Promise

While the use of environmental language in landscape architecture is prolific, its direct application to professional practice in landscape architecture has created a problem: More often than not, the words are unfulfilled by the work. Creating “harmony between humans and nature,”“providing unity in nature,”“healing the environment,” and “restoring nature to the city” are goals not easily accomplished. In fact, some within the profession believe that it is impossible to fulfill the promise of those words through the individual projects of landscape architecture. And yet those and other similar phrases are frequently used in the practice of landscape architecture.

Additionally, the profession has developed an environmental canon of sorts that includes contrasting, if not conflicting, rhetorical positions. This ambiguous perspective on environmentalism reflects a similar ambiguity in society at large. Recent polls indicate that fifty-eight to seventy-three percent of Americans consider themselves environmentalists. The percentage of landscape architects claiming to be environmentalists is likely at least as large given the profession’s traditional interest in nature. Despite landscape architects’ substantial expression of concern for the environment, how they see the profession’s role in dealing with an environmental crisis has engendered considerable disagreement, if not discord.

Daniel Joseph Nadenicek and Catherine M. Hastings, Environmental Rhetoric, Environmental Sophism: The Words and Work of Landscape Architecture (2000)

Taylor Cullity Lethlean, Cranbourne’s Australian Garden (1995-2012)

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Theses on Landscape

1. Landscape is not a genre of art but a medium.

2. Landscape is a medium of exchange between the human and the natural, the self and the other. As such, it is like money: good for nothing in itself, but expressive of a potentially limitless reserve of value. 

3. Like money, landscape is a social hieroglyph that conceals the actual basis of its value. It does so by naturalizing its conventions and conventionalizing its nature. 

4. Landscape is a natural scene mediated by culture. It is both a represented and presented space, both a signifier and a signified, both a frame and what a frame contains, both a real place and its simulacrum, both a package and the commodity inside de package. 

5. Landscape is a medium found in all cultures. 

6. Landscape is a particular historical formation associated with European imperialism.

7. Theses 5 and 6 do not contradict one other. 

8. Landscape is an exhausted medium, no longer viable as a mode of artistic expression. Like life, landscape is boring; we must not say so. 

9. The landscape referred to in Thesis 8 is the same as that of Thesis 6.

William J. Thomas Mitchell, Landscape and Power (1994)

Taylor, Cullity, Lethlean Landscape, North Wharf Promenade (2011)

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