AUSTRALIAN LANDSCAPE CONFERENCE 2018
Melbourne, 23 – 27 March 2018
Design with Nature: Reconnecting People and Place
An international conference with the world’s finest landscape and garden designers
Melbourne Convention Centre, 1 Convention Centre Place, South Wharf, Victoria, Australia
The 2018 Australian Landscape Conference plenary sessions finished to a standing ovation on Sunday 25th March thereby ending a series of eleven Conferences developed by Warwick and Sue Forge commencing in 2002.
The splendid series of workshops at Burnley College completed the 2018 Conference events.
In closing the plenary sessions, Peter Watts congratulated Warwick and Sue for an, inspirational series of conferences which was now well known as a leading event internationally. He said they were remarkable conferences with a wonderful knack for securing inspirational and innovative speakers.
Moreover, since the very first convened by Tony Mugg in 1989, they have worked to enlarge the conferences, with the introduction of Workshops, Tours and other events.
Review: AUSTRALIAN LANDSCAPE CONFERENCE
Melbourne, March 24-25 2018, with allied garden tours and landscape workshops
At our request, Howard Tanner has reviewed the 2018 Conference. Howard is a Sydney architect with a longstanding interest in garden history and design and was responsible for the recent exhibition on contemporary gardens at the State Library NSW. Howard is a regular contributor to the magazine Landscape Architecture Australia.
Warwick and Sue Forge’s landscape conference – a biennial event since 2002 and said to be the last they will organise – was a landmark occasion with over 750 people gathering in Melbourne to view a number of regional gardens, to hear very distinguished local and international speakers, and to participate in specialist workshops.
The introductory garden tours included the intensively maintained and visually rewarding Garden of St Erth – created by Tommy Garnett and enlarged by the Diggers Club; Simon Rickard’s beautifully planted garden rooms on a double suburban block at Trentham; and the sequential garden experiences of a Woodend North landscape designed by Michael McCoy. Also included were the old established gardens of Oak House and Bolinda Vale, Clarkefield – both incorporating modern garden transformations.
The conference title Design with Nature: Reconnecting People + Place was aptly realised by the keynote speakers. All told of their personal connection with nature, and of the importance of the year-round performance of their creations, partly through the use of suitable stress-tolerant plants. They also emphasized the value and virtues of collaboration and teamwork, and of the vital roles of their office colleagues.
The lectures – given over two days at the Melbourne Convention Centre – were both informative and engaging. The speakers conveyed their work and interests in detail:
Katherine Gustafson, with a truly stellar international career, is a sculptor of landforms which enable poetic interpretation. Profound symbolism can be found in her work. Her incised stone necklace, animated by the lively movement of water, creates a lasting memorial to Princess Diana in London’s Hyde Park. In Singapore – at Marina Bay East – fingers of land and water provide rewarding tropical public pleasure grounds along a freshwater basin – all part of a water purifying initiative – with her sinuous bridge arcing above it. Katherine spoke knowingly about the regeneration of deserts, and of the need to fully understand the role of light levels for plants in difficult growing conditions.
Bernard Trainor, one of a handful of Australian-born designers who have made a significant career abroad, spoke of the importance of developing a deep understanding of the nature of a landscape, and the plants appropriate to it. Formative thinking time on site was essential, allied with input from local plant specialists. In his broad-acre Californian work, a limited palette of plants and materials ease into beautiful existing settings of Monterey pines or canyon live oaks. His understated, almost Zen-like, gardens offer the ultimate complement to the Pacific coast landscapes.
Kate Cullity noted George Seddon’s remark: ‘we are still learning to see our own land and to forgive it for not being England’. She discussed how the desert provides ‘fear and wonder’ and its influence on two of Taylor Cullity Lethlean’s most evocative projects: the Uluru Aboriginal Conference Centre (with Greg Burgess) and the Australian Garden at Cranbourne (with Paul Thompson). In both cases the red earth of Central Australia becomes a leitmotif, and in the case of Cranbourne it provides an arresting introduction to arguably the most original and intriguing public landscape in contemporary Australia. This garden should be on the ‘must see’ list for every cultural visitor to Melbourne.
