Landscape Architecture student wins Future Leader Award

Landscape Architecture student wins Future Leader Award

Michelle Thomas Zacharias, a recent Master of Landscape Architecture graduate, has been awarded the Future Leaders Student Award at the 2020 AILA Landscape Architecture Awards.

This award recognizes achievement in design and planning that is based on the development of innovative and practical solutions to landscape architectural challenges.

From India, Zacharias said the recognition she has received while studying her Master of Landscape Architecture has strengthened her ideas about landscape architecture and how she can apply them as a professional.

“The theories and practices I’ve developed here, have the potential to be applied and be successful in my own country,” she said.

“Not just in theory, but in practice as well.”

The flexibility of the course structure was a key component for Michelle to delve into particular areas of interest helping her shape her future design aspirations.

Zacharias' project focused on improving social conditions in red light districts in New Delhi, India.

Zacharias said she would love to pursue research in the future and aid in helping aspiring landscape architects choose important social projects.

“I would love to change future students’ thinking about the sorts of projects that they should be undertaking, and focus on the objectives they should have while pursuing their studies in their design fields,” she said.

Michelle also won the 2020 Hassell Travelling Scholarship, selected from a pool of 23 other graduating students across Australia.

She received the award based on her project on improving the social conditions of people living in red light districts in New Delhi, India.

Once current COVID travel restrictions lift, Zacharias plans to use the scholarship to travel to South Africa to collaborate with the Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading (VPUU) project.

The project focuses on improving public spaces in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, to provide services to victims of violence, and enable greater opportunities for access to education.

“Through concepts of urban acupuncture, landscape architects and urban designers can not only uplift the landscape of the area, but also give power to the community,” she said.

Zacharias’ recognition comes at a time when the coronavirus has also had an impact on the field of landscape architecture.

Associate Lecturer in Landscape Architecture Alice Lewis said COVID-19 has changed the general public’s view of landscapes, even public parks.

“There’s been this huge cultural shift,” Lewis said.

“It seems through the pandemic, there has been an reinvigoration of landscape architecture.”

Lewis said the industry has gained more recognition since going into lockdown, particularly local landscape areas that are now important in people’s daily routines.

“We can respond through public space and use this new appreciation to strategically shift the way that we use cities, down from transport, to how people walk through their own suburbs,” she said.

Zacharias said that the pandemic has made people more appreciative of public spaces and “the importance they hold in the current city fabric”.

“As designers, we should be raising awareness about the importance of design, rather than just designing aesthetically pleasing places around the city.”


Story: Phoebe Humphrey


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