Turner notes that the word “landscape” has itself undergone a shift in meaning. In the seventeenth century it was a painter’s term. derived from the Dutch, which referred to a picture which depicted inland scenery (as opposed to seascapes, portraits, etc.) The scenery depicted was usually of ideal, or idealised places. The eighteenth-century “landscape gardeners” took their inspiration from painting particularly the works of Poussin, Salvator Rosa and Claude Lorrain, but sought to realise these ideal Landscapes throught the tangible manipulation of earth, war¡ter and vegetation. Things started to go wrong, as far as the meaning of “landscape Archiecture” was concerned, when a secord sense of the word “landscape”, which Turner calls the Geographer’s Sense, gained ascendancy over the original meaning. In this sense “landscape” has come to mean “a tract of land with its distinguishing characteristics and features, esp. considered as a product of modifying or shaping processes and agents (usually natural)”.

As Turner sees it, the problem with “landscape architect”, if “landscape” is used in the Geografer’s Sense, is that it implies God-like powers to rise mountains, to direct the course of rivers, to control the climate and to dictate the pattern of human seattlement” This aspiration to omnipotence is, he says, “as preposterous as it is sacrilegous as it is tyrannical”.

Ian Thompson, Ecology, Community and Delight (1999)

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Chris Reed + Stoss; Huangpu Riverfront (2012)


4 thoughts on “Tyrannical

  1. carey Duncan says:

    What, we aren’t God?
    Jokes aside, on the contrary, I see landscape architecture as being stewardship of God’s creation which is a humble duty, neither sacriligeous nor tyrannical. Also, so much of our work is in the middle of human settlements which are totally man made. Sometimes it does feel like we are moving mountains in those contexts where our technical skills may take 2nd place to our powers of persuasion and persistence and /or our capacity for fundraising!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can’t put God in this argument but for the rest I agree with you. But… Do you think that developing a system of “Global Landscapers” as the architects do is compatible with the core ideology of Landscape architecture? People crossing the planet to make fast landscapes without any possibility of understanding a environmental and social situation.
    That’s what I meant putting toghether a text with some images.


  3. Carey says:

    The objective of IFLA is not to send people across the planet to make fast landscapes, but to create a network for sharing ideas, approaches to problems, and to ceating awareness of the importance of landscape and of ordinary landscapes in people’s daily lives, not just the importance of recognised outstanding landscapes. The notion of landscape provides a transversal approach which takes into account the social, economic, environmental and artistic components.


  4. Dear Carey: This Tom Turner’s quote, of course, does not make reference to the IFLA. When I put it, it wasn’t my intention to imply that neither. I think there is no reason to think that, but I’m sorry if you understood it.
    About recognition, it can’t exist without a rich disciplinary discussion that reinforce values: that makes a strong discipline, not just lobbyng does. I think the IFLA, as other landscape institutions is doing a very good work on promoting thinking and discussion so, that was my proposal.


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