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'What … is landscape?' asking questions of landscapes through design drawings

'What … is landscape?' asking questions of landscapes through design drawings

Wall, Ed (2019) 'What … is landscape?' asking questions of landscapes through design drawings. In: Jørgensen, Karsten, Karadeniz, Nilgül, Mertens, Elke and Stiles, Richard, (eds.) The Routledge Handbook of Teaching Landscape. Routledge International Handbooks . Routledge, pp. 15-30. ISBN 978-0815380528

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Several years ago one of my students encountered an architect who dismissively asked, “What the fuck is landscape?” He was taken aback by the tone of the question – but was reassured that his architectural colleague had found a place of uncertainty from within his general overconfidence. Although the student and I could easily disregard such blunt questioning, the architect had asked a question which as designers and academics of landscape we should ask every day. The subjectivity and plurality of landscapes open up more questions than they provide answers, creating environments for exploration, enquiry, speculation and practice. Contrasting approaches which focus on positions, rather than processes, leads many disciplinary fields to solely provide answers. The answering, rather than the questioning, of landscape leads to overtly controlled environments and often misplaced assurances in finding solutions to rather than enquiring of.
More recently, a former head of department explained to me: “The problem is that you ask your students what landscape is. You should just tell them what landscape is and get on with it.” While presented to me more politely than the question posed to my student, I was more concerned by his limiting pedagogical advice. He had been referring to and exercise that I had initiated with our students, asking ‘What is landscape?’ Beginning with Meinig’s essay The Beholding Eye: Ten Versions of the Same Scene (1979) we would examine our diverse definitions of landscape. Accompanied by a single drawing, the short manifestos would be discussed, developed and referenced through the year as we explored site-specific, process-focused design projects. We would navigate contemporary explorations of landscape (such as Cosgrove 1984; Corner 1999) alongside seminal and historic texts (such as Geddes 1909). I would emphasise that landscape, as a dialogic relationship between people and land, is a design process. I would explain that it is a way of creatively understanding and engaging with the land. And I would argue that it is a way of seeing the interrelations between people and their environments as our collective narratives, working with them and reimaging their future. This chapter advocates landscape as a creative practice through which new spaces and representations are coproduced and as a reciprocal transformation of the materials of our environment and the subjectivities of our mind. It presents collective explorations, with my students, of landscapes, as a medium of discourses, questioning and design speculation.

Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: landscape, education, landscape architecture, design, drawing
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences > School of Design (DES)
Last Modified: 12 Dec 2020 22:18

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