LAR 388L

How do we build equitable and ethical communities while living within a flawed world? How might the everyday actions of care-taking, repair work, and maintenance be used as generative tools of landscape form? How can design contribute to a culture of care and stewardship?

This course will explore work by scholars, designers, and community organizers who strive to create a culture of care as a resistance to the inequities and power imbalances of our society. We’ll consider the potential of an ‘ethic of care’ for the design of urban environments and as a guide for contemporary social practice. This ethic, grounded in feminist care theory, argues that the mundane, often invisible labors of care are the essential actions that produce and realize designed landscapes over time. For Joan Tronto, care-work includes “everything that we do to maintain, continue, and repair our ‘world’ so that we can live in it as well as possible. That world includes our bodies, our selves, and our environment, all of which seek to interweave in a complex, life-sustaining web.” Care labor is skilled, iterative, and specific to context. For designers, it might include site preparation, construction and installation, and regular maintenance/aftercare, as well as everyday use, acts of advocacy, and community organizing and coalition building on a site’s behalf.

This seminar will engage connections across theory and practice, and consider an expanded notion of design through precedents in art, community organizing, gardening, and other allied fields. Together, we will consider how the work of maintenance, care, and repair might serve as processes toward ecological and social impacts, and as tools of resistance. The course will involve lectures, workshops, and discussions and will be grounded in weekly readings alongside a review of design projects. Throughout the semester, we will engage guest lecturers on the particular considerations of “care” in the design, creation, and maintenance of space in Austin.

Students will develop two projects over the course of the semester. In Project 1 we will record and reflect on caring relationships in their own lives using a journal and other tools of documentation. Students will offer a brief presentation of their findings in class and submit an analysis including images and brief (500-word) text. In Project 2 we will develop case studies of design projects through the lens of care and relationality. A list of possible projects from contemporary design practice will be provided. Students will present their case study twice during the semester, and will submit a final research report with annotated images during exam week. Structured prompts will guide the development of the case study.


Landscape Architecture


Fall 2023