Various rhetorical positions on environmentalism exist within the profession, categorized, for the purpose of this chapter, by deep environmentalism, preservation environmentalism, integrative environmentalism, and ecological environmentalism. Such categorization is not intended to suggest absolute philosophical boundaries or established group positions. In reality, even individual landscape architects express multiple perspectives on environmentalism, which only supports the assertion that misunderstanding, controversy, and debate on environmentalism within the profession is inevitable. In short, the work of the profession does not support the rhetoric, because landscape architects are, in effect, speaking multiple languages of environmentalism.

While a better understanding of the various environmental perspectives can improve communication, a more careful use of language will not correct the schism rooted in the diversity of the profession. If there is a common ground given the multiple perspectives on environmentalism, it appears to be in the profession’s traditional role of engaging in the pressing debates of the age through the artistic manipulation of the landscape.

Daniel Joseph Nadenicek and Catherine M. Hastings, Environmental Rhetoric, Environmental Sophism: The Words and Work of Landscape Architecture (2000)

Ramboll Studio Dreiseitl, Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park (2012)


(Header: Kennardphillipps Art Collective recreation of Andrew Wyeth’s “Christina’s World” (c.2015))


While the use of environmental language in landscape architecture is prolific, its direct application to professional practice in landscape architecture has created a problem: More often than not, the words are unfulfilled by the work. Creating “harmony between humans and nature,”“providing unity in nature,”“healing the environment,” and “restoring nature to the city” are goals not easily accomplished. In fact, some within the profession believe that it is impossible to fulfill the promise of those words through the individual projects of landscape architecture. And yet those and other similar phrases are frequently used in the practice of landscape architecture.

Additionally, the profession has developed an environmental canon of sorts that includes contrasting, if not conflicting, rhetorical positions. This ambiguous perspective on environmentalism reflects a similar ambiguity in society at large. Recent polls indicate that fifty-eight to seventy-three percent of Americans consider themselves environmentalists. The percentage of landscape architects claiming to be environmentalists is likely at least as large given the profession’s traditional interest in nature. Despite landscape architects’ substantial expression of concern for the environment, how they see the profession’s role in dealing with an environmental crisis has engendered considerable disagreement, if not discord.

Daniel Joseph Nadenicek and Catherine M. Hastings, Environmental Rhetoric, Environmental Sophism: The Words and Work of Landscape Architecture (2000)

Taylor Cullity Lethlean, Cranbourne’s Australian Garden (1995-2012)


Attitude and Inventions

When we work as landscape architects, despite many explanatory models, design remains an obscure process of trial and error — who will clear up the error? — of ‘attitude’ and ‘intrinsic nature’ of morphology and performance models. C.T. Sørensen talked about inventions. The results. at least, are on view.

Supposing we understand avant-garde landscape architecture the same way we do with architecture and the other arts as the realization of abstract ideas in this case of nature, ecology and society. Then designing should consequently be understood as the ‘invention’ of information systems or layers that overlap with existing elements. This must precede any thoughts on appearance or expression. Working the other way round can be seen as trite, as patronage, and as predetermining interpretations and even feelings.

Peter Latz, The Idea of Making Time Visible (2000)


Carl Theodor Sørensen, Geometrical Gardens (1954-1983)


Better World

201203070100 Like space and its design, ecology, having been hurried on by prognostics and catastrophes, begins as the vision of a better world. It is an abstract idea of interrelations that are often unclear and must be made concrete and visible. As fit as landscape architecture is concerned, this means neither a scholarly treatise, nor specialised or naive graphics, but the development and invention of appropriate elements and the implementation of their organisation patterns in existing structures.

Peter Latz, The Idea of Making Time Visible (2000)

22-Railway-Park 9753_l   Landschaftspark-Duisburg-013-LATZPARTNER_transformed-1300x650 Parc-Duisburg-LATZ_ARAIMA20110824_0074_205_0

Peter Latz + Latz + Partner, Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord (1991)

FIND It on the map

Tree City

Toronto suffers from neglect. Of all major North American cities Toronto spends the lowest amount on public space. No major city spends less on park operations. Can Toronto survive as urban beauty becomes increasingly important to a city’s prominence in the world marketplace? Will Toronto’s own negligence turn Canada’s central hub into a peripheral global city? Despite its derelict spending, Toronto has the opportunity to convert the city’s one inherent asset into its greatest civic amenity.

We propose to use Toronto’s most distinguishing feature as the park’s primary urban component. Trees rather than buildings will serve as the catalyst of urbanization. Vegetal clusters rather than new building complexes will provide the site’s identity. An urban domain constituted by landscape elements, Tree City attempts to do more by building less, producing density with natural permeability, property development with perennial enrichment. 

