Tripled War

Floods. Droughts. Cyclones (hurricanes and typhoons). Tornados. Tsunamis. Wildfires. Volcanic eruptions. Landslides. Earthquakes. World news brings the calamities of natural disasters from all corners of the planet close to home via newspapers, television, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Meanwhile, the travesties of outright man-made disasters through armed conflict continue to flare across continents and threaten global security. Both are devastating, bring death and wreak havoc on the built and natural environment. The Norwegian Refugee Council Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC-IDMC) reported that in 2013, 22 million people were driven from their homes through a combination of mega and small natural disasters_three times more than through war and conflict in the same period. The risk of such disasters is also rising, outpacing population growth and even rapid urbanization. Global population has doubled since the 1970s and urban concentrations have tripled since that time, particularly in vulnerable countries. IDMC director, Alfredo Zamudio, claimed that ‘most disasters are as much man-made as they are natural. Better urban planning, flood defenses, and building standards could mitigate much of their impact’. (…)

Clearly, the profession has an increasingly important role to play. Preparedness for impending disasters and the reduction of environmental risk is well within the purview of design. Landscape architects can work across scales to build resilience into landscapes and territories before disasters can happen, and develop various projects that mitigate risks and adapt to vulnerability and exposure.

Kelly Shannon, Preemptive design opportunities to mitigate disasters (2015)

Martin Knuijt + OKRA, Katwijt Coastal Defence (2008- )



Aesthetics are rarely explicitly addressed in conjunction with ethics in the body of literature examining recent landscape architectural research. This seems strange given that, if ‘ecology’ is added to ‘aesthetics’ and ‘ethics’, the classic tripartite definition of the discipline is formulated, and most would agree that this constitutes the unique significance and substance of what we do. (…)

The apparent neglect of research that explicitly addresses aesthetics and ethics together may have several reasons. One aspect is that research paradigms, as well as conventions for working in professional practice, will typically narrow the focus and therefore the methodologies of study or practice. Though often challenged, such crude divisions appear to persist and obstruct the critical development of landscape architectural praxis at all levels. The integrative breadth of landscape architecture is hard to formulate within narrow research and disciplinary specialisms, so when these limitations are overcome landscape theory takes a leap forward. Another aspect contributing to the neglect of detailed aesthetic studies may be the lack of a tradition of philosophical discourse in landscape architecture, coupled with the fact that aesthetics as method, construct, practice, experience and the means toward critical judgment is notoriously hard to define with any rigor. The difficulty in both defining and conveying accurately the nature and significance of aesthetic experience, and in addition, the elusiveness of aesthetic judgment and its tendency to go with the flow of contemporary politics, social taste, and cultural transitions, often means that aesthetics are conveyed tangentially and metaphorically, and sometimes not at all. Many academics are deterred from such intangible topics and tacit approaches, especially the younger in the pursuit of PhDs to whom natural and social science appear to offer greater rigor because they are more amenable to explicit forms of knowledge.


Landscape urbanism is often heralded as the saviour of the built professions, as the new –ism with concerns that are congruent with the politically correct, ecological biases and priorities of the developed, Western world. Much of the contemporary discourse on landscape urbanism – and the projects aligned with this emerging field – focus upon the challenges posed by post-industrial urban voids. The recovery of brownfield sites and the reintroduction of natural processes and habitats are key issues linked to landscape urbanism. At the same time, it is arguable that such projects are more landscape architecture – as opposed to landscape urbanism. Often, the urbanism component is lacking.

This paper will develop an argument that landscape urbanism – understood as structuring landscapes to guide their occupation, use and urbanization – is not new, but has indeed been in practice for several millennia. It argues that there is an ancient, indigenous landscape urbanism whereby an integral system of urbanization is tied to the logics of landscapes. More specifically, it investigates territories structured by water resource management and the relationship of such landscapes to urbanization.

Kelly Shannon & Samitha Manawadu, Indigenous Landscape Urbanism: Sri Lanka’s Reservoir & Tank System (2007)


Angammedilla Gal Amuna (Rajabemma) at Polonnaruwa (ca 1175)



One. Dross is understood as a natural component of every dynamically evolving city. As such it is an indicator of healthy urban growth.

Two. Drosscapes accumulate in the wake of socio- and spatio-economic process of deindustrialization, post-Fordism, and technological innovation.

Three. Drosscapes require the designer to shift thinking from tacit and explicit knowledge (designer as sole expert and authority) to complex interactive and responsive processing (designer as collaborator and negotiator).

Four. The designer does not rely on the client-consultant relationship or the contractual agreement to begin work. In many cases a client many not even exist but will need to be searched out and custom-fit in order to match the designer’s research discoveries. In this way the designer is the consummate spokesperson for the productive integration of waste landscape in the urban world.

Five. Drosscapes are interstitial. The designer integrates waste landscapes left over from any form or type of development.

Six. The adaptability and occupation of drosscapes depend upon qualities associated with decontamination, health, safety, and reprogramming. The designer must act, at times, as the conductor and at times the agent of these effects in order to slow down or speed them up.

Seven. Drosscapes may be unsightly. There is little concern for contextual precedence, and resources are scarce for the complete scenic amelioration of drosscapes that are located in the declining, neglected, and deindustrializing areas of cities.

Eigth. Drosscapes may be visually pleasing. Wasteful landscapes are purposefully built within all types of new development located on the leading, peripheral edges of urbanization. The designer must discern which types of “waste” may be productively reintegrated for higher social, cultural, and environmental benefits.

Alan Berger, Drosscape. Wasting Land in Urban America (2006)

According to Berger, both “dross” – technically defined as the scum formed on the surface of molten metal and reinterpreted by Lars Lerup as the leftover of creative destruction, the ignored, undervalued, unfortunate economic residues of the metropolitan machine – and “scape” are created and destroyed by processes and values derived from, or because of cultural tastes and actions. “Drosscape” is the creation of a new condition in which vast, wasted, or wasteful land surfaces are modeled in accordance with new programs or new sets of values that remove or replace real or perceived wasteful aspects of geographical space. Drosscapes are neither intrinsically bad nor good but a natural result of consumption activities, industrial and economic growth. Indeed, waste landscape is an indicator of healthy urban growth at least from the corporate perspective – where the lure of liability reductions and tax incentives is significantly compounded by inadequate public awareness – which has stimulated the rapid development of land for short-term gains and occupancy.

Kelly Shannon, DROSSCAPE. The Darkside of Man’s Cultural Landscapes (2006)

Header: Car salvage and junkyard near Ayer, Massachusetts. (2003)