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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 restrained—even 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 nation?

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