Theory and Design of the Contemporary Landscape

Instructor(s)

This course explores landscape thinking, the generative concepts and strategies that come by observing, understanding, and designing with the dynamic, more-than-human world. To design and build is always to negotiate with natural forces, difficult site conditions, and factors beyond our control. Rivers flood, slopes erode, storms churn, materials decay, economies and budgets crash, and people occupy in conflicting and unexpected ways. In the design of landscapes–where sites are not only the location but also the subject of design–these factors are particularly heightened. Designing the landscape involves grappling with complex biophysical and social forces, reshaping the ground, participating in flows (of water, sediment, plants, and people), all while articulating cultural ideas and forms. Composed of living organisms, designed landscapes change continuously and exquisitely, over days, years, and millennia. Finally, landscape architecture projects exist on public and often-contested land; they are entangled in many layers of socio-environmental conflicts and histories. Together, these disciplinary realities offer a potent realm of ideas and strategies for approaching design, either of the landscape, or more generally. The course asks students to draw from landscape architecture’s unique disciplinary expertise and theoretical body to engage and translate these concepts into their own modes of thinking and designing.