Summer 2019

This course will explore the shaping of contemporary Latin American Landscapes (LALA) by examining their cultural and environmental conditions as reflected on the built realm. For the purposes of this course, the concept of Landscape will be understood as a broad construct. This is, it not only has to do with bio-physical conditions, but also with cultural origins (pre-european or native American, Spanish, Portuguese, or other influences), historical development, economic activity, rural and urban settings, among other conditions. And, the idea of Landscape is not strictly related to the practice of Landscape Architecture, but also to all other disciplines shaping the built realm, including architecture, urban planning, urban design, and others. As this course tries to understand culture and place, it will also look at socio-economic conditions and society in general. Latin American Landscapes are without a doubt a very specific cultural product. This is a region where the conception, planning, and design of landscapes is certainly different than the practices exercised in developed countries. With regards to human technical capacity, there are very few academic programs focused on landscape architecture, and limited specialization happening on urban design and planning. Jimena Martignoni wrote in "Latinscapes" that the practice of Landscape Architecture in Latin America is more than anything an attitude. With regards to political circumstance, there is a range of functional to semi-functional democracies –where landscape and public space have recently regained interest-. Economically, in general, the region suffers from limited resources for the creation and maintenance of public space and infrastructure. The scope of the course will be directed towards two main topics: cities and public space. For both, the course will study its historical development, its planning, and design. Regarding cities, the course will concentrate on metropolitan areas of the region. This will be done in multiple scales, from the regional, to the urban, and the site specific by analyzing case studies. Public spaces will be studied in a broad historical range from the ceremonial spaces of Mesoamerican cultures, to the plaza and the Laws of the Indies, to the emergence of the public metropolitan park, to new public space typologies related to urban recovery and redevelopment, public transportation, and responses to poor urban planning and urban sprawl. Relevant public space landscapes are to be studied as case studies for typological and regional characterization. Some of these case studies are going to be representative of historical phases such as the colonial era, the XIX century –the era of Latin American independence movements-, modernity as reflected by the twentieth century; while other case studies are going to represent the issues and topics of the XXI century. The study of pre-columbian landscapes will analyze the spatial conception of native American cultures and how this was affected by the arrival of Europeans which had a radically different culture and technical capacity, but would eventually hybridize to produce a unique cultural result. As Latin American countries began to obtain independence from Spain and Portugal, the new political regimes changed societal order and new public space typologies surged, such as, the notion of the public park as we know it today. The XIX century would prove to be a turbulent era in the region. The new republics were still being organized by their own peoples and other external pressures. Growth and development were, since then, mostly irregular and unstable. A new economic stability came with the early decades of the XX century, paired with revolutions and military dictatorships, but also fueled by rich natural resources necessary to sustain war efforts in Europe and abroad. World War II came to an end and modernity was fully released in Latin America. The study of modern LALA will incorporate a significant focus on Luis Barragan and Roberto Burle Marx, the most important LALA designers of the twentieth century in Mexico and Brazil. During this time new universities emerged and with it the modern Latin American Campus such as the National University of Mexico in Mexico City in the early 1950’s, planned and designed by multiple architects. New cities were also planned and built under the modernism premise. Of course, the prime example is Brasilia, the new capital of Brazil, planned by Lucio Costa. Contemporary LALA case studies are also going to focus on designers and a handful of politicians who have made public space and landscape central to the recovery of cities within the region after decades of informal development and a car-oriented/suburban mimicking of the American Dream. These designers also participated in the design and construction of post-modern landscapes such as the recovery of post-industrial sites as public parks.