Landscape Studio 5:
Sustainable Urbanism

Studio leaders: Professor Ray Green and Madhu Lakshmanan

A primary driver of environmental design thinking in the first decades of the 21st century has been the concept of sustainability. Ranging from small urban spaces, entire cities, to large bio-geographical regions, places can be made to be more sustainable through various landscape design and planning interventions. The notion of Sustainable Urbanism entails the planning, design and operation of urban spaces with the aim of optimizing their environmental, social and economic sustainability. This can be achieved through a range of design initiatives, including, but not limited to:

  • Generation of on-site, clean energy (e.g. through solar, wind and other sources of alternative power generation)
  • Integration of natural elements with the built environment and bringing users in closer contact with the natural world within the context of urban settings
  • Application of principles of landscape and urban ecology
  • Mixing land-uses to create vibrant, active and responsive environments
  • Creating interconnected environmental corridors to facilitate safe, enjoyable pedestrian and bicycle movement
  • Using materials that are low in embodied energy and water
  • Reducing GHG emissions in an effort to mitigate climate change
  • Reducing waste and air, water and soil pollution – e.g. recycling waste
  • Harvesting and recycling water

In this subject, students learn how these types of initiatives might be achieved through exposing them to a series of weekly lectures addressing various aspects of sustainable design and related topics, and also engaging them in studio projects in which they develop design proposals for selected sites within Melbourne. They also did a series of weekly design exercises focused on exploring different aspects of design applicable to development of their individual design proposals. This semester students were given the choice between two different sites, each having different design briefs and led by different studio leaders. The aim was for them to use these sites and associated design briefs to explore how they might make these places more sustainable through application of various design strategies. One of these studio projects was concerned with how the Union Lawn located within the University’s Parkville campus might be reimagined as a wetland, which it had been prior to the University being established in the mid 1800s. The other project involved formulating design proposals for a mixed-use development for a 12.5-hectare site located on the banks of the Maribyrnong River, just east of Footscray Railway Station, which had previously been identified in the Maribyrnong City Council Planning Scheme. For both projects, students had to consider how energy, water, materials, waste, ecology and socio-behavioural/cultural aspects might be considered in terms of design with the aim of making these sites more sustainable. This involved them in a process of first undertaking detailed analysis of their site and its contextual settings, followed by development of a design program, and subsequently preparation of a masterplan that matched their program to the site, and finally through developing detailed design proposals for selected areas within their masterplans. This subject is instrumental as it aims to impress upon students how design of the landscape can help to make places function more sustainably, which is a vitally important outcome considering that many, in their future professional lives, will literally be working to try to save the planet.

Landscape Architecture Sustainability 2020_winter