Miguel Urquijo from Spain spoke of the extreme climate of Castile, an elevated plateau with severe winters and harsh summers; and of the importance of not fearing nature. Enclosure by walls or dense hedges was necessary to exclude rabbits, wild boars and the wind, and to give a backdrop to the garden, and clear definition between the managed, consciously planted environs and the broader tawny landscape. Tough plants and irrigation were essential, given the climatic conditions.
Andy Sturgeon from Britain proved a wonderfully droll and engaging speaker. He told of influences that helped English gardening move beyond its traditional mould, including John Brookes’ book Room Outside (1970) and Christopher Bradley-Hole’s Latin Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show in 1997. Sturgeon has continually taken English gardening into adventurous territory, often through his own display gardens at Chelsea.
Cassian Schmidt, director of the spectacular six acre Hermannschof Gardens in Germany – with its emphasis on trialling companion plants from around the world, especially North American perennials or Prairie plants – spoke extensively on German and Dutch initiatives towards naturalistic gardens, and the need for them to be allied to ecological principles. Tough, low-maintenance plants giving a meadow-like effect were important to bring nature back into our cities.
Noel Kingsbury, British educator and author, also spoke of nature inspiring design and the necessary alliance with ecological outcomes, where plants would reproduce in a balanced pattern, and maintenance would be minimised. One has to ensure that the grasses don’t overwhelm the flowering perennials. He told of the Sheffield School’s bold meadows at the London Olympics and of Piet Oudolf’s work, where the artistic outcomes at the High Line in New York and Lurie Park in Chicago are segueing into an ecological approach. Kingsbury is one of the world’s most gifted garden writers, clearly demonstrated in the book Oudolf Hummelo.
Sam Cox spoke of his love of thoughtful rockwork, and of naturalistic gardens with water features. He felt privileged to be part of a Melbourne design continuum: Edna Walling, Ellis Stones, Gordon Ford and himself. He noted the virtues of ‘design and construct’, giving the benefit of extensive ‘hands on’ time on site, and thus the opportunity for greater subtlety in the outcome.
In the evening between the two main days of the Conference a splendid dinner was held in the great Royal Exhibition Building, located in Melbourne’s Carlton Gardens. This gave attendees the opportunity to inspect the amazing floral arrangements and show gardens of the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show, an event without rival in the Southern Hemisphere.
The practical workshops that followed the two days of lectures were held at Burnley, enabling key topics to be explored in detail by smaller groups.
Since 2002 it has been fascinating to watch the Australian Landscape Conference go from strength to strength and move from a focus on conservative Australian garden design towards the new contemporary landscapes with their sense of innovation and adventure. As I understand it, there is no comparable conference throughout the world, and it is to be hoped that Warwick and Sue’s legacy will be carried forward by others in 2020 and beyond.
April 8, 2018
An article reviewing the 2018 Conference by Megan Backhouse entitled Laying out a bright future, was published in The Age and other Fairfax Media newspapers.
Laying out a bright future
By Megan Backhouse
Designers have expanded
Our ideas on private
Gardens and public spaces
Everything from the lifespan of lavender to the restoration of deserts was discussed at last month’s Australian Landscape Conference, which attracted more than 750 attendees and – given the biennial event is for sale – was almost certainly the last in its current guise. The eight speakers, all landscape designers from overseas and Australia, expanded our ideas about what private gardens and public landscapes could be. Here are some of the concepts to take away.
To read the entire article online, click here…
A huge thank you to all our exceptional speakers, sponsors, wonderful delegates and supporters for making this and previous conferences so very successful.
An extra special thank you to all those who have been with us on the journey for nearly two decades. We have loved your warmth, enthusiasm and passion for gardens and landscape design.
Warwick and Sue Forge and Jenny Wade
Some images of the superb Speakers’ Dinner…
Conference Speakers 2018:
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