Harmony or Invention?
The landscape of the National Museum of Australia.
By Catherin Bull and Richard Weller
At a popular level, landscape traditions from elsewhere have been
adopted somewhat uncritically in Australia, resulting in a palimpsest
of landscape styles and little in the landscape that is recognizably
Australian in its design character. This popular approach has been
challenged by the work of landscape architects in the last quarter
of the 20th century, but the profession's work is acknowledged as
subtle and integrative and has lacked the iconic projects that its
professional colleagues in the Northern Hemisphere have typically
used to represent themselves. The profession was established relatively
late when compared with its North American and European counterparts
(the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects, or AILA, was
incorporated in 1967), and design by landscape architects in Australia
has typically pursued harmony through a mimetic, naturalistic aesthetic.
Landscape architects Vladimir Sitta and Richard Weller would assert
that the challenges to popular standards laid down by the profession
have been far too restrainedeven demure. As a consequence,
their design at the National Museum of Australia on Acton Peninsula
in Canberra eschews naturalistic aesthetics and mimetic representations,
asserting the importance of landscape (and, by extension, landscape
architecture) in the continuing dialogue that makes the national
culture. And what better place to do this than at a museum whose
charter is to document the relationship between land, people, and
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