Landscape Architects key to protecting environmental biodiversity in Ontario

Last week, 130 Landscape Architects from across Ontario gathered to hear Ontario Environment Commissioner Gord Miller challenge them "as professionals to be stewards of the natural environment. Biodiversity in Ontario is under terrible stress," he explained.

"Landscape Architects, whether working on urban, rural or greenspace projects, have the opportunity and the knowledge to be leaders in educating the public and their clients to want to design spaces that maintain the ecological integrity of the landscape," Miller said. For example, he urged Landscape Architects to plant native species, keep trees and shrubs for bird habitat, create permeable surfaces to maintain water courses, and ensure that the natural system can regenerate itself.

President of the OALA, George Antoniuk, commented that "the Commissioner reaffirmed our importance in protecting the land and as Landscape Architects we have the awareness, skills, and desire to implement Commissioner Miller’s recommendations." Antoniuk is Manager of the Ontario Aggregate Resources Corporation.

The Ontario Association of Landscape Architects presented awards to the following for their contribution to environmental and design excellence over the past year. Among the recipients were:

The Grand River Conservation Authority which received the OALA Award for Service to the Environment in recognition of their special contribution to the sensitive, sustainable design for human use of the environment. The Conservation Authority’s work over the last 60 years has brought the Grand River back from the brink of disaster to one of the healthiest in North America. Paul Emerson, CAO of the GRCA said, in accepting the award, that “over the last 100 years the ground cover in the region has been restored from 7% to 17% and with four million more people projected to move into the area, we need help from more groups to continue to protect the Grand River watershed.”

Michael Hubicki, Landscape Architect, who received OALA’s Carl Borgstrom Award for Service to the Environment for the home, barn and ecopool he built near Cobourg using reused and recycled materials. According to the citation, “he identified creative solutions to integrate the house, barn and circulation into the site to take advantage of passive solar benefits. He uses the house as an educational tool for school children and university students.” His house was awarded the 2005 Canada Energy Efficiency Award for new homes by National Resources Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency on the same day.

Paul Bedford, former City of Toronto Chief Planner, and Charles Waldheim, Director of the Landscape Architecture Program at the University of Toronto were made Honourary Members of the OALA.

Bedford "championed new visions which emphasized the city’s physical form – its streets, plazas and parksand continues to inspire planners and landscape architects with his vision of a dynamic, people-oriented city," read his citation.

Waldheim took over as Director of the Landscape Architecture program in U of T’s Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design two years ago. Trained as an Architect, he founded the landscape Urbanism Program at the University of Illinois’s School of Architecture. According to the citation, he believes that landscape architecture is one of the most interesting contemporary design professions and actively promotes this belief to students. Since his arrival two years ago at U of T, he has successfully increased enrolment in the Masters of Landscape Architecture program.

Founded in 1968, the Ontario Association of Landscape Architects is the self-regulating professional organization representing accredited landscape architects in Ontario. OALA’s 900 full and associate members are engaged in both public and private practice, applying artistic and scientific principles to research, planning, design and management of both natural and built environments. They promote sustainable environments through land stewardship. The OALA’s mission is to promote, improve and advance the profession of landscape architecture and maintain standards of professional practice and conduct consistent with the need to serve and to protect the public.