ELA: Can you talk about the present status and trend of landscape architecture development in America, Europe, and Asia Pacific?
Dieter Grau: This is a very interesting question. Our profession changed a lot in the last decade. In western world, the relationship between landscape architecture and architecture changed in a way that our profession is taken much more serious role than before. At the moment, landscape architects are acting as the leading team. They contribute as very strong part in teams when designing open space or public space. In tasks and projects, while different parts are facing challenges pretty much the same, landscape architects can even play as the driving role in the whole process.
In Asia, it is different scenario. Public space for people to meet, communicate, enjoy and recreate, is basically developed from zero as it was not part of city in the past. In the past, landscape architecture was more related to garden design. Now landscape architect has transformed into a role as a partner who is important in city planning - to create public space. However, in the mean time they have to adapt to a very fast process as Asia is in the dramatic transformation.
ELA: Since establishment, Atelier Dreiseitl aims at a vision of “livable city”. What is “livable city” in your opinion? Is it a blue-green city?
Dieter Grau: Livable city is an interesting term and description of a concept, of quality, of public space where people live. This is a very broad term. Landscape architecture in green and blue infrastructure is an important part of cities which creates a livable and sustainable environment. However, the term - livable city - describes a bit more than green and blue environment. It describes a product of city that attracts people of top-quality no matter in western world or in Asia. If you choose where want to live, you would like to choose a city where is comfortable, with high quality of life there.
Thus, it is really about having a city which is designed in human scale, comfort, green and blue, and gives you convenient and comfort feeling for social practice and meet people. And another important point is about the transportation system that you won’t spend lots of your time in cars, you have a convenient way of moving in the city, etc. All of these different aspects combine parts of a livable city. However, green and blue infrastructure environment is still an important component.
ELA: Can you talk about the 2013 INDEX awarded project Copenhagen Flood Protection Implementation Masterplan, Denmark in detail?
Dieter Grau: This is an important project in Europe. Copenhagen is a very dense city of 1.5 million people with several hundred years’ history - a world model of traditional dense European city center. Copenhagen is always having high ambitions to be one of the leading livable cities in the world.
With this background and basing on some disastrous flooding events occurred in 2011, Copenhagen decided and moved forward to a transformation of the city and integration of green and blue spaces into the city public ground. In this journey, they want to see a really practical strategy. How to implement big scale strategy of public space design into a city pattern is a big challenge today. And no other city has done that before. This is one of the first showcases.
We have worked and helped them to get understanding from strategical level down to a level where people can see a change in public space - integrate not only beautiful green and blue landscape but also elements and tools of urban water management into public ground. It’s also about hard core infrastructure. This will be exciting to see our skills to be implemented over the next years. It will be a model for many cities in the world.
ELA: Atelier Dreiseitl’s works have been awarded numerous prizes. What kind of the story behind these awards, including how the team is united to do project or what is the challenge it faces, etc. Can you talk about it taking example of one or two projects?
Dieter Grau: First of all, what interesting is we are working in many different cultures like in Asian or US context. To make a project successfully, we always try to understand, deal and adapt ideas to the local culture. Our team is multicultural. Our colleagues are from different regional background - Europe, Asia, US, etc. And what we try to abide by is our clear strategy of doing quality of sustainable innovation. We educate and train our teams in different parts of the world by this and we trust it is a key part to do innovation and keep quality to team building in our different studios.
Just take two projects explaining what we are working in the forefront of change in cities briefly- Bishan-AMK Park project in Singapore and TCP project in China (Tianjin Cultural Park). The Singapore project on one hand is a detailed design that people can feel and touch and enjoy, on the other hand it is also a starting point of a movement in Singapore - to create a better green and blue infrastructure environment for the city’s future. It is a public open space related with dealing and performing in a much better way of the water environment. This is the big context of the project.
The Tianjin Cultural Park project was related in a very tight schedule and was requested to create a high quality of design in the city center. This was a big challenge and new learning process for our team integrating an ecological design in a tight schedule. Deal with the client is not a procedure for approval process of ecological design or measures. Water management in an innovative way is also a challenge for the client in such a project. All these things are reflecting steep learning curve when we went through in the last years in introducing and applying our innovation design concept from western world to Asian context.
ELA: Waterscape is the strength of Atelier Dreiseitl’s practice, what kind of technology is involved in waterscape, including aspects of stormwater treatment, river restoration, etc.?
Dieter Grau: First of all, it is a very long line of learning and dealing with water in urban landscape design context in the last thirty years. We realized that integrating waterscape in all the projects doesn’t matter whether it is in a very urban context or it is more rural or in very soft scale environment. This is one of the key basic knowledge what we have.
Besides, there are two components in our work - the technical part and its integration into projects. The technical component is closely related with improving performance of hydrological environment of cities in the future. Here what I mean is a big scale water management - watershed management. And integrating it in a technical way into landscape architecture and creating different scales of space that people enjoy in the city are even more crucial task for us.
The technical part is the important part in our office. We have landscape architect, architects and urban planners. We also have engineer selection of different professions. This is the key to do a very streamline project in a very successful and efficient concept. This team organization in our offices certainly is the point to work on water sensitive landscape projects in different parts of the world.
ELA: How the elements - art and technology blend together and fuse into design in Atelier Dreiseitl?
Dieter Grau: This is always a key topic for us. Art is something related to capture people’s emotion and to make things attractive to the public. And the technical solution is related to improve performance of infrastructure in a sustainable way - improving hydraulic and climate condition, creating a comfortable environment for people to live in. We are very clear that it is not enough to do a good job in infrastructure or engineering part, for attracting people means artistic and creative design approaches have to be put in a critical point. So in order to be successful in the future, we have to keep doing what we are practicing at the moment - integrating what we have in technical aspect into a city design, into an artistic implementation of space where people find it is attractive, it is a part of their lives. That’s how we understand and practice art and technology in design.
ELA: The last question, what’s your opinion on media in the profession of landscape architecture?
Dieter Grau: This is a good question, but it is something which has different dimensions. One dimension is certainly that media plays very important role in placing our profession in public awareness no matter in western or eastern world. The second dimension I believe is that media can display what you have done already today – exhibiting interesting projects, showing how different offices are working, etc. However for me, this is still not the most exciting point. The most exciting one is that media should smell and do fast action reflecting what are challenges and opportunities in our profession. We have creative ideas and can create innovations to look forward what is coming in the next five years, what is the challenge in five or ten years. This is something important where the media have to play key role or deal with in the future. It should give a feel for the profession, thus could guide how the profession adjusts and adapts to these changes in the future.