In 2003, UNESCO, with the support of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO (CCU), decided to create the UNESCO Chair in Landscape and Environmental Design at the University of Montreal. The year 2013 marks an important milestone in the development of the Chair.
For 10 years, the UNESCO Chair in Landscape and Environmental Design at the University of Montreal (CUPEUM) has been developing and running a unique and sustained international cooperation program that integrates more than 20 university institutions. In pursuit of its own vision and that of UNESCO, the Chair assists cities in meeting urban development and enhancement challenges by developing planning strategies in collaboration with local authorities. For example, for many years it has been directly involved with the Montreal UNESCO City of Design initiative and its efforts to create new opportunities for designers in Montreal and to promote design initiatives.
The Chair performs its academic and scientific mission mainly by means of its various WAT_UNESCO (Workshop_atelier/terrain) activities. Conducted in diverse regions of the world (Europe, Maghreb, Middle East, Asia and North America), these workshops allow for transdisciplinary and intercultural dialogue and result in concrete planning proposals for each of the host cities.
As underlined by Philippe Poullaouec-Gonidec, director of CUPEUM, “Given the globalized context of urban development, we must promote international platforms for dialogue in order to generate development visions that are more inventive and more apt to promote the quality of urban living environments, to enhance the identity of cities, and to tackle environmental, social and economic problems. Meeting these challenges can only be achieved through sharing and through intercultural dialogue and mutual assistance. That is what WAT_UNESCO promotes!” Moreover, CUPEUM’s WAT_UNESCOs contribute to the strengthening of inclusive international cooperation and the implementation of knowledge transfer mechanisms aimed at promoting concerted decision-making between elected officials, experts and citizens.
A further highlight of CUPEUM’s 10thanniversary is its recent affiliation with the UNESCO Education for Sustainable Development program. In fact, the next WAT_UNESCO, slated for fall 2014, will coincide with the conclusion of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development.
In these ways, CUPEUM is reinforcing its commitment to teaching in diverse realms of society. We underline that the UNESCO Chair in Landscape and Environmental Design contributes actively to the quality of university education for all members of its international science network, in particular, at the local level, for students from the School of Landscape Architecture and the School of Architecture programs of the Faculty of Environmental Design through their participation in WAT_UNESCOs. It also participates in other international workshops on urban and landscape design.
Moreover, CUPEUM has a strong interest in applied research on urban landscape issues and in ensuring the emergence of new talent in landscape design and architecture. More recently, the Chair’s commitment to young professionals from the field, including the internationalization of their practice, was demonstrated by its organization of landscape architecture competitions for the creation of two Quebec gardens in China .
The UNESCO Chair in Landscape and Environmental Design is the fruit of a direct partnership between University of Montreal’s Faculty of Environmental Design and UNESCO, the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, the Ministère des Relations internationales, de la Francophonie et du Commerce extérieur du Québec, and the International Relations Office of the University of Montreal.