Beautiful backyards on show at Landscape Architecture Awards

The 2020 National Landscape Architecture Awards demonstrated a strong hankering for lush,  intimate spaces within the homes of Australians. 

AILA CEO Ben Stockwin said the strong representation of small spaces and gardens in this year’s  Awards program reflects the ecological, physical and emotional benefit these residential spaces can provide.  

“AILA stands by city-shaping projects that improve community-wide liveability and urbanity, but it also  appreciates and admires work done in smaller spaces – which can sometimes be the most challenging  projects,” Mr Stockwin said.  

“We awarded five projects under the gardens category, which included the construction of gardens in  both house and apartment settings, all of which contribute to the role and understanding of the  garden in contemporary society and culture.” 

A project that embraced the local floral and allowed itself to be sculptured and engulfed by the forms  and vegetation of Sunshine Beach, Queensland, was Domic by James Birrell Design Lab. 

Garden as architecture and architecture as garden, the jury noted the ultimate achievement of the  project is the way in which the developing garden will further soften and envelop the building. 

According to the jury, “The Domic landscape garden merges the architecture of this house with its  spectacular coastal setting. It is an intensely developed and very large-budget project, located in close  proximity to Noosa National Park. It’s apparent that the landscape architect and architect have  worked together to achieve a garden that blurs the interface of site landscape and building.” 

Clifftop Garden by Jane Irwin Landscape Architecture was awarded for its masterclass in design  crafting, plant appreciation, garden placemaking and unique site understanding. 

The jury found “the garden timeless in its appreciation and use of endemic plant material. Ultimately,  the garden just fits into the cliff site and the garden is quiet and subtle, which is not often the case on  sites as significant as this clifftop position.” 

The value of having open space right on your doorstop has never been so evident with the recent  pandemic. 

“Where you may not be able to attend your community parks or nearby nature reserves, what you do  still have is your backyard for fresh air, sunshine and an escape.” 

“Nature and the outdoors are such an important element of our mental and physical health, and  importantly, provide a space where small groups can safely come together and unity is brought back  into our lives.” 

“We are all of course feeling for those people who live in dull, balcony-less apartments, but AILA was  pleased to celebrate three examples of landscape design in high density urban living that promotes  connection and a sensual experience.” 

Taking out the prestigious Award of Excellence in the Gardens category was Arkadia Apartments in  Alexandria, New South Wales, for its great thought leadership to design and realize a productive,  human-centric, high performing garden in high density inner-city living.  

The jury highlighted Arkadia Apartments as “a project that illustrated the role the garden can play in  connecting residents to their place, its history, and importantly, to each other. The high-quality,  environmentally-sensitive materials and exceptional planting palette demonstrate the value and  contribution of such high performing private spaces to the overall dialogue of landscape  architecture.” 

Also receiving a Landscape Architect Award was 320 George Street in Fitzroy, Victoria, by Fiona  Harrison and Simon Ellis Landscape Architects.  

Put aptly by the jury, “The ugly becomes inhabitable through the skill of the landscape architect.”  

The jury explained the project as “a delightful, well-executed garden that negotiates the complexities  of private, common and public spaces with a lush planting palette. It demonstrates the breadth of the  landscape architecture profession to bring joy to the world and, in this case, improve the amenity of a  less-than-optimal residential complex.”  

Nightingale 2.0 in Fairfield, New South Wales by SBLA Studio and Rebecca White took out a Landscape  Architecture Award for demonstrating a different approach to rooftop and vertical gardens.  

The jury commended the project for “drawing from natural occurring landscape systems that parallel  the microclimatic condition and explore alternative plants to those typically found in urban  environments. The rooftop gardens provide a beautiful backdrop to the communal spaces of the  development while the vertical garden delivers an enchanting cascade of stag horns that welcome  resident and visitors on their arrival.”  

“Collectively we face the challenge of urban density, so the future of design and management of  green infrastructure is a very high priority for AILA,” Mr Stockwin said.  

“We are thrilled to be seeing the industry making contributions in an urban space that develop  destinations close to home that act as a sensual escape and provide a welcome feel.”  

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