Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Reading the Landscape


READING THE LANDSCAPE is an on‐line reading group dedicated to fostering engaging dialogue about the shaping of our built environment. The inaugural group will begin reading The Landscape Urbanism Reader edit by Charles Waldheim the week of February 21st. The group will include a total of 15 people. Depending on the material selected, the format for the reading group will involve reading a chapter, essay, or article each week with asynchronous on‐line discussion regarding it during the following week. The format is intended to make it easier for busy professionals to participate.
After each week, one person will summarize the discussion as a blog post for public discussion.

Due to the limited size of the group and the desire to ensure dynamic and multiple perspectives through the inclusion of professionals of diverse backgrounds, the organizers are requesting Letters of Interest from those who would want to participate.

Letters are due February 1st, 2011 and should be sent to Jason King via email at Notification to participants will be sent on February 9th. Content of the letter should include a brief biography and the reasons you want to participate.

READING THE LANDSCAPE is a collaboration between Damian Holmes founder of the
webzine World Landscape Architecture and news website Land Reader, Jason King,
editor of Vegitecture and Landscape + Urbanism, and Brian Phelps, co‐founder of All are also avid practicing professionals in landscape architecture and
urban design.


For more information contact: Brian Phelps at , Jason King at , or


  1. I want to know – what is the high and mighty object of this 'landscape urbanism' reading joke?

    Do they propose to use their parametric Landscape urbanism skills to make a difference in planning an policy – real social issues that effect the daily lives of real people? Or is this just another superfluous exercise in what can be done with computer scripts?

    If this so called 'Landscape Urbanism' purports to really be 'beyond urban planning' and 'beyond architecture lets have it. Lets have some social reform. I doubt is can be done without some realistic interest in local issues that deal with real people. How about that for once instead of pointless imagery.

    Let's drop the utopia. Let's combine to make a real appeal to our 'house of commons' or our 'governor' in real urban issues. Let's make Waldheim's landscape urbanism reader into something applicable.

    We are tired of elitist dreams where suddenly capitalists are moral and nature is in harmony.

  2. The object is simple... a group of interested folks wanted an opportunity to understand the text better, and thought the forum of a reading group would allow us not to just do this in isolation but allow for a wider discussion. Our hope is to have a wide demographic of folks with interesting viewpoints (and perhaps even disagreements and dissent) to enrich the process.

    Our goal is better understand the issues and see if there's anything to the theory that can inform what we do and how we go about doing it. Is there something substantive? Are criticisms or praise worthy of the attention it is getting? Does it mean anything beyond academia? Many of the points you make are worth exploring - but doing so not in a volley, but in a discussion.

    The reading group will continue with other texts after the LU Reader, as it will offer an opportunity to explore topics of interest. This will be our first experiment with the LU Reader, as there seems to be lots of debate (ok, it might be going to far to call the rhetoric 'debate') about what LU means.

    BTW - points made via anonymous comments on a blog (particularly this one) are considered specious. Opinion w/o authorship is mere random rambling - contributing nothing to the conversation.

    Perhaps you might want to join our group and discuss some of these points in an interchange of ideas?

  3. hi jason-
    i love this idea, though the particular book and an extremely hectic time in life mean i can't join. not that the book is bad- i've read it and appreciate it.

    but this reminds me of the reading mammoth put together of the infrastructural city, and i think several folks got a lot out of that, reading it, writing about it, then discussing on line. I also like that you've started it up in the winter time- a pragmatic move.

    please post on it if you can from time to time, and let us know if further readings open up in the future.

  4. faslanyc: we will continue it in the future with a range of different books and other writings - mostly at this point a group of folks interested in understanding LU better (or maybe just placing it somewhere useful in the lexicon/toolkit of landscape architecture)

    While I enjoy the blog-based book explorations, I think they seem less conversational - thus our format of an small group, using a threaded discussion format that allows a much more focused and contemporaneous back and forth. The downside obviously is that in order to be useful it needs to be a smaller group - but we're hoping to get a wide cross section of viewpoints to 'enliven' it a bit.

    Keep an eye out, as we will post periodically on the highlights (a weekly summary on each chapter), and also call on for folks for future readings - which would benefit from your perspective. Any books you've been dying to get a conversation started about?

  5. that sounds great, and a good point about small groups v. blogs for reading, with only occasional posting on the topic. Could be richer; i'd be interested to know how the format works.

    As far as books, I'm guessing my list will have changed by the time you guys are looking for another, but right now I'd love to spend some time on Lefebvre's Production of Space, Rebecca Solinit's new Infinite City, or maybe Stalking Detroit. Tangentially, I think a decidedly landscape-focused reading of Bolano's The Savage Detectives or David Foster Wallace essay might be amazing. Or Bukowski- given the reading of the Infrastructural City it could be great to then read a writer from that place...

  6. Dear Anonymous,

    I am shocked to see that someone that may have an interest in the development of ideas for urbanism and its theory would take to referring to this proposal as a joke. The LU reader is a text that offers ideas, no different in its hope then the NU charter and theory - although different in its method. It seems that applicable examples of successful community/ districts built with the NU are as unrealized as those with LU. Ubiquitous does not translate to successful.

    Perhaps instead of writing an "Anonymous" statement you would respect the initiative, and hope to be involved so that you can learn and voice you opinion. Others might agree with what you think.

    As a note I did not see anywhere that the organizers were asking for people who agree with the ideas within the reader - that is simply the first book to be read.


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