Nature causes death. It takes up too much space. It brings ice onto the roads, germs into our living rooms, and water through the windows.

REAL Nature is disconnected from our FANTASY about it: I, like most people, want Nature… functional and in its place.

How we Americans view NATURE, and how we think about it, is different from how we occupy and use it.

We all say that we love nature, but if we stop for a moment and are honest with ourselves, we can see the radical difference between what we say and what we do. This is a much-needed reality check for all of the Nature-lovers out there. Nature today is a commodity that is inserted, in bits and pieces, into an environment that is itself a constructed product of our will. It does what we want, and sadly, all we want is to enjoy the view without being inconvenienced.

Martha Schwartz, I hate nature (2008)




Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Corn Harvest (1565)

A landscape is not a natural feature of the environment but a synthetic space, a man-made system of spaces superimposed on the face of the land, functioning and evolving not according to natural laws but to serve a community.

John Brinckerhoff Jackson, Discovering the Vernacular Landscape (1984)






George Hargreaves, Byxbee Park (1988)

In a Smithson sculpture like Aslphalt Rundown (1969), in which  truckload of he viscous material was poured down the gullied slope of a quarry near Rome, Hargreaves saw the expression of this contemporary conception of landscape. Although far from beautiful in any familiar sense, Hargreaves found such work deeply compelling for the way it brought time, gravity, erosion, human commerce, and the physical properties of matter all into play. ‘For the first time,’ Hargreaves recalled, “I understood that designed landscapes could be extraordinarily meaningful. The Smithson works reintroduced the concept of landscape as idea- something lost in the pursuit of the functional landscape- and opened a door to a world not yet fully explored and till expanding.

John Beardsley, Entropy and the New Landscapes. (1996).

Robert Smithson, Asphalt Rundown, 1969 (Roma) (2)

Robert Smithson, Asphalt Rundown (1969)




The “styles” are a lie.

There has never been an English garden outside of England, a Spanish garden outside of Spain, or a Japanese garden outside of Japan.

There has never been an Italian Renaissance garden since the Italian Renaissance, never an American Colonial garden since the vigorous beginnings of the American States.

A style is a definite form of expression of a certain people in a certain place at a certain time; “styles” are humbug and measured details.

Talk of the enrichment of our garden art by eclectic borrowings is merely a cloak over esthetic laziness, esthetic immaturity, esthetic poverty.

Garrett Eckbo,  Landscape for Living “on history” (1950)




Gilles Clément, Garden in movement

For there is in mankind an unfortunate propensity to make themselves, their views, and their works, the measure of excellence in everything whatsoever. Therefore, having observed that their dwellings were most commodious and firm when they were thrown into regular figures, with parts answerable to each other; they transferred these ideas to their gardens; they turned their trees into pillars, pyramids, and obelisks; they formed their hedges into so many green walls, and fashioned their walks into squares, triangles, and other mathematical figures, with exactness and symmetry; and they thought, if they were not imitating, they were at least improving nature, and teaching her to know her business. But nature has at last escaped from their discipline and their fetters; and our gardens, if nothing else, declare we begin to feel that mathematical ideas are not the true measures of beauty.

Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Sublime and the Beautiful (1757)




The designer should incorporate the users’ values into the neighborhood design process instead of relying exclusively on his own values. Often the user’s values are different from designer’s. Hugh C. Davies has described this problem as being particularly acute in the planning and design of neighborhood space. When answering the question, “Who is neighborhood open space for?” designers generally say “for all the peorple.” But Davis notes that many open spaces are not for all the people. But Davis notes that many open spaces are not for all the people. They are for the affluent white middle class who know how to use and respect them…

Randolph T. Hester, Community Design (1974)


Big Nature


Our performance -how we consume, how we waste- is incontrovertibly connected to the state of the environment. We have always had a desirous relation to nature- whether agrarian or industrial, literary or aesthetic. As our technological culture accelerates toward entrepreneurial environments, bonding with Big Nature may come… well, naturally.

Recently, critic and landscape architect Richard Weller pointed out that “landscape architecture is yet to really have its own modernism, an ecological modernity, an ecology free of romanticism and aesthetics”. Because of their functionalism, we are tempted to understand these nexts landscapes as a kind of ecomodernism. But to flourish, they will need to appeal, if not to our sense of romance, at least to our sensibility about how decisions we make today impact the future. We are no longer innocent; contemporary culture is coming to grisps with the Anthropocene epoch, a period that, Nobel Prize-winning chemist Paul Crutzen suggests, began in the late 1700s with the onslaught of fueled human activity.

The onus of our new environmentalism includes a call for an advanced stewardship that is not just about protection or remediation, but an entrepreneurial redefinition of our relationship to nature.

Jane Amidon, Big Nature (2010)

Big Nature