Living Landscape at the Academie van Bouwkunst, Amsterdam

November 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

What is landscape? When, and where, did this word and idea arise?

How have its meanings changed through history? How, and why, did it come to be associated with scenery? How are we to explain its proliferation in contemporary discourse? And, most important, how do the answers we give to these questions determine the methods we use to design places? This is the subject of Living Landscape.

Many people continue to think of landscape as an area outside the city in which certain kinds of activities—agriculture, recreation, water storage—take place. In this view, landscape is a finite resource, one that can be drawn down in order to make room for other, ‘non-landscape’ functions, such as housing or industry. But this understanding of landscape excludes large parts of the human environment, and is increasingly untenable in an urban world. Many geographers, anthropologists, archaeologists, and historians have therefore begun to explore older, more dynamic meanings of landscape. They contend that landscape is less an area than the unfolding of human practices, institutions, perceptions, and values in time. In this more holistic view, landscapes are not simply zones lived ‘in’: they are the process and result of living.

Understanding landscape as lived practice calls into question many fundamental assumptions about space, objects, and representation on which the design professions—and design education—rest. It therefore has the potential to transform the process, products, and social mission of architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design. Living Landscape is a wide-ranging, open-ended forum for exploring these implications, through theory and practice, at every scale of the designed environment, from territory to site to building.

– Thomas Oles, visiting scholar Living Landscape Program at the Academie van Bouwkunst Amsterdam


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