Editor’s Letter

The power of landscape architecture

Green space can transform the fortunes of a city, rewire our brains and change our mood and behaviour without us being consciously aware. The subtle art of landscape design has powerful, but often hugely underestimated infl uences on our world


Once in a generation, a vision comes to fruition that is so iconic, it defi nes an era and becomes the inspiration for a cascade of imitations. The High Line in New York is such a case and in this issue we talk to James Corner, the landscape architect who was Project Lead on the High Line, with his company, Field Operations, working with Diller Scofi dio + Renfro and Danish designer, Piet Oudolf.

Corner is one of the leading landscape architects of his generation, yet doesn’t share the same level of fame as architects of our best-known buildings. “Landscape architects are the unsung heroes who are doing the behind the scenes work shaping the public realm,” he told us, “

But many people don’t consider this design; they assume it’s just residual space that arrived there naturally.” But things are beginning to change. A growing interest in wellbeing, coupled with research which proves that upgrading the public realm controls pollution, improves health, and adds value to developments, suggest we’ll see a richly deserved elevation of landscape architecture as an art form in the years to come.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation evaluated the impact of the High Line on property values, finding that between 2003 and 2011, the median market value per square within a five minute walk was a whopping US$301 against US$144 for properties just fi ve to 10 minutes away. This increase reprinting growth of 103 per cent and 19 per cent respectively.

There are other big wins to be had: cities are competing to aract talent, so improving the public realm and making them great places to live can have a huge economic impact. In addition, good design of public space has been found to control crime and disorder, while enabling the exercise of democratic freedoms.

It’s also political – Alejandro Aravena, in CLADmag 2016 Q2, said: “International standards recommend 9sq m of public space per inhabitant. Wealthy Chilean cities have 18sq m, poorer ones 2sq m. London has 44sq m.”

This juxtaposition of hard economics with less tangible emotional benefi ts make investment in the public realm dicult to ‘value’. As Corner says: “Landscape is something experienced personally, almost subconsciously. People don’t walk around paying amention, but a city or a landscape lingers in your memories and although you’ll leave with fond recollections of a place, they’re not precisely photographic. They’re something deeper and more emotional.”

Liz Terry, editor, CLAD @elizterry

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Company profile: Curry Spa Consulting
Curry Spa Consulting has been providing clients in the high-end and luxury hospitality sector with spa design, programming, guidance and oversight since 2011.
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