Tree City is a feasible urban alternative within the stated available budget. Landscape elements will be planted incrementally over time as funding permits, gradually building up the park’s mass into a flexible patchwork of planted clusters separated by open undesignated areas. 

This will be staged as three long term phases: (1) site and soil preparation, (2) pathway construction, and (3) cluster landscaping. The outcome is a matrix of circular tree clusters covering 25% of the site which is supplemented by meadows, playing fields and gardens. Tree City treats the park as if it is an adult soon capable of sustaining itself rather than a child in need of eternal care. While most infrastructures decrease in value over time, Tree City’s natural network will appreciate as the park matures. We propose that capital generated from the park’s appreciated land value be spent to manage the park’s infrastructure and to support future development in an evolving cycle of implantation and speculation. Tree City is therefore a plan for attainable growth rather than a proposal to create extensive bulk. By forgoing costly buildings in order to dedicate funds for landscaping, Tree City sacrifices the static in order to save what can grow. 

Rem Koolhaas, Tree City (2000)



Rem Koolhaas + OMA, Petra Blaise, Bruce Mau, Downsview Park Competition Winning Entry (2000)


Ethic for the Landscape

When environment is something more than a group of factors and parameters, when we sometimes enjoy the landscape or the nature just as a merchandise, when we talk about tourism or about natural parks as theme parks, when we talk about the forgotten landscapes of the outskirts…has not the ideas changed enough in its use, the values and management of the ground so that have to give a new name to the elements of the landscape, the tools to contemplate it, or to make it? (…)

It is an ethic for the landscape necessary?

What “makes up” the landscape, what defines this presence that insists on appearing? In the Great Wall of China separates territories so far away from each other that what it does is to define them. In the definition of the hermeneutics as “understanding” of the text to make possible the human participation in the construction of the world. In the construction of the human landscape.

Talking about transgressions, I was reading the quote of Adorno in a short story of Kafka. The story of the man that waits in front of a door: the law has a door and the door a doorman. A man arrives and asks him to let him go in. The doorman answers that at the moment he cannot let him go in. The man waits and when he was very old and almost blind, he asks again why is the door open or why it is open when nobody has crossed in all that time. The answer is that the door is just for him and, indeed, the doorman thinks he will have to close it soon.

I think about the definition of this other world that was born separated from the architecture – the vacuum full of meanings and the other things that make up the environment: trees, plants, animals, wind, the sun… that contrasts it because of the construction of the city or of the strip surrounding the buildings, gardens, roofs… I think about streets, roads and motorways. We should study how its “nature” as a constructing way and after that, explore the nature of the transgressions that take place between both worlds to create complicities, to accept each other. Is not that sustainability?

Rosa Barba i Casanovas, Designing…In which Landscape? (2000)

Jacques Simon + JNC INTERNATIONAL et alt., River Deule Park, (1996-)


Nobody likes

Nobody likes it when you mention the unconscious, and nowadays, hardly anybody likes it when you mention the environment. You risk sounding boring or judgmental or hysterical, or a mixture of all these. But there is a deeper reason. Nobody likes it when you mention the unconscious, not because you are pointing out something obscene that should remain hidden—that is at least partly enjoyable. Nobody likes it because when you mention it, it becomes conscious. In the same way, when you mention the environment, you bring it into the foreground. In other words, it stops being the environment. It stops being That Thing Over There that surrounds and sustains us. When you think about where your waste goes, your world starts to shrink. This is the basic message of criticism that speaks up for environmental justice, and it is the basic message of this book.

Timothy Morton. Ecology Without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics. (2000)

A vernacular landscape is shaped by the affective, historically textured maps that communities have devised over generations, maps replete with names
and routes, maps alive to signihcant ecological and surface geological features. A vernacular landscape, although neither monolithic nor undisputed, is integral to the socio-environmental dynamics of community rather than being wholly externalized-treated as out there, as a separate nonrenewable resource. By contrast, an official landscape -whether governmental, NGO, corporate, or some combination of those- is typically oblivious to such earlier maps; instead, it writes the land in a bureaucratic, externalizing, and extraction-driven manner that is often pitilessly instrumental. Lawrence Summers’ scheme to export rich-nation garbage and toxicity to Africa, for example, stands as a grandiose (though hardly exceptional) instance of a highly rationalized official landscape that, whether in terms of elite capture of resources or toxic disposal, has often been projected onto ecosystems inhabited by those whom Annu Jalais, in an Indian context, calls “dispensable citizens.”

Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (2011)           

Godfrey Reggio, Koyaanisqatsi – Pruitt Igoe sequence (1982)