20170112-Guzman-Ruiz-Thesis.pdf (1.81 MB)
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Practitioners delivering multifunctional landscapes in cities: Exploring the role of transdisciplinarity

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posted on 12.01.2017, 04:22 by Ana Guzman Ruiz
Society faces numerous environmental problems in cities. In response to these concerns careful thought must go into the use of urban landscapes in order to manage and deliver multiple benefits to nature and society. For this reason academia recommends the creation of multifunctional landscapes and the use of transdisciplinarity for this purpose. In fact, academia – as suggested in the literature – considers the use of transdisciplinarity to be essential.
   Transdisciplinarity can be defined as the integration and cooperation of actors from different sectors, and with different types of knowledge, in order to solve real and complex problems. However, despite its relevance there is a lack of empirical evidence on transdisciplinarity in local contexts. This raises questions, then, on what transdisciplinarity would look like in practice and, more fundamentally, whether the call for transdisciplinarity in projects delivering multifunctional landscapes is valid.
   The motivation driving this research is to explore and explain the role of transdisciplinary practice in projects delivering multifunctional landscapes in the urban water sector. Through multiple case studies, this research assesses three municipal water projects delivering multifunctional landscapes in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. The analysis focuses on identifying and illustrating, within an explanatory framework, the enabling conditions, disciplinary dynamics and strategies applied by practitioners to bring actors together in the projects. Overall, the results revealed the use of transdisciplinarity in the initial phases of the projects both to establish a shared understanding of environmental problems, and to define common goals in solving them.
   Transdisciplinarity was also applied in the planning and design of a project involving participation of a local community group and interests from the municipality in applying an organisational change program for implementing projects with multiple objectives. Other disciplinary approaches such as interdisciplinarity, multidisciplinarity and monodisciplinarity also had a role in other project phases. The variety of disciplinary dynamics were related to contextual factors such as time; the complexity level for the development of the objectives; the location of the project; the interest of the community and its level of education; transdisciplinary training and the formal commitment of the organisations.
   The importance of this thesis lies in its provision of evidence in response to the call for transdisciplinarity in the delivery of multifunctional landscapes. This study demonstrates that transdisciplinarity is not essential at every stage of a project for the successful delivery of multifunctional landscapes. Therefore, any call for transdisciplinarity should specify the phases that require transdisciplinarity, and not neglect the role of other disciplinary practices for delivering multifunctional landscapes. Thus, the identification of enabling conditions, disciplinary dynamics and strategies applied by practitioners addresses transdisciplinary research gaps such in areas such as process management, organisational change and learning, team dynamics and knowledge integration by practitioners, all in local contexts.
   The explanatory framework developed in this research is useful for practitioners in understanding and clarifying the characteristics, benefits and limitations of transdisciplinarity in projects delivering multifunctional landscapes. In addition, in showing insights into windows of opportunity, key enabling conditions and strategies that facilitate the projects, the framework can be used as a roadmap to evaluate past projects and design future ones.


Principal supervisor

Rebekah Brown

Additional supervisor 1

Meredith Dobbie

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Social and Political Sciences

Campus location



Faculty of Arts