbness and is why people often switch off when listening to people discuss the impacts of climate change because for some people they can’t see the impact of sea level change when discussed as a problem that will impact in 2025 or 2030 or 2050. Due to the nature of people’s attention spans being ever slowly reduced to seconds, it is hard to expect them to think in years and decades.

Second, fear is often the way we try to get people to listen and to change behaviour. The fear of consequences is what our parents used, teachers used and governments use to change our behaviour. However, like numbers this continual method of use fear and consequence to change behaviour is waning with people starting to realise that they can live with the consequences as it the impact is spend over so many that it has little impact on their day to day lives.

How do we get the message of the importance of climate change and the need as a species to take hold? There is two methods we need to use – group action and visual solutions.

Group Action – We often try to get people to change individually (through fear and guilt) to make an impact, however often it falls on deaf ears as they feel that changing their own lives doesn’t have a big impact on problems that are larger than life. Therefore, it is better to education people about groups (community, city, state, country, worldwide) they can join and how they can get the message out to broader audience using large numbers of people and how they can influence government, companies, and organisations through group action.

Visual Solutions – all too often the message we provide around climate change is are numbers, or the consequences such as the maps showing flooding of Manhattan or Shanghai or another large city. We need to show solutions and results in photos, diagrams, videos, animation and other visual formats. An image can move people, showing people images of reef that was once lost and now reborn, or a river delta that has been saved with oyster reefs or a wetland park that is mitigating flooding as part of “sponge cities” in China. These images have impact along with information provide people with a message of hope that there are solutions.

Climate change is one of largest problems the world has ever faced, but we will only create solutions and save the world by changing the message from one of fear to one of solutions.

Give people respect and time

Recently, I noticed in various situations that people are very busy, especially this time of year coming up to Christmas when the pressure is on to meet client deadlines (which fascinates me but that is another separate post), but often they brush people off or give them what they requested at the last minute expecting a miracle that they can finish the work on time. We are all busy but, we all hate being left on the edge waiting for someone else to come through, so be have empathy and honest with the person and say I don’t have time or if you can’t get it to them when they asked then say I will be able to get it to you by X time or date. The same when dealing with clients don’t tell it is going to be delayed the day before or off the deadline, call them when you find out and explain the situation and how you are taking steps to deal with it. That is respecting their time and their situation and having empathy for the people, most people have someone they are reporting up to so the stress is amplified up from the bottom if each person is missing a deadline and that’s why everyone’s bosses are stressed 😉 but also learn to manage down but teach people how to manage up.

On making time for people, I try when possible to meet or talk with people and give them time, I would rather give someone 5-10 minutes of time that is well spent either providing feedback on their problem or listening to their idea and brainstorming to get them to closer to where they want or could be rather than feigning interest for couple minutes.


Why professional/industry niche books will still exist.

Over the last few years the publishing industry has been struggling with declining sales and creating more books with broader appeal (high increase in coffee table books). However, I think that books will still exist although the maybe more increase in digital format (ebook, pdf, interactive) and that is because they are edited and curated around a topic or idea providing a broad range of information. You might be thinking “of course, what a simple thing to write” but I think that in a world of fast information and being bombarded with information and being able to search any topic we have lost site of the value of books and what they bring.

This sentiment may seem fairly ironic or hypocritical coming from someone who publishes a blog on landscape architecture with over 5,000 posts but I think that we often get too lost in thinking about the bright new shiny thing and how the old shiny thing will be killed off, this has happened numerous times in history. The radio didn’t kill newspapers, tv didn’t kill radio, the internet didn’t kill (all) newspapers, online blogs didn’t kill magazines, online streaming hasn’t killed tv, and the next thing (AR, VR, whatever R) will not kill off online streaming. Books will still be around as they are an easy way to gain knowledge about a topic in a concise, curated format and I think spending two hours in a book store is more relaxing than spending two hours reading through news articles and the comments section.

Helping people get ahead

The best way to enjoy life is to help others get ahead and promote what they are doing without expecting accolades or awards for your efforts. Whether it’s helping someone find a job or promote their business or book the best thing you can do is share by social media and word of mouth.

The whole premise of World Landscape Architecture was to promote the work of landscape architects across the world and provide a broader reach beyond the designers home city or country. Back in 2007 there were no landscape blogs promoting work it was still kept to magazines and they were focused on promoting the work of their country or region.

Helping people is easy to do but continually doing it is the hard part but you also get the thanks and knowledge that you have helped someone move forward.

Be open to ideas and move beyond “the right way” or “this is how we do it”

When you have worked for various companies and clients in different countries and cultures you soon realise that there is not one way to do something. Never get lost in the pushing what you think is the “right way of doing it” on to others.  You may have learnt the “right way” at school or university or at the starchitect firm you worked at but you soon realise that way of doing it may have been right for that time or project. Education institutions, Society and Culture are all too often hung up on the proving and judging what is the right way and ignoring the fact that learning and innovation comes from testing, failing, learning and trying different ways.

Doing something the same way for years just ends up perpetrating the cycle without improvement. Be open to other ideas and continue to research, analyse, review, and learn whether it is designing, working or living.

How do you read?

I know some people read one book at a time cover to cover as they want to keep the same train of thought. I read multiple books at the same time, I feel that reading books at the same time in the same or different areas allows for a crossflow of ideas and then possibly germination of new ideas triggered by reading two or three books at the same time.

For remembering those ideas I usually either bend the corner to quickly reread when I have finished the book. I also take notes in my phone with title, page number and idea I had, this allows me to come back through the reread and see if there is something I wish to action on or research further.

I try to read 12-20 books a year along with the numerous blog articles and academic papers. Most of the books I read are non-fiction, I will read fiction every so often but usually on holidays when I want to try and take a break from work, WLA and other business pursuits.