In late September, while American landscape architects gathered for the ASLA’s Annual Meeting and EXPO in Phoenix, their European counterparts were meeting in Barcelona for the seventh European Landscape Biennial. The Biennial began in 1998 around the award of the Rosa Barba Prize, which is given for exceptional works in landscape architecture accomplished over the previous five years; seven finalists presented their projects to the gathering before the awarding of the prize.
The winner this year was EMF Landscape Architecture and Ardevols Associates Consultants for the Tudela-Culip (Club Med) Restoration Project in Cap de Creus, near Cadaqués, in Catalonia, Spain (also a General Design winner in this year’s ASLA Professional Awards). The design involved the demolition and recycling of the existing Club Med, the removal of invasive exotic plants, and the adding of hiking trails and interpretive elements to highlight the distinctive geology of the area that inspired the artist Salvador Dali.
The conference itself was often somber, which reflected Europe’s current economic headwinds. There is also impatience among European landscape architects to gain recognition and licensure for the profession, which American practitioners surely understand. But there were also fascinating presentations by designers such as Michel Desvigne; Kathryn Gustafson, FASLA; Herbert Dreiseitl, International ASLA; Julie Bargmann, and academics from innovative programs such as EMILA (European Landscape Masters).
The conference ended with a celebration of 20 years of Topos magazine, hosted by Robert Schäfer, the magazine’s creator and editor, and included the presentation of the Topos Landscape and Jubilee Awards. The Topos Landscape Award went to a young design firm, Taktyk, led by Sébastien Penfornis and Thierry Kandjee, who are based in Paris and Brussels.
The first Jubilee Award went to the National Tourist Routes of Norway progam. The program uses roadside design to drive tourism, and has been quite successful in making Norway’s natural beauty more accessible.
Last came the presentation of the second Jubilee Award to Christina Kaba and Bridget Impey of Abilimi Bezekhaya (Farmers of Home) from South Africa, which since 1983 has promoted microfarming in the impoverished Cape Flats. A local resident, Kaba, gave an emotional personal account of rising up the ranks from a reluctant home gardener to a manager of the group’s training program, all while supporting her extended family. She received thunderous applause.
From here on, the Biennial is planned to broaden and become less exclusively focused on Europe; it will be called the International Landscape Biennial, and will happen in 2014.