Fall 2021

ARC 342E (00880) LAR 342K (01730) ARC 395E (01315) LAR 388K (01830) URB 353

 

Course Description
 
This lecture course offers both a broad overview and a chronological series of in-depth and contextualized studies in the history of major garden cultures and designed landscapes of the Western and Eastern hemispheres. In asking 'What is a garden or a designed landscape?' in each of several specific historical cultures and societies, we witness the formation of certain forms (morphologies) and typologies (repeated types) that were foundational for the whole subsequent history of landscape architecture. The course introduces the student to methodological approaches to the formal, social, and cultural history of gardens and landscapes, as well as to relevant theoretical frameworks for interpreting these designs and for conceptualizing landscapes, architecture, and urban projects in studio design. Above all, it offers students a concept and an experience useful for the design process and for the study of historical fields: rehearsing the synthetic act of design by studying historical examples helps the student think through the synthetic process of her or his own designs or through the general process of synthetic thinking.
 
The course is intended for and open to graduate and upper-level undergraduate students, including MLA, M.Arch, B.Arch., Urban Studies, B.A., B.S., and M.A., Ph.D. students, etc. Unique course numbers are created for each category of student. There are no prerequisites for this course.
 
We cover key examples of design in landscape architecture across the large arc of time from Mediterranean and Roman antiquity, passing through Islamic and European nations and Africa, to about 1700 in England, when industrialization and modernization in the West first affected urban and rural cultures. Our study thus witnesses the gradual emergence by 1700 of key categories of modernity and a new notion of the public and of public landscapes, as opposed to private ownership. 
 
The societies and cultures covered in the course fall within three broad groupings:
 
1.) ancient Italy and Rome, where certain key typologies and forms were developed that became foundations for later gardens, both Western and Islamic; ancient and modern Central America, Mexico, where indigenous, vernacular urban agricultural practices last for centuries.
2.) European and Islamic nations, and the wider Atlantic World, during the medieval and early modern periods (700 AD to ca. 1700), e.g. states in Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, England, as well as Islamic Spain, Ottoman Turkey, Safavid Persia, Mughal India, all cultures in which one finds parallel developments of formal gardens. In the wider Atlantic world, in particular the Hispanic Empire, between Africa and the Americas, we examine the impacts of colonizations and slavery on landscapes.
3.) England and Anglo-American world, 1600-1700, where a new conception of landscape design was born, the pastoralist "landscape garden," the source of so many important design traditions in the European and Anglo-American worlds, and still current today as a significant design language. However, many of these idealizing, idyllic-seeming landscape gardens in England and its American colonies were built on the profits from exploitation of slave labor, and so both dark and bright sides of the landscape must be understood.
 
The course ends with an introduction to Japanese and Chinese gardens, including modern and contemporary ones. Although full coverage of the great traditions of garden design would include much more on China and Japan, these cultures are incorporated into the course on a rotating basis, as the instructor gains knowlege of them.
 
The course also stresses a methodological approach which I call one of "comparative cultures." The Islamic empires and garden cultures bear fruitful comparison with the western nation states, such as Italy, France, and England, where formal gardens and parks also developed during the Renaissance and Baroque periods, the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. It is not a coincidence that during these centuries both Italy and Persia (Iran) were each called "the garden of the world." Considering "globalizations" and global contacts worldwide as major phenomena in past centuries, for example in the medieval period, the course covers a majority of the significant morphological and typological developments in the history of landscape architecture. Often paradigmatic or foundational in terms of conceptual frameworks, these achievements constitute a set of design languages and a body of knowledge that continue to be of critical use for modern designers today.
 
Gardens and landscape architecture are considered here as complex, ambiguous forms developing on the borderlines between extant, native landscapes and the spheres of culture and practice. They are also considered as part of territorial organizations having to do with the political and economic relations between cities and countrysides. Particular attention is given to activities that manifest and sustain cultural attitudes to landscape, such as written documents (e.g. private letters, published guidebooks) and visual representation in landscape paintings, prints and drawings, and maps/cartography.
 
 
Goals and Objectives of the Course:
 
On a broad level, the course encourages students to situate designed sites and their conceptualization in historical context, and to recognize their multivalent character and the fundamental social and interdisciplinary nature of their production, which engages variously with the spheres of art, architecture, urbanism and planning, ecological and geographical systems, among others. On a theoretical and methodological level, the course readings encourage an evaluation of the new thinking about landscape and landscape architecture that has occurred in professional and academic circles particularly during the last few decades, a period characterized by interdisciplinary thinking in both professional practice and academic research, which brings together landscape architecture and other disciplines--geography, history, sociology, art, architecture, and science.
 
Through the study of history and theories, this course intends to guide the student in structuring the range of conceptual categories and contexts, which are specific to the designing of works of landscape architecture.  The key underlying question is:  how does one conceptualize the design of a work of landscape architecture?  what are the relevant issues and contexts at hand?  Four frameworks are engaged to structure the course material:
 
1. Historical and Theoretical Frameworks: Categories of Reference.
2. The Formation of Landscape Architecture as a Discipline and as a Profession.
3. The Inscription of Meanings in Landscape Architecture: Theoretical-Cultural Interpretation
4. The Relevance of History for the Contemporary Field of Design.