Art | Ecology | Technology

And how we use them to shape landscapes.

Hanford Site, Washington

“In wastelands we see the belligerent disruption of the natural course of events either through a disaster or the gradual wasting that effaces the luster of progress.  The temporal dimensions are often geologic in their scale.  The growth of a landfill forms layers and epochs, and its future can seem limitless.  When the deposition on landfills stops, and they are capped for indeterminate afterlives, the wasteland becomes a sublimated and buried history.

Fenced and removed from the center of daily life, many waste sites, in a sense, exist out of time.”

– Matthew Potteiger and Jamie Purinton, Landscape Narratives : Design Practices for Telling Stories. p. 216


“When I was a city dweller, I welcomed visual extravagance, graffiti, oddities, or subtle alterations in my already hectic daily surroundings.  Public art belongs in towns, places where people interact with the built environment on a frequent, familiar, pedestrian basis where art can literally inform or enhance a neighborhood or public domain.  The task of land art, on the other hand, is to focus landscapes too vast for the unaccustomed eye to take in, or to give us views into the cosmos, connecting places where we stand with the places we will never stand.”

– Lucy R. Lippard from Undermining: A wild ride through land use, politics, and art in the changing west


A look at the inspiration and form of Norway’s National Tourist Route Project.

Coasting along the roads of Norway, one is struck by beautiful mountain after breathtaking fjord, each bend of the road seems to yield a more spectacular view from the last.  Just as you reach a spot where you must slow and crane your neck to take it all in, there is a pull-off that provides the perfect place to have at least a few minutes with the view before heading onto the rest of your journey.  Sometimes there is just room enough to park and a bench for enjoying a snack, elsewhere there are buildings complete with cafes, museums and rest rooms.  These strategically placed pull-offs are a part of an invitation for visitors to view Norway’s scenic beauty, traditional heritage, and contemporary design practice through a collection of drives called the National Tourist Route Project (NTRP).  Combining stunning scenery with dramatically designed architecture, the NTRP immerses passersby in its intangible cultural heritage practices through the very tangible and strongly directed gaze of these viewing platforms, benches, and buildings.  

Continue reading “A look at the inspiration and form of Norway’s National Tourist Route Project.”

“For the most part, nineteenth century landscape architects were makers, not writers; pragmatists not idealists.  They relied on the writing of art and architectural historians to chronicle their achievements.

Thus, the industrial societies that were inventing new forms of constructed landscapes depended on writings that tended to view the world through binaries composed of dominant and muted pairs – such as culture and nature, man and woman. These binaries were incapable of describing and interpreting what is unique to the modern built landscape – its investigation of new systems of order through particulars of its unique medium and materials.”

– Elizabeth K. Meyer “The Expanded Field of Landscape Architecture”

SLU Alnarp Landscape Lab

Last week SLU (Swedish University of Agricultural Science) in Alnarp hosted Beyond-Ism, a conference focused on the past, present, and potential future role of Landscape Urbanism within the field of landscape architecture.   

As the conference wound down from three days of lectures, presentations, and discussions, participants were invited on a much-appreciated breath of fresh air for a tour of SLU’s Landscape Lab.  

“A landscape laboratory should be seen as an experimental platform for many landscape contexts; from multi-functional countryside landscapes, city fringe landscapes, to park and garden landscapes. In practice one does what one believes is best, a landscape laboratory means a chance to compare relevant types side by side, and to follow the processes in a strict way.” – Roland Gustavsson

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“In fact, one can argue that discourses such as landscape urbanism or ecological urbanism –while being radical with regard to their biophysical topographical interventions – are conservative with regard to socio-economic territorial change.”

– Greet de Block¹

While still mulling over the many ideas presented at the Beyond-Ism Conference hosted by SLU Alnarp from October 19 – 21, 2016, the lecture by Greet de Block and discussion with Nina-Marie Lister afterwards has stood out time and again.  The lecture, entitled “The (Post-)Politics of Resilient Design: A History of the Present,” brought up an important critique of how well Landscape Urbanism has actually done in embracing socio-political issues.  

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The Role of the Object within Preservation

On September 22 – 23, 2016 the Saxo Institute at Copenhagen University invited scholars from fields of heritage, archaeology, social sciences, fine arts and anthropology for a conference entitled, ‘On the Trace.’  Lectures and discussions focused on significant objects and places, and our relationship to the continued and/or diminishing traces they leave behind.  Invited speakers addressed this topic through a variety of examples such as: the heritagization of a presumably failed fission nuclear research site; the objects collected from survivors of a Nazi internment camp; and the ritual of children in several Scandinavian countries whereby they forfeit their pacifiers to specific communal trees as a childhood rite of passage.   

On September 26, 2016, Stockholm University hosted a day of lectures on the topic, ‘Reframing Heritage as Movement.’  Representative scholars and professionals from the field of historic preservation and heritage were present to speak about how objects and places have shifted meaning and significance over time, and how the field of heritage can diversify and respond to shifting contexts.  

While clearly diverse, the lectures at each of these conferences brought up discussions that revolved around several key questions:  
  • Is heritage overly obsessed with the object/tangible and should we (and can we) shift focus away from the object?
  • How can people better illustrate alternative histories? What happens with conflicting histories as we move forward?
  • How can we use traces to address the past such that it helps to create stronger, more resilient, more diverse and inclusive futures?

These questions are overwhelmingly complex.  Traces/histories are experienced in many different ways and the speakers who presented at these conferences have pulled on a number of fascinating sources to frame their discussions.  As I begin to pour through these sources and mull over my own understanding of the issues presented, these are initial reflections on the topics presented at these conferences.  

Continue reading “The Role of the Object within Preservation”

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