Back to news & events


2021 NZILA Firth Conference: Landscapes of Equity

Posted 03 06 2021

in News

New Zealand-raised, New York based landscape architect Steven Tupu says he is drawn to projects which attempt to address some of the challenges facing minority communities and populations of colour.

Tupu has been living and working in New York for 20 years, establishing Terrain there in 2004.

Presenting to last month’s NZILA Firth Conference in Tauranga - Tupu, who LAA profiled last December, told the audience that working in New York for two decades and witnessing the growth and transformation of the industrial edges, neighbourhoods and waterfronts has been an incredible experience.

“Ultimately it’s given me a sense of hope that these urban landscape transformations can have huge positive impacts.”

He says he leans towards projects which include affordable and supportive housing, access to safe open spaces and those which connect people to nature.

He says Terrain has been working with NYC neighbourhoods which don’t already have ready access to some of the new, high profile, signfiicant large-scale parks and landscapes which provide new and exciting open spaces. He says those neighbourhoods have often faced decades of “division, neglect and disinvestment.”

He was able to demonstrate to the audience the key role landscape architects have been playing in helping create affordable housing in New York for around one hundred years. Tupu also pointed out how it is non-profit organisations now taking the lead in public and affordable housing in his adopted city.

Terrain has been partnering with non-profit client teams, and collaborated with architects and engineers to design new and affordable housing developments throughout the city and Tupu says to date they have completed more than 50 residential developments which include a total of 5000 residential units. He says they have mostly been made possible with a mix of city and state funding - and philanthropy.

“We have focussed of the design of these open spaces, shared amenity spaces, streetscapes, community gardens and rooftop farms that are part of these projects.”

He says Terrain’s experience with these developments has taught his team three key things in terms of their processes;

  1. The need to develop site specific strategies for projects with limited resources using the creative power of collaborative teaming.
  2. For projects including multi-family and senior housing, shelters and other transitional housing, the need to understand the unique programmatic needs of diverse resident populations and how these needs inform accessible design for all.
  3. The development of innovative ways to build ecologically robust and resilient projects.

You can see the full conference presentation in the video below which includes images of many of the projects Terrain has been involved in, in NYC.