australian institute of landscape architects   AILA®



According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, three out of every five adults is either overweight or obese. For children, it is one in four. Nationally, obesity has overtaken smoking as the leading cause of premature death and illness in Australia. Globally, the number of obese people now outweighs the number of malnourished. And growing in partnership with our waistlines are associated medical problems like Type II diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and asthma. 

There are several factors contributing to our weighty population: the electronic age and access to unhealthy food often gets the most finger pointing. But rarely do we frame the discussion in terms of our built environment – where we live, where we work, how we travel – and assess how the design of these spaces positively or negatively impacts our health.

The BLOOM Exhibition is about looking at our world from a landscape perspective and determining whether or not we are designing enough spaces that promote healthy lifestyles.  From parks to prisons and high schools to hospitals, elements of the everyday are presented as a way to better understand the qualities of the places we’re creating in the age of Facebook and fast food. 

Within the themes of Play, Heal, Learn, Work, Live and Travel, 26 projects were selected to represent different types of spaces and a broad spectrum of users: the young, the old, the worker, the student, the disabled, the unwell. It was also important to choose projects which were found within different types of communities - urban, regional and rural. The selection of projects represented within BLOOM is not intended to showcase the best work from Australia, but rather focuses on the contrasts of how we approach – and value – different types of outdoor spaces.

The structures of our everyday world are a reflection of our society. BLOOM is about looking at some of these everyday spaces and assessing whether they are impacting our health and habits – or making no impact at all. Come to Canberra between May 8th and June 9th 2012 and see for yourselves at the Gallery of Australian Design. 

Gweneth Leigh, Exhbition Curator


To read more about the exhibition and featured case studies, check out the May 2012 issue of Landscape Architecture Australia.

Recommended Resources

to contact Gweneth Leigh, use this email address: 




PLAY Featured PLAY projects are about finding ways of transforming ordinary sites into distinctive and fun destinations.  Whether temporal or permanent, the projects draw on a variety of tools to attract users: elements of folly, revealing ‘hidden’ spaces, and facilitating community outreach. Whether you’re seven or seventy, the act of ‘playing’ serves an important role for our mental and physical health.  The design of our outdoor spaces needs to reflect this through engagement with a broad range of users.
LIVE LIVE projects look at open spaces that provide residents with a place for leisure and the opportunity to connect with their community. The projects contrast different types of neighbourhoods: urban, rural, regional, institutional, and disadvantaged. All of the projects were created for a similar purpose – to accommodate people – although at varying levels of engagement.
TRAVEL Projects featured in TRAVEL are about reclaiming infrastructure for pedestrians, cyclists and people using public transport. Whether upgrading existing laneways with art, retrofitting streets with cycleways or enlivening transport nodes into social hubs, these projects seek to make active travel safe, accessible and fun. 
LEARN The projects within LEARN demonstrate a variety of ways in which school communities are using the outdoors to boost students’ confidence levels and expand their knowledge and experience with nature. The case studies accommodate students from a broad range of ages and abilities – from pre-schoolers using dirt for creative play, high schoolers who learn how to grow food, and teens with mental and physical handicaps using the garden as a way to learn skills that can prepare them for life after graduation.
HEAL Projects featured within HEAL are about examining how institutions involved in health and rehabilitation are using the outdoors to enrich the process of restoring physical and emotional health. The projects provide varying degrees of connection and interaction with outdoor spaces, from passive viewing via hospital windows to actively using and maintaining garden areas. 
WORK Projects within WORK look at examples of how nature can be accessed at the workplace. These contrasting projects establish different levels of exposure to nature – integrating it into, adjacent, or within a short walk of the office.  Together, the projects raise several issues: the benefits and drawbacks to relying on private versus public space; the connection these spaces have to surrounding land uses; and the types of physical, emotional and/or social benefits provided by each.

Recommended Resources



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As curator, I would like to thank the following individuals and organisations for their support towards the development of BLOOM:

Paul Costigan, Petra Wiesner and Catherine Nielson of AILA;

Rachel Davey, Tony Capon, Alison Wicks and Dianne Firth of the University of Canberra;

Greg Mews of ACT Heart Foundation;

Susan Thompson of the University of NSW;

Mark Metters of ACT Government;

National Rural Health Alliance;

Landscape Architecture Australia


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About the Curator

Gweneth Leigh is a registered landscape architect and freelance writer based in Canberra. 

After completing her MLA at Harvard, she migrated to Australia in 2004 where she has practiced in both the private and public sectors.  She is a frequent contributor of landscape critique, with articles published in journals like Landscape Architecture Australia and the US professional journal Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Prior to becoming a landscape architect, Ms Leigh worked as a horticulturalist at the US National Arboretum (Washington, DC), the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University (Jamaica Plains, Massachusetts) and the Vail Alpine Garden Foundation (Vail, Colorado).

Her experiences in both maintaining and creating public spaces has influenced her to look more critically at how we design our public domain, assess how people use it, and better understand where it needs improving.

to contact Gweneth, use this email address: 

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