X-Section Interview- University Magazine for Landscape Architecture

X-Section Interview- University Magazine for Landscape Architecture

You may or may not have heard of them, but X-section is an association developed by the Unitec Department of Landscape Architecture in Auckland city, that has the aim of promoting landscape architecture on an international scape. This team of students and teachers recognizes the role of landscape architects and the solutions and innovations they can bring to the everyday problems of our environment. Recently, on the 30th of November, X-section launched their second edition magazine for 2012. The magazine encompasses projects, ideas and designs submitted by students, architects and more. The aim is to raise awareness on the importance of landscape architecture and generally raise more fans to the topic which can often be disregarded to its older brother, plain architecture. We are quite excited about this team and their publications, so we managed to speak with designer Chris Judd, editor Peter Griffiths and assistant editor John Allan. Let’s see what they had to say!

Students Tama, Olivia and Chris Judd

How did the idea for an annual publication on landscape architecture come about? What are the reasons behind this initiative? And why ‘X-section’ as a name? X-section was born out of the need for Landscape Architecture to be better represented at Unitec. Previously LA students collaborated with Architecture to produce a yearbook style publication called Asylum, but the landscape students were often misrepresented or drowned under the sheer volume of architecture work. (30 students a year intake for landscape vs. 60-90 for architecture). X-section gives our landscape students and academic staff a medium to communicate with practice. Once it was decided that there was room in the budget for an exclusively landscape publication, a few students were shoulder tapped and asked if they wanted to be involved. The name X-section arose from a few conditions; we wanted a recognizable brand; a landscape architecture term (cross sections are a vital tool for the interpretation and understanding of the landscape, much like what we want this publication to be); and most pragmatically, the name had to be available online, and be unique to the magazine/journal form. Tell us a bit about the people behind this project and their respective roles. How did you come to work together? At X-section it is very much a student collective, a collaborative project and we try to avoid roles per se, so this is an attempt to describe how the whole thing runs. Pete Griffiths – Senior lecturer and co-founder of firm Field LA. Pete brought the idea to fruition, he found the money in the budget and convinced the faculty it was a good idea.  Then, as all good educators/facilitators do, he stepped back and let the students experiment and run things. Much like the art of acupuncture, Pete gives very minimal but highly effective input, empowering the students to take ownership of the process and the result. John Allan – John was part of the initial group of 4 students who ran issue one; he has stayed on in a mentoring / teaching role for issue two. John has a background in graphic design and printing and has one year remaining in his Bachelor of Landscape Architecture. Chris Judd –Design and production for issue two. He is a student of the Bachelor of Landscape Architecture at Unitec and has one year remaining in the degree. Olivia Koch – Design and Production for issue two. She is a student of the Bachelor of Landscape Architecture at Unitec and has one year remaining in the degree. Tamatoa Taruia – Design and production for issue two. Tama has just completed his final year of the Bachelor of Landscape Architecture. What do you think landscape architecture, as a concept which can be applied, means to this day and age? What do you think it will become for future generations? We think landscape architecture is starting to get a better profile, but as students of the art, we are becoming more and more surrounded in it. Landscape architects are certainly starting to leave their mark in Auckland City, where X-section is based, which will hopefully be a legacy for generations. We certainly feel that landscape architecture as a profession is playing a bigger role worldwide in building cities and changing them for the better, there is still a long way to go and technology, in all of its forms, will continue to effect the influence landscape architecture will have, which is something we explored in issue one of X-section. What is the general structure of the magazine? Do you have any special features that we should look out for? What do you look for in submissions? The magazine is generally structured around student work, and what students are exploring for the year, and then the articles are woven through that structure based on their relevance. There is an overall question that all the articles are responding to and the team each year write an intro and summary article to try and frame the issue, as if it was a research project in itself (which it is). Special to issue two is our first double-blind peer reviewed article, which was made possible by our expert review panel which includes two highly renowned professionals from here in New Zealand, and one from the University of Guelph, in Canada. We are excited about having an Academic Journal component to the publication and will be building on this in the coming years.

