Newly-minted TCL director Lisa Howard is a talented and highly regarded landscape architect, with exceptional skills in conceptual visualisation and design that have directly translated into success across numerous projects.  She talks to Architecture & Design about some of the challenges the profession faces and her idea of the ultimate in design.

What are your views on where the greatest challenges are for architects moving forward?

I guess I could answer a couple of ways – firstly the challenges we face as a practice, and secondly the issues that we tackle as practitioners, the ‘on-the-ground’ challenges so to speak.

On the first one, there is an awareness that we need to be at the top of our game as a design practice, and this requires always being up to speed on the latest technologies and modes of delivery, ensuring efficiencies in how we work and build. We are moving from a 2D world into a 3D documentation world.

There are technologies developing, like Hollowlens, that allow 3D models to be projected into space at 1:1 and contractors can align structures and materials without looking at drawings. Then we have 3D printing technologies, and soon 3D printing concrete will the norm. Keeping at the forefront of technology is a massive challenge, but it also offers such exciting potential for us as designers.

The other challenge of course is responding to climate change. We work on projects that require integration of buildings that are being constructed two-metres above their surrounding landscapes due to regulations responding to the threat of rising sea level inundation.

Our designs also must be appropriate for future conditions, so you can imagine the challenges of designing a planting palette that not only looks good and thrives in today’s conditions but will survive and thrive in conditions that are two degrees warmer and with significantly less (and more sporadic) rainfall.

The premise for our recently constructed project: ‘Bendigo Garden for the Future’, saw us designing at a different line of latitude, which basically landed us in near desert conditions as an indicator of Bendigo’s 50-year projected climate conditions – conditions that include harsh winter frosts and extreme summer heat. We worked with Paul Thompson to come up with a planting scheme that would be appropriate to and inspire in Bendigo’s predicted future climate.  

Do you think the increase in the number of women architects will help the industry approach the challenges it faces easier and why do you think that?

Short answer is yes. We need a diversity of thought. The world is equally proportioned between genders, more or less, so it makes sense to have equally proportioned leaders in our design practices who are designing the world we live in.

Everyone approaches things differently, so diversity of leadership allows a different and more comprehensive thinking and approach to projects. If you have a bias or ignorance towards any one demographic, then you are likely to get a bias in the designs you are outputting. By having more women in the industry, and women at different stages of their lives, particularly in leadership, we are able to contribute to the design process and outcomes and make sure we are considering all of the issues and designing projects for the broad sets of people who use our projects.

What is an example of the ‘ultimate’ in architectural design?

I was on the design team of the Adelaide Riverbank Precinct Pedestrian Bridge project – a TCL and TZG collaboration. The project was about establishing connections across the city – connecting the station precinct with some of the key cultural destinations in Adelaide.

On the first night it was open there was a football game happening at the new stadium across the river, and when it ended there were tens of thousands of people walking over this bridge accessing the city like they never could before. At that point I realised “Yes, this is why this project was so vital for Adelaide. This is why we do what we do.”

So, that’s my take on the ultimate in landscape architecture, seeing the public embrace your project in a way that it’s difficult to imagine the place without it.