Corporate Ecologies

The magnitude of the social, political, economic and environmental effects of corporations as the dominant institutions of our time is extraordinary and overwhelming. Yet there is tremendous open-ended design potential in the processes and constructed landscape systems that humanity employs to produce goods and services. Approaching corporations as networked landscape ecologies reveals the expanded role landscape architecture can play in the analysis and design of these systems. The discipline of landscape architecture excels at the analysis of site, and the envisioning of corporate ecologies advocates more intensive investigations of these vast, insufficiently studied productive landscapes. Myriad forms and interrelationships of these systems have yet to be mapped and understood. As these ecologies are revealed and more extensively defined, they can be more broadly affected, either by trying to finesse how these systems fit into the landscape or by designing better systems.

Corporate ecology contrasts what corporate landscape has historically signified in landscape architecture discourse and practices (a preoccupation with the rarified symbolic content of corporate headquarters) with the broader implications and design opportunities latent in ubiquitous production sites by considering corporations as complex spatial ecologies. The historical definition of corporate landscape is a relic of past trends and motivations in landscape architectural practice such as object and scenic- based design practices that grew out of 18th-century landscape painting traditions, earlier professional marketing and media (how design offices marketed their services and the types of projects that were published in trade magazines) and how corporations have historically operated. However, all of these trends have since shifted; ecological performance criteria have returned to the foreground of contemporary design theory and practice, and corporations have, however reluctantly, been forced to consider a wider range of success criteria for their investors and customers than profit alone. Over the last decade, there has been a significant change in both consumer and investor expectations, evidenced in the exponential increase in Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) stocks, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), International Standards of Organization (ISO) performance ratings, and the fact that nearly every corporate website has a section devoted to sustainability and concern for the environment. Diminishing resources and rising energy costs are also forcing corporations to find more efficient, sustainable operating solutions.

Brett Milligan, Corporate ecologies


Bret Milligan et alt., Schemes of the networked ecologies (2010)

Corporate Ecologies