Distanced Authorship

Landscape architecture has seen a paradigm shift in the last two decades, requiring designers to respond to the dynamic and temporal qualities of landscape. This response examines the long-held view that landscape embraces an ephemeral medium constructed and maintained through generations. Landscape—a dynamic and temporal medium—is expressed through careful manipulation of vegetated, hydrological, and stratigraphic systems. Combining this shift with the increased accessibility of responsive technologies presents a new approach for challenging static design solutions. The ability to sense and respond to environmental phenomena invites new ways to understand, interpret, experience, and interact with the landscape.

This shift can be traced to several parallel events inherent to the discipline of Landscape Architecture and seeded by new paradigms in scientific thought particularly within ecology. A generational trend has emerged within landscape architecture that promotes a form of “distanced authorship,” emphasizing natural processes such as succession, accretion, or passive remediation as agents for landscape design. In the essay, “Strategies of Indeterminacy in Recent Landscape Practice,” Charles Waldheim uses the term “distanced authorship” to describe how the “privileging of landscape strategy and ecological process distances authorial control over urban form, while allowing for specificity and responsiveness to market conditions as well as the moral high-ground and rhetorical clarity of environmental determinism.” Autonomy within these systems has the potential to create scaffolds for designed landscapes, urbanism, or territorialization. This approach privileges the actions of biology and geology over manufactured static conditions and instead seeds these dynamic processes through an overarching ecological regime to shape designed conditions over time.

 Bradley Cantrell and Justine Holzman, Responsive Landscapes (2016)

 

Devon Boutte, Josh Brooks, Kim Nguyen, Martin Moser, Hunter Lero, and Danielle Martin, Ecolibrium (2012)

Controversy

Landscape Urbanism describes a disciplinary realignement currently underway in which landscape replaces architecture as the basic building block of contemporary urbanism. For many, across a range of disciplines, landscape has become both the lens through which the contemporary city is represented and the medium through which is constructed.

Charles Waldheim, Landscape as Urbanism (2006)

Consider that landscape urbanism does not exist; that it is nothing more than an advertising campaign intended to promote the writings of its authors, helping them sell books and get promoted. It is another manifesto for a discipline overrun with manifestos. It will soon be replaced with the next forward thinking, ‘big idea’ answer for the problems plaguing contemporary urbanism.

Rather, what does exist are different ways of thinking about landscape, which come from different people, with different histories, voices and contexts.

From the beginning, this process has been about landscape. It has been about ways of thinking about landscape architecture and ways of approaching a post-industrial urbanism and trying to sew it together with places for people, culture and nature.

Leanne Muir, Mapping Landscape Urbanism (2010)

b8e1a7c54004f38ad58d2c5d814df68aJames Corner + Field Operations,  Qianhai Water City (2011)