This year the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects turns 50.
AILA was established in 1966 by founding members Malcolm Bunzli, George Williams, Ray Margules, Jean Verschuer, Professor Lindsay Pryor, Bruce Mackenzie, David Steane, Gavin Walkley and Harry Howard.
Harry Howard’s practice designed one of my favourite works of Australian landscape architecture: the Sculpture Gardens at the National Gallery of Australia, in Canberra.
Right from the start it was intended that the National Gallery have an outdoor Sculpture Garden.
By the late-1970s many significant artworks had been acquired, a guiding policy developed, and Barbara Buchanan and Harry Howard of Harry Howard and Associates engaged as the landscape architects.
The design evolved in close collaboration with the Gallery’s architects, Colin Madigan and Roger Vidler of Edwards, Madigan, Torzillo and Briggs.
Conceptually the design of the Garden extended the Gallery experience from inside to out, and used common materials – slate; off-form concrete – and an underlying triangular geometry, linking to both the building and the wider setting of Canberra’s Parliamentary Triangle.
Howard’s strategy for the landscape was to provide “physical and psychological comfort allowing visitors to orient themselves and be guided through a sequence of varying ‘gallery’ spaces or rooms.”
Concept studies show how carefully this sequence was orchestrated, and the consideration given to the placement of the artworks within the landscape setting.
It was proposed to use only Australian plant species, particularly those from the Canberra region.
As the project developed, the Garden and planting was arranged into zones representing the four seasons.
The plant layout was informal, bold at the time much of the city’s constructed landscapes were well manicured and reliant on exotic species.
Succession was embedded in the design, with supplementary underplanting installed as fast-establishing species have given way to slower-growing trees.
The sculptures, oh, the sculptures!
Let's look at a few...
And this is just a tiny selection.
It's all so beautiful and calm and perfect I feel like bursting out of my skin with happiness.
Once I compose myself I'm always grateful to have the opportunity to visit such a place right here in my home country, and to learn from the many talented people who came before me.
In a few weeks hundreds of landscape architects will gather in Canberra to celebrate this year's Festival of Landscape Architecture, Not In My Backyard.
I know where I'll be heading in my time off...
Learn more about the history of the Sculpture Garden and the collection on the NGA website here.