Fall 2018

Hybridity in Landscape/Architecture, Seminar.
Hybridity is a word often used with regard to cultural or artistic mixture, and usually associated with post-colonial cultural theories. While aware of these rich associations, I instead use hybridity to describe certain fundamental characteristics and operations of many historical and contemporary designed sites of landscape/architecture, sites of architectural design and of landscape design, and in particular those where the intersection of landscape and architecture occur in design thinking, processes, and construction. Hybridity may be considered an analogue to ambiguity, multivalence, fusion, and interbreeding. Hybridic structures can mediate between elements very different from each other, as in a designed ramp that becomes a bridge that is also an architectural structure, a building. Construction materials can be hybridic in their properties, and especially new, emerging materials mingle domains of food production, technology, and nature. I call these multivalent, ambiguous forms "mediating structures," a term that has deeper resonance in the thinking of such 20th-century cultural and literary theorists as Raymond Williams.
Works of architecture and of landscape design can be artistic works that have ambiguity at the center of their conceptualization, for example the Falling Water House of 1935 by Frank Lloyd Wright near Pittsburgh, which is all-in-one a rocky cliff, a waterfall, technologically-advanced cantilever-terraces, and shelter. And landscape architecture is one of the most hybridic, complex and ambiguous forms of design, in that it partners or interbreeds with natural and plant systems, scientific technological processes, art, architecture, urban spaces, and territorial-geographical systems. It is also thus one of the most synthetic design practices, in that it often simultaneously brings most of these dimensions together in one work. Such "partnerships" of hybridity may take the form of traditional pergolas or trellises in historical gardens or they may be reinterpreted in contemporary forms, mingling industrial relics, pathways, and new planting, as in Peter Latz's Landscape Park Duisburg Nord of 1994 in Germany, or actual pergola forms, as in the 3.5 kilometer-long and 6 meter-high Park Pergola Máximapark created in Utrecht, The Netherlands, by West 8 in 2013-2015. They may also mingle spheres of sea and land, as in Kate Orff's and her firm Scape's Oyster-tecture project devised for the exhibition, Rising currents: projects for New York's waterfront, at the Museum of Modert Art, New York, in 2011.
And yet our understanding of these contemporary works would be lessened, had we not the rich lexicon of historical examples from which to draw in our analyses. For example, ambiguity and hybridity were particularly favored by the ancient Romans in Italy and the wider Roman Empire, by Islamic garden designers and Italian Renaissance garden designers, all of whom mingled architecture, water features, garden and landscape elements in complex hybridic structures. The famous Dining Grotto or Cave of the Emperor Tiberius at Sperlonga south of Rome can best evoke this earlier period, in which ancient Romans created seaside dining grottoes in caves that were at once outdoor gardens, permanent garden furniture, fish ponds, scultpure museums, and architecturalization of natural forms.
This exploratory seminar proposes to study mediating structures and hybridity in landscape architectural design by using historical and conceptual lenses to consider contemporary works of landscape and architecture. Students will receive a grounding in historical examples and modes of conceptualization of hybridity and ambiguity, which they will use to focus on the study of contemporary works. Topics will include:
--Hybridity, the Human, the Grotesque, and the Natural.
--Shared Conditions and Forms: Bridges as Buildings, Roads as Urban Plazas, Military Bastions as Terraces, Gardens as Outdoor Rooms.
--Edge Conditions and Hybridity: Ambiguity, Ambivalence, and Boundaries.
--Ambiguity of Ground: Horizontal and Vertical Hybridity in the Terrain of Landscape / Architecture.
--Hybridic Living and Inert Materials, and their Interaction.
--Contemporary Definitions of Ambiguity and Hybridity in Landscape and Architecture.
Students will have weekly seminar readings for group discussion; execute several works in-class using pencil, watercolors, and other media; and prepare a final research report that includes an exploratory bibliography on hybridity and ambiguity in design.
The course is intended for and open to graduate students, including MLA, M. Arch., M.U.D., M.A. and Ph.D. students, and upper-level undergraduate students. Unique course numbers are created for each category of student.
Enrollment in this seminar is limited to 15 students.