From Architecture to Landscape

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From Architecture to Landscape
Orongo Station, Poverty Bay, New Zealand

Slowly — fitfully — landscape architecture is remaking itself. Its adherents are venturing from the confines of garden, park, and plaza into strange and difficult territory, where they face challenges of a greater order. How will our cities adapt to rising seas? How do we respond to the mass extinction of our fellow species? How can we build places that are more just? Such questions mock the very notion of disciplinary boundaries. Alexander Felson, Nelson Byrd Woltz, Sean Burkholder, Teresa Gali-Izard, Quilian Riano, and Michael Geffel are among the many practitioners and scholars who are transgressing the bounds of landscape architecture, adapting methods from fields as diverse as conservation biology and quantum mechanics, as they pursu­e more syncretic ways of understanding and shaping environments.

These changes correspond to a growing interest in landscape, broadly defined, which is more prominent in contemporary culture than at any time since the 18th century. As James Corner wrote in 2006, “that seemingly old-fashioned term landscape has curiously come back into vogue.” Architects, especially, have been drawn to the theme, as demonstrated by recent conferences of the American Collegiate Schools of Architecture, and by David Heymann’s excellent essays in this journal. As Heymann put it: “Landscape Is Our Sex.” Scientists concur; a recent policy briefing of the European Science Foundation identified “landscape research” as “a fundamental, integrated research field” worthy of sustained attention. []