Monday, October 10, 2011

Unlocking Landscape Urbanism

Right before I took off on my travels, the brand new Landscape Urbanism website launched with its first issue.  Due to the rigors of travel (you know, scenic vistas, wine, great food, etc.) I was not able to dig into the content before I left - but finally did manage to get all of it absorbed. And there's a ton of great content, as founder and editor-in-chief Sarah Kathleen Peck has assembled a wonderful group of editors, advisors, and amassed a great initial take on LU on this issue.

A bit about the overall concept of the site.
"Landscape urbanism (dot) com is a website for and about landscape, architecture, and urbanism—a resource and ongoing publication for people interested in cities, landscape, and design.  Landscape urbanism is an idea that process matters in design, that collaboration between disciplines is critical, and that complexity should be embraced as part of urbanism and landscape architecture. While many have argued that the ideas of landscape urbanism are too undefined or complicated, we think that through this publication and website, we can better explain and explore the ideas of landscape urbanism."
I think the key to this site, and perhaps it's most engaging idea, is the concept of a forum for understanding the concepts around landscape urbanism.  The ongoing debate varies widely, and to date there hasn't been an attempt to collect and more importantly engage with some of the key issues that make up the foundations of LU theory and practice.  It has the potential to provide a more systematic methodology (than a singularly authored blog) - proposing to explain all of the varying modes of thinking and the connections within - rather than to promote a particular ideology.  It also has the ability for ongoing dialogue and debate (not possible in print media).  The multiplicity of voices, some not typically heard until now, is another strength, in addition to the inclusive approach and interactivity - seen in this initial offering that is definitely exciting.

The focus of Issue #1 is fundamental to understanding of landscape urbanism, talking the concepts of indeterminacy and multiplicity, with a wide range of contributors including "...Christopher Gray and Shanti Levy illuminating the antecedents and legacies of landscape urbanism, SWA president Gerdo Aquino calls for more built works to bolster its role. Editor Eliza Valk haunts New York City’s parks puzzling terms and definitions, while Laura Tepper scurries across Dutch highways wondering what happened to a West 8 installation. Finally, website founder Sarah Peck interviews longtime blogger and landscape advocate Jason King; while further south, architects Thom Mayne and Karen Lohrmann and a UCLA design studio examine the future of America’s regional cities." 

In addition to the issues and an on-going blog, another aspect of the site in its initial phase is the section on 'Strategies' which aims to amass "a collection of built projects + conceptual work advancing the ideas and practice of landscape architecture and landscape urbanism."    The realization of work related to landscape urbanism has definitely been an ongoing topic of conversation, and a collection and critical dialogue related to works, if they do in fact exist, is long overdue.

I will provide some review of the content (maybe even a somewhat self-referential meta-review of my own interview on the site) in subsequent posts, so check out the articles and be ready with comments - as it is some thought-provoking stuff.

To everyone involved - a well-deserved thank you and congratulations!

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