Toward multifunctional landscapes in Australian cities: What disciplinary dynamics and practitioner strategies inform transdisciplinary practice?

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Transdisciplinary practice is considered essential for achieving multifunctional landscapes in cities. But we lack empirical evidence and frameworks that could help us clarify its role and scope. This study seeks to offer empirical evidence by comparing the role of transdisciplinary practice in two projects delivering multifunctional landscapes. What disciplinary dynamics played out in these projects, and what strategies did practitioners use to bring actors together? Using semi-structured interviews, and document analysis, we found different disciplinary dynamics and strategies at play across preparation and transition project phases linked by a window of opportunity. Transdisciplinary practices featured mainly in the preparation project phase, which was characterized by exploring strategies and establishing leaderships and networks that integrate and build knowledge. During this phase, practitioners applied strategies to highlight the relevance of environmental problems, and to get support from different sectors and audiences. Once practitioners found consensus on common targets and obtained support, decision-making processes became less complex, and time became a priority. In the transition phase, improvisation and flexibility were needed to manage problems in different domains. In this phase, transdisciplinary practice ceased to be relevant, and multidisciplinary, monodisciplinary, and interdisciplinary practices dominated, depending on the expertise required to fulfil project objectives and the need for people to work concurrently to meet specific time frames. Here, practitioners applied strategies, but these were carefully chosen for specific audiences to avoid delays. We conclude that diverse disciplinary approaches are used to achieve multifunctional landscapes, and that transdisciplinarity is not the only path to success. Contextual factors will determine the disciplinary approaches needed across all phases. Practitioners wishing to use transdisciplinary practices beyond the initial project phase will require flexibility with regard to timing, concrete guidelines and formal institutional commitment to this approach.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-23
Number of pages9
JournalUrban Forestry and Urban Greening
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017


  • Multifunctional landscapes
  • Municipalities
  • Transdisciplinary practice

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