IFLA Zurich: Excellently Unfocused

News from IFLA Conference in Zurich via topos

The 48th World Congress of Landscape Architecture had more than 1300 participants from 75 countries, including 400 students. It was one of the biggest IFLA meetings ever. A big success for the City of Zurich and its Garden Department, “Grün Stadt Zürich” who organized the event together with the Swiss Federation of Landscape Architects (BSLA). About one hundred lectures, talks, debates and excursions as well as keynote speeches hovered around the Congress motto “Scales of Nature,” which was open-ended enough to accommodate everything. Once again this conference presented itself as a grab bag where the single parts were not really related to the whole.
Instead of following some straight and somehow essential main themes, the content remained disparate. This is why there is no clear outcome and no distinct professional push forward. Participants were satisfied by the smooth organization, the location of the venue on the shore of Lake Zurich, the relaxed atmosphere and the nicely arranged breaks with plenty of possibilities to socialize and network. Excellent. But IFLA should reconsider the old-fashioned call for scholarly papers, accepting bits and pieces from anywhere and everywhere. The quality was inconsistent enough to drive many away from the presentation sessions. However, this was not without bright spots and inspiring material, it just might be better placed in a different context.
Unfortunately an unwritten rule requires the IFLA officials to meet and talk about politics just prior to the conference without bringing those issues to the main event. This is a wasted chance to talk about international landscape issues and to make the IFLA organization more transparent to everyone. You and I will have to wait until our respective national delegate forwards his report to the national member organisation of IFLA to learn more about strategies mentioned in that meeting, such as supporting the profession in Africa. Or you can consult the website http://www.iflaonline.org and search for news. Surely in sum total there were many chances missed, but certainly there is the potential for change and improvement in future.
By the way: the next World Congress takes place in Cape Town, South Africa, in October 2012.
(Robert Schäfer)
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