Elevating Urban Landscapes: The Circular Imperative for Landscape Architects


By Damian Tang

In an era where urbanization and sustainability converge, landscape architects hold a pivotal role in shaping the future of our cities. Drawing from my experience as the former President of the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) Asia Pacific Region and my current role as the Organizing Chair of the Circular Cities Summit, I am profoundly convinced of the transformative potential inherent in circular design principles for landscape architects. This article aims to illuminate the profound implications of circular design for our profession, advocating for its integration as a guiding ethos in our work.

What We Know and What We Do:

1. Ecosystem Restoration: Our Stewardship

Landscape architects are more than just designers; we are stewards of urban greenery. Our profession involves designing urban landscapes that not only look visually appealing but also function as ecosystems. Circular design champions the restoration and preservation of ecosystems within urban environments—a cause that resonates deeply with our profession. Our capacity to breathe life into urban landscapes by incorporating native flora, creating wildlife habitats, and restoring degraded areas is central to the circular ethos. By championing biodiversity-focused planning and sustainable green infrastructure, we contribute to urban landscapes that serve as vibrant ecosystems rather than mere backdrops.


2. Resource Reuse: A Creative Challenge

Circular design's emphasis on resource reuse presents landscape architects with a creative challenge that aligns seamlessly with our ethos. We have the privilege of leading the creative repurposing of materials, from reclaimed wood in park structures to upcycled elements in urban gardens. This approach not only minimizes waste and reduces environmental impact but also sparks innovation in our designs. Resource-efficient landscapes are the hallmark of circular urbanism, and landscape architects are the torchbearers of this sustainable transformation.


3. Water Management: Nurturing Liquid Lifelines

Water, the lifeblood of urban landscapes, deserves meticulous attention. Circular design advocates responsible water management, an imperative that is profoundly relevant to landscape architects. Our mastery in shaping water features, sustainable drainage systems, and urban wetlands can significantly contribute to water conservation and mitigate the adverse effects of urban heat islands. By embracing circular water management, we rejuvenate our urban environments while preserving this precious resource.


4. Community Engagement: Building Social Resilience

Circular landscapes are not just about nature; they are about people. Landscape architects hold a unique position in fostering community engagement. Our designs can transform urban green spaces into active hubs for community interaction, such as urban gardens and circular parks.

These spaces instil a sense of ownership, shared responsibility, and environmental stewardship among residents. As the former President of IFLA Asia Pacific Region, I witnessed firsthand the power of landscape architecture in building social resilience.

What We Do Not Know and Wish to Discover:

Exploring Uncharted Territory: Our Quest for Interdisciplinary Wisdom

We humbly acknowledge that our journey toward circular urbanism is an expedition into uncharted territory. There's a profound realization that within our realm and among our peers in related professions, such as architects, engineers, and planners, there exists a wealth of untapped knowledge. By embracing this acknowledgement and recognizing the rich expertise that each discipline brings to the table, we embark on a collective odyssey—a quest for interdisciplinary wisdom.

This journey is not solitary but one forged in unity. It's a call to align our aspirations, to share our experiences, and to foster interdisciplinary collaboration that transcends traditional boundaries. It's a summons to work in unison, guided by the beacon of innovation and propelled by the shared vision of creating cities that embody circularity.

With the esteemed support of IFLA President, Dr. Bruno Marques, and IFLA Asia Pacific Region President, Prof. Monica Kuo, we have the privilege to unite these long-awaited conversations on a single platform. Together, we ignite a transformative dialogue that transcends borders, disciplines, and limitations, illuminating the path toward the realization of truly circular cities.

The Opportunity: Call to Action:

Join the Circular Cities Summit: Unite for Circular Urbanism

In navigating the uncharted territory of circular urbanism, I extend a heartfelt invitation to my fellow landscape architects to take action. The Circular Cities Summit stands as an unparalleled platform for interdisciplinary collaboration. Join us, alongside architects, engineers, urban planners, and other experts, in shaping the future of our cities.

Together, we can lead the transformation towards circular urbanism and craft cities that are harmonious with both nature and humanity. Let us unite, share our expertise, and forge partnerships that will redefine urban landscapes for generations to come. Register for the Circular Cities Summit and become a catalyst for a greener, more sustainable urban future. Your participation is not merely an opportunity; it is an obligation to the cities we cherish and the world we share. https://www.circularcitiessummit.com/ 


By Damian Tang

Organizing Chair, Circular Cities Summit

Former President, IFLA Asia Pacific Region