- Making Landscape Architecture in Australia by Andrew Saniga
Andrew Saniga. 2013. University of New South Wales Press Ltd., Sydney, NSW, Australia. 400pages.
Paperback Edition: ISBN 978-1-74223-355-0, Digital Edition: 978-1-74224-607-9.
Reviewing University of Melbourne Senior Lecturer Dr. Andrew Saniga’s recent book (built on his doctoral research), Making Landscape Architecturein Australia, reminds me of a question I was asked after a lecture in the Netherlands about Australian landscape architecture: “So what can Dutch landscape architecture learn from Australia?” Despite its arrogance, it is a useful question, because it asks us to consider what, beyond a general, incremental contribution to knowledge of the profession, a local history can offer to those outside its immediate milieu. For an international audience an answer might, on the one hand, note the influence of the international on the local, and on the other, distinguish the local from the international. Since the profession of landscape architecture developed internationally in the geopolitical and media landscape of the twentieth century, Australian landscape architecture reflects many international trends, notably the rise of environmentalism. However, these have been inflected in very particular ways due to the character of the Australian landscape. In this review I will examine this tension between the local and the international in Saniga’s book.
In a section entitled “Origins and Precedents,” Saniga sets up what will be a familiar refrain in the book: the contribution of non-landscape architects to the development of the profession in Australia. Saniga’s book concerns “those who design landscape . . . [however] the creators [my emphasis] of these landscapes… form a challenging group to understand and to appreciate, even to label; they call themselves different things, and are labeled differently by third parties, they work at different scales, and they often have very different motivations” (Saniga 2012, viii). In this sense, Saniga shows that the profession was gathered together after the fact from the work of a range of diverse individuals. This is, of course, not limited to Australia, and can be seen in the way that books such as The Landscape of Man (Jellicoe and Jellicoe 1975) appropriated Le Notre and Brown to develop an apparent lineage of “landscape architecture” that gave a gravitas to the profession, making it seem older than its young years. Saniga demonstrates that in Australia, landscape architecture was a nebulous mongrel (to use a favorite Australian term) gathered together after the fact from the work of a range of “characters” (to use another favorite term). This reflects how Australians celebrate the underdog, the rebel (or the bushranger, like Ned Kelly): the outsider.
Many of these outsiders were foreign practitioners, including the winners of the competition for the national capital of Canberra in 1912, Walter Burley Griffin (1876–1937) and Marion Mahony Griffin (1871–1961), who were the first to call themselves landscape architects in Australia. Some of these foreign professionals established themselves in Australia and helped develop the profession; they were fascinated by the local landscape in a way that many local practitioners were not. A student of Peter Behrens, Karl Langer (1903–69), was a Viennese émigré who settled in Brisbane and adapted Modernist sensibilities to work innovatively with the qualities and limitations of the sub-tropical landscape in building siting, subdivision layout, and the use of gardens. Langer was also one of the founders of AILA.1 Danish garden architect Paul Sorenson (1891–1983) created the [End Page 127] Everglades garden (Figure 1) in the Blue Mountains as an Arts and Crafts style garden that masterfully incorporated adjacent bushland in a way that few Australian projects did (Ratcliffe 1990).
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Considering that my own research concerns the relationship between landscape architecture and gardening in a material and practice sense, I was interested in the use of “Making” in the title of Saniga’s book, which I choose to read as a reference to the role of gardeners and landscape contractors who literally made projects. “Out door” workers are the literal “outsiders” in the profession...