Architecture. Grad School. The State of the Profession. Field Trips. Agony. Ecstasy. Life. Etc.

Architecture Addiction, The Official Blog of

unSchool of Architecture
suggested reading/bookstore
other blogs I like
my portfolio
fieldtrips & workshops*
categories | archives | search
contact | rss

by Katy Purviance on 11/01/07 @ 08:20:07 pm
Categories: Class Notes | 743 words | 1313 views

While I enjoy plants for many reasons, I do not think about them very often, and so I was glad for Professor Gary Austin, Professor of Landscape Architecture’s lecture on the historic trends in landscape architecture. One reason for paying attention to the trends of the past, Gary pointed out, was not just for the purposes of avoiding past mistakes, but also that when you present some wild and crazy idea to a client, you can point to the past to show that your idea does indeed have precedence, for alas, there are a great many people out there who are terrified of being the first kid on their block to have (fill in the blank).

As Gary pointed out, there are three different perspectives one may take when looking at the historic trends in landscape architecture, or, indeed, almost anything. They are:
1. Looking at trends as a social historian,
2. Looking at trends in regard to how they make place, and
3. Looking at the holistic view in order to gain an appreciation for environmental change over long periods of time.

We can learn a lot about a culture by studying their architecture, landscape and otherwise. All of the landscapes Gary showed us were idealized landscapes whose purpose was to showcase the area’s cultural values. All of the plants planted in ancient Egypt, for example, were utilitarian, used for food, medicine, or fragrances. Islamic gardens, on the other hand, always contain a four-square garden to represent Paradise from which, it is said, flow four rivers. To appreciate a Chinese garden, on the other other hand, one had to be educated; it was a place where one would go to write poetry, to paint, to be inspired and to leave inspiration for others. In Japanese gardens, on the other other other hand, were made to look natural as opposed to “designed,” even though absolutely everything, every angle of every tree even, was designed.

Japanese Garden

1. The Greeks believed that buildings should fit their landscapes.
We got our democracy thing from the Greeks so why couldn’t we also adopt their thoughts about building-landscape fitness? That makes sense, right? I mean, last time I checked, synthesis was a good idea. And yet most of our contemporary architecture is more about the egotism of the architect who would rather have his building shout “Look at me!!!” than have it actually engage in the surrounding environs. My theory regarding this mentality arises, obviously, from the rampant individualism on which our country was built, but what I have yet to figure out is the reason why we as Americans have never really been able to get beyond this mindset which, really, is the same mindset as a two-year-old. They teach you in kindergarten to get along with others but the rest of the system does little if anything to encourage this ideal. What a shame.

Different landscaped give rise to different cultures and lifestyles.

2. The lay of the land determines everything else.
From the chapter in the book one can see that it is the topography, the climate, the access to water or lack thereof which determine not only how a civilization uses the land, but also, more interestingly, how the civilization itself develops its settlement patterns as well as its system of economics, government, indeed, their very ideas regarding the nature of life. The tight spaces of Greece influenced the rise of democracy; the open plains of Italy spurred their networks of roads and aqueducts; France, even more open than Italy (which, by comparison, may be considered hilly) allowed for vast gardens.

Sometimes all you need is a different perspective.

3. Sometimes you gotta step back to see the big picture.
It wasn’t really until Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon and everyone got to see the Earth from a new perspective that people began to realize that the planet was something both beautiful and fragile. People began to be concerned with taking care of the Earth and these new ideas spread to architecture and landscape architecture. Ian McHarg demanded that these professionals “design with nature.” Other landscape architects began to collect information about land in order to systematically uncover the interactions, relationships, and patterns of natural phenomena, water flow, soil development, and plant/animal lacation. Land use was seen in a new light and McHarg “argued that the Judaic-Christian philosophy of multiplying and subduing the earth has deleterious effects for the environment. [He] found hope in Native American and Asian religious beliefs and worldviews that stressed harmony with nature rather than dominance.” [page 8-10]

Bookmark and Share Send Feedback | Permalink


No Pingbacks for this post yet...

This post has 214 feedbacks awaiting moderation...

Previous post: Campus Planning

our sponsors
Other Blogs I Like
GSD Blogs:
Ben in Paris
A Large Lumpy Rock
Wayfinding with Waxman
Other Blogs:
Saved By Design
Jetson Green
Core 77
Rammed Earth is for Everyone
Raw Design Build
Lloyd Kahn's blog
Form Follows You Home
Burning Down the House - Radio Architecture
Unhappy Hipsters
Design Vote
Truly Minimal Plan
February 2018
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
 << <   > >>
        1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28      


Me on Burning Down the House
The VERB School
August 18 2010

October 20 2010

Licensure in the USA
November 17 2010

Become One of Us...Subscribe to Architecture Addiction
Give the gift of an architecture book to Architecture Addiction
Radio Architecture
Listen live to Burning Down the House, Wednesdays 4PT/7ET
Or download the podcasts from iTunes

our sponsors
It's Finally Here
unSchool of Architecture is here. Enter your name and email below to learn more.

Architecture School Survey
Hi. My name is Katy. I like it when you write to me and tell me about the cool stuff you're doing in architecture. Yes, I write back.* I may publish your letter and my reply on the blog. If you don't want me to do that, you can just ask that I withhold your name, or if you're really serious about keeping your letter a secret, you can ask me to just not publish it at all. Of course I'll still write back to you. * I hope you'll take this opportunity to share your thoughts with our worldwide audience.

[Fields marked (*) are required]


Your Name:*

Your Email Address:*

Your Question or Suggestion:*

After you click Submit, you'll come right back to the blog!

* Unless you spam me.

Created by Contact Form Generator

places where you could probably learn more about designing and building in just a few days than I did after a year of grad school

Know of some others I can add here? Let me know. Have you already visited some of these places...or planning on it? Let me know and I will feature your story and your photos here!

I am starting a new kind of architecture school. Unlike most architecture schools, you wouldn't have to submit GRE scores or good grades or letters of recommendation. You wouldn't have to put the rest of your life on hold for 3 to 5 years. You wouldn't have to accrue tens of thousands of dollars in debt. At my architecture school, anyone could come for a few weeks and learn how to build a house with their own two hands. My teachers would take skills and concepts from some of these other workshops I've listed above... except classes would be held year-round to make it easy to fit into your schedule. I would have a number of different campuses around the country that would teach building designs appropriate to the local climate. And I need your help. Can you donate land for a campus? Can you dotate books for a library? Can you teach a workshop? Can you provide start-up capital? Let me know.

suggested reading/bookstore

Need more? Visit our bookstore

where is everybody?
Locations of visitors to this page

Who's Online Now?

  • Guest Users: 37
random quote generator

Give me another

our sponsors