Landscape machines: productive nature and the future sublime

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Design and research in landscape design have yet to be balanced into a fine triad of theory, method and practice. Many practitioners worry that such academic seriousness may weaken the imaginative aspects of landscape design. Their trouble reveals a typical weakness in contemporary landscape architecture that somehow limits the understanding of design to an intersubjective acceptance of artistic patterns that celebrate a characteristic visual eloquence. In such cases, landscape design is limited to a symbolic representation of a wished-for world. This is, however, not helpful when dealing with the more fundamental necessities of landscape performance. When food production is not a mere urban fashion to redeem footloose consumerism and waste treatment is not only worn like a sustainable fig-leaf, landscape processes are needed to provide for human increase. Design research is facing real and annoying uncertainties because science is not as advanced as we had hoped. We know only a little about dynamic landscape processes and all the inherent chemical interactions. We take only very little advantage of surging winds, erosion regularities or wild animal behaviour. Instead we have adapted our design principles to essentially static and closed systems that provide a maximum of growth circumstances to enjoy colours, odours and proportional regularities. The challenge to design new living landscapes with interconnective features is the challenge for a new generation of landscape architects. We will discuss the general principles of designs we call ‘landscape machines’ and exemplify them with two projects developed by Master students at Wageningen University in the Netherlands
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-19
JournalJola : Journal of Landscape Architecture
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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