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Posts Tagged ‘Landscape History’

BY BRADFORD MCKEE

FROM THE JUNE 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

I’m not sure how many magazines with advisory boards actually put them to work, but at LAM, we meet with ours monthly by phone and find their advice invaluable. The LAM Editorial Advisory Committee (you can see its members on our masthead, page 6) is drawn from a cross section of ASLA’s membership. Each month, a different member leads the call, along with a backup, and those two people together set the agenda and lead the conversation. The topic is entirely of their choosing. Those of us on the magazine staff occasionally chime in, but mainly we listen.

A recent call was led by two early-career professionals who focused the conversation on the ways landscape history is taught in landscape architecture schools. In particular, they wanted to address the overwhelming bend in the history curriculum toward European design traditions and values. “We don’t see a lot of landscape architecture not designed by white men,” one said. “What do we accept as ‘high design,’ and how can we challenge how these [notions] are rooted in Eurocentric design principles?”

The question expands easily beyond high design to human spatial behavior, preference, and need. In any case, it’s an especially pertinent subject given the broad recognition within landscape architecture that the profession is overdue for diversification if it is to address the issues confronting the modern world. “In the past, landscape architecture history was taught along European garden types and sprinkled in other influences such as Chinese and Japanese gardens,” noted one of several committee members who is a university educator. “Now that it’s a global profession, people are talking about other influences. A lot of people elsewhere are trying to make sense of (more…)

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Editor’s Note: This month, the Society of Architectural Historians awarded Vittoria Di Palma’s Wasteland: A History (Yale University Press, 2014; $45) the 2016 Elisabeth Blair MacDougall Book Award. The award, established in 2005, recognizes “the most distinguished work of scholarship in the history of landscape architecture or garden design.”

Back in May 2015, we featured the title as our “Backstory,” and we’re sharing the piece again in recognition of the SAH award.

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“Wasteland is a cultural construct, a creation of the imagination, a category applied to landscapes rather than an inherent characteristic of them.” So writes the historian Vittoria Di Palma in Wasteland: A History (Yale University Press, 2014; $45), her study of 18th-century landscape ideals. Elegantly laying out the pervasive if elusive role that disgust has played in the development of modern notions of landscape value, Di Palma asks us to look again at undesirable spaces. Dividing her study by typologies—swamp, forest, and mountain—Di Palma examines the way that new and evolving definitions of wasteland have, in their repellence and contrast, shaped the theories of landscape beauty and utility that continue to influence our perceptions of landscape today.

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While many people know the fine books published by the Library of American Landscape History (LALH), the library’s excellent series of short documentaries, North America by Design, deserves attention as well. The films, coproduced with Florentine Films/Hott Productions, Inc. and freely available for viewing, are based on the richly illustrated scholarly histories they publish. So far, the series contains four films, all of which can be seen in full on the LALH website:

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