Two main aspects can define a landscape machine: for one, its identification as ‘machine’ should be taken quite literally. These are machines that have a certain material input and output and are driven by a critical amount of energy input. For example, in the estuaries of the south-west Netherlands landscape machines can be related to water, salt, sediments and surplus nutrients as input, and clean water, food, blue energy and silted-up lands as output. Their fuels are solar energy, enabling photosynthesis, providing heat, and tidal forces influenced by the moon. The rationale behind the design includes coastal defence, sustainable fisheries and agriculture and nature development goals. 

Secondly, the natural processes within the landscape machine are continuously interfering with each other and therefore affecting the type, shape, size and position of the resulting landscape components. The landscape machine is evolving through interaction with physical, chemical and ecological processes. Its mechanical components are natural processes or the specific behaviour of flocks of animals that themselves are affected by on-going events. This implies that parts of the machine may fade out or even vanish and that new functional parts may come into being. The landscape changes, the machine changes, but the input does not change. A key difference between conventional farmland and a landscape machine is that succession is not prevented in the latter.

School of Thought

As a school of thought, landscape urbanism compresses the polarisation between design and planning in an effort to combine the strengths of each. It shifts the landscape architectural project from an art (or craft) of making beautiful landscapes to one of interdisciplinary negotiation and the seeding of strategic, development processes. Just as it has been inspirational, the landscape urbanist polemic has also been grandiloquent. Accordingly, I have tried to condense the rhetoric into a set of basic principles without falling prey to reductionism. In short, as I interpret it, landscape urbanism claims to do the following:

include within the purview of design all that is in the landscape—infrastructure and buildings, etc., and shuffle across scales so as to bridge the divides between landscape design, landscape ecology, and landscape planning.

bring greater creativity to planning operations and greater rationality to design operations.

• conceptualize and then directly engage the city and its landscape as a hybridized, natural, chaotic ecology.

emphasize the creative and temporal agency of ecology in the formation of urban life as opposed to envisaging an ideal equilibrium between two entities formerly known as culture and nature.

understand and manipulate the forces at work behind things and less with the resultant aesthetic qualities of things.

interpret and then represent landscape systems so that these systems can in turn influence urban forms, processes, and patterns.

prefer open-ended (indeterminate and catalytic) design strategies as opposed to formal compositions and master plans.

Richard Weller, Landscape (Sub)Urbanism in Theory and Practice (2006)

Dirk Sijmons + H+N+S, Coastal Urban System Flanders (2017)