Image by Rebecca Cray from her 4th year negotiated study research project and peer-reviewed article in x-section 2012 entitled ” The Ultimate Dichotomy; conservation and tourism”

In our submissions we look for a range of different voices and opinions on our particular topic for the issue. We love short and snappy stuff that keeps the attention of the current generation of students, so most of our articles are 500 words or less. A very easy read. Also we love it when images are supplied with the submissions, but if they aren’t  it gives us another slot to sneak in some (relevant) student work. Why do you think your publication is important and what are its achievements so far? What are your goals for the future? One of the most important aspects of X-section is that is Free! We hand these out to students for no charge. We try to remove any of the potential barriers to getting our message out there, and if we can put it in the hands of students for free, it doesn’t get much easier to get exposure. We also include a number of copies in the mail out of the national industry publication “Landscape Architecture New Zealand” which gives us great reach throughout New Zealand. As mentioned before, the journal aspect of X-section is a big achievement for us, as is the spread of the publication thanks to its online version. We have even mailed copies to Mexico, Israel, many states of the US and Canada to some die-hard fans. Our goal is to see X-section get bigger and bolder in the years to come and in turn, spark a greater awareness of landscape architectural issues in New Zealand and all over the world. I understand that this year’s publication has a specific theme. Could you tell us more about that? What was last year’s theme and what future concepts do you think you will introduce? This year’s theme rolled off the back of the Understory event – (Landscape Architecture Awareness Day) which was asking “What is Landscape Architecture?” A few of us at Unitec got involved in the day (building models in the public realm with massive time and weather constraints). We had a great time exploring the idea in models that it just made sense to flow into the issue for the year. We asked the world out there what they thought contemporary landscape architecture is and what the future looks like. As mentioned earlier, last year’s theme was around the role of digital technology in landscape architecture and what value it brings to the profession. It began as a twist on the CAD vs. hand drawing argument, and developed into something much more. We never know what the future themes will bring as we introduce a new crop of students each year, who get to decide what their issue will research. So your guess is as good as ours!

Image by Auckland based Photographer Simon Devitt from his article in x-section 2012 entitled “Capturing the Feeling”

What role does social media play in your publication and your development? How do you launch your magazine and how can people have access to it? Social media is a massive part of our communication with our readership. We use our Facebook page frequently and have a blog to support it. We publish the magazine using Issuu and this year we will publish through our schools e-Press department. We love a good launch party so we have two! One for the students – at our annual Grad-Show, where all the design degrees showcase their work. The other launch is a massive privilege, partnering up with the Auckland Branch of the NZ Institute of Landscape Architects end of year function – a great night for students and professionals to mingle and celebrate another year of hard work! What lies in store for your organization in the future? Where and how do you see yourself promoting landscape architecture in 5 to 10 years from now? The future is bright for X-section. We consider ourselves advocates for landscape architecture and plan to continue promoting this wonderful profession well into the future. We feel that the next few years will be important in helping to increase our reach and interaction with the professional and student world both here in New Zealand and abroad. Unitec and X-section are excited about the possibility of collaborating with Landscape Architecture students from the University of Guelph in Canada for next year’s edition and in years to come. This international bond would help to get the name and ideas of  X-section out to the world, which is what we are all about!

X-section Magazine Issue 2 Cover

For any information about us visit our blog at Or like us on Facebook at X section issue two is online at Or send us an email at The activity of the X-section team is to be admired, as well as such an important goal as promoting landscape architecture. By means of collaborations, discussions, exposure and the social media, X-section is getting the job done and doing all of us in the field a favor.  Let’s hope they continue in their endeavors and bring us a lot more magazine on LA. Interview conducted by Oana Anghelache Enjoy what you’ve read! Support us and pick up one of our awesome T-shirts today, Click the link

This article was originally submitted to Landscape Architects Network

Published in Blog

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