Interview: Ricardo Riveros Celis
In the interview, the landscaper Ricardo Riveros Celis, answers us what is the biggest challenge that landscape architects are facing nowadays.
Landscape Architect, master of Urbanism. Professor for more than 16 years in Landscape Architecture schools in Chile, currently in the Landscape Architecture Career at the Central University of Chile UCEN. President of IFLA AR (Americas Region) from 2018 to 2022. Former President of the Chilean Institute of Landscape Architects (ICHAP). Executive Secretary of Forums Latin American Landscape Initiative (LALI). Director of NGO Heritage and Landscape in Chile. Researcher and international lecturer in Landscape Architecture, professor of international workshops on landscape, public space and community participation.
WHAT EXPERIENCE OR WHAT PERSON DO YOU CONSIDER CONTRIBUTED
TO THE BIRTH OF YOUR LOVE FOR LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE?
It was a very early experiential experience and on the smallest scale of landscape architecture; a garden design for a single-family house that belonged to a friend from school, located in the foothills, in Santiago de Chile. I was about 15 years old when I experienced this impressive garden –because of how extensive and different from what I had seen before– living it as a user.
I clearly remember the visual windows to the majestic Andes Mountains, the enclosures spatially sheltered by the vegetation in its three strata (herbaceous, shrubby and tree), the pool painted gray; which was mistaken for a wetland or a small lagoon. The fauna visiting and sheltering in the old trees and in the most intimate corners of the garden. Without a doubt, this design experience awakened in me a love for landscape architecture.
Then, when I entered the career in 1999, it was some professors from the Design Workshop, such as Mónica Morales and Claudio Pezzani, who deepened the passion with which I currently practice landscape architecture. Certainly, later in the professional field, other references continued and continue –through admiration for their work– motivating my work day by day.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FACING LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTS TODAY?
I believe that Latin American landscape architects have two fundamental challenges, which are at different levels and aim at different objectives. One of the challenges is discipline. It has to do with acting professionally in outdoor spaces, especially in our cities, designing solutions that mitigate, or even better, adapt to the impacts of global change and particularly to the climate and biodiversity crisis facing our planet. This entails the continuous progress in the transdisciplinary understanding of landscape architecture and the close bond that we must have with the scientists who warn us of complex diagnoses, without forgetting what communities tell us from their understanding of the landscape.
The second challenge is to make our profession visible, since it is not only the profession of the future, but one that provides a better future. We must disseminate what landscape architecture is capable of doing to improve our cities and rural areas through the design of resilient solutions with identity.
“We must disseminate what landscape architecture is capable of doing to improve our cities and rural areas through the design of resilient solutions with identity.”
IN WHAT WAY CAN LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTS CONTRIBUTE TO THE CONSERVATION, RECOVERY AND REHABILITATION OF SOILS?
It is necessary to be aware that the soil is the basis for two vital issues: agriculture and ecological sustainability. I emphasize this, since its enormous importance compared to other more fashionable resources, such as water, is generally overlooked. However, it is very important not to forget the systemic nature of these elements and thus understand the importance of soil in the equation that allows life on the planet.
Landscape architects together with other professionals can contribute precisely from these two approaches.
Our involvement in this issue is so direct that the International Federation of Landscape Architects IFLA has a world working group (represented by Landscape Architects from the 5 IFLA Regions) that divides its work into four lines of action: Strategy for Ancestral Rural Landscapes and Innovation (RAIL); the Initiative on Oasis, Landscapes and Agriculture(OLA); the Project on Extreme Aquatic Events, Landscape and Agriculture (FLAG) and finally the Proposal on Migration, Agriculture and Landscape (LAM). This set of actions is connected to our role as Landscape Architects for the conservation, recovery and rehabilitation of the soil.
WHAT SUSTAINABLE SOIL PRACTICES HELP TO PROTECT BIODIVERSITY?
Simultaneously, we must understand that soils are –according to the FAO– responsible for obtaining food, fodder, fuel/energy, fibers, and that they are also the basis of many vital ecological services for us, animals and plants Consequently, all those practices that we can develop towards maintaining its characteristics as a complex and dynamic living system, will at the same time be defenders of biodiversity.
It should be remembered that it is much more sustainable –especially from the economic aspect– and eficient to care for (manage, conserve) soils, than a”ter the nega!ive impact has occurred, to try to recover or rehabilitate them.
It is key to understand that we must promote sustainable management practices for adaptation and mitigation of climate change and resilience to changing weather patterns and extreme events to combat the biodiversity crisis in which we find ourselves.
HOW DO SUSTAINABLE SOIL PRACTICES IMPACT CLIMATE CHANGE?
To take into account: 33% of the land is highly degraded and another 44% is slightly or moderately degraded due to various factors. I am commenting on this to emphasize –once again– that the only way to be aware of the soil is to know its conformation and function as part of a larger ecosystem that sustains
life on the planet. Only with education can we undertake their care. For example, it is very necessary to know that efficient soils mean a greater storage of terrestrial carbon and that its conservation could contribute to the mitigation of climate change, as the FAO warns us once again.