Monday, February 02, 2009

Charles Waldheim: 
Planning, Ecology, and the Emergence of Landscape

"Transdisciplines" Lecture Series - 7: 

February 7, Saturday, 14:00

Garaj Istanbul

Tomtom Mahallesi, Yeni Çarşı Caddesi,

Kaymakam Reşat Bey Sokağı, No: 11a Galatasaray


The lecture will be in English with simultaneous Turkish translation.

"Transdisciplines" lecture series organized by Garanti Gallery and Platform Garanti continues with Charles Waldheim. The lecture on Planning, Ecology, and the Emergence of Landscape will take place at Garaj Istanbul on Saturday, Febrary 7th.

The lecture will begin with a brief historical overview of the relative alienation of the design disciplines in the wake of the cultural politics of the 60s and early 70s. This includes a discussion of the parallel alienation and serial separation from schools of design or architecture the disciplines of landscape architecture and urban planning. Citing Harvard, Penn, and Toronto among others, the introduction suggests that the recent renewal of landscape architecture’s status as a design medium within leading design schools has coincided precisely with the rapprochement between planning programs and schools of architecture and design. Further the introduction argues that this symmetrical re-engagement, rather than simple coincidence, derives from shifts within the built environment itself and the disciplines that describe it. This reading promises a moment of tangency between the concerns and questions of landscape architecture and planning practice, one in which both disciplines promise to benefit from renewed commitments to subjects of mutually shared historical interest.

The first half of Waldheim’s talk includes a series of short historical cases, each describing the role of landscape in the formation of the region as a subject of city and regional planning practice in the 19th and 20th centuries. Among these are a brief overview of recent scholarship on the dominant lineage of regionally informed planning projects as proposed by Geddes, Mumford, MacKaye, and culminating in McHarg. The projects and texts of Ludwig Hilberseimer are presented as an alternative to that tradition, an alternative in which economic readings underpin an ecological approach to industrial decentralization. The first half closes with an overview of the reception of McHargian principles in the 60s and early 70s and the shift of landscape architecture to a medium of regional and urban planning, as well as a summary of the perceived failures of the McHargian project to address the challenges of the contemporary metropolis.

The second half of the talk surveys the recent re-emergence of landscape as a medium of urban design, and the impact of that shift on the disciplinary commitments and professional precedents of urban planning. Among these, the talk describes the renewed interest in landscape as a medium of design agency and the role of landscape as a cultural form. Equally, the talk will identify the role of ecology in that renewal of landscape design, and rehearses various claims that have been made on behalf of landscape ecology as an agent of contemporary urban development. The main body of the talk closes with a survey of several recent projects in North America that propose landscape and ecological process as drivers of design process, and employ planning practices that are necessarily informed by ecological subjects, the sites they imply, and the constituencies they represent.

The lecture concludes with a provisional sketch of potential models for contemporary planning practice informed by contemporary understandings of landscape and ecology as media of urban design. The conclusion cites the work of a small number of contemporary designers working at the intersection of planning and landscape design, referencing their various positions as they inform contemporary conceptions of urban development and design.

Charles Waldheim, FAAR, is Director of the Landscape Architecture Program at the University of Toronto's John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design. Waldheim’s work examines the relationships between landscape and contemporary urbanism. He coined the term “landscape urbanism” to describe the recent emergence of landscape as a medium of urban order for the contemporary city. Waldheim is a licensed architect and principal of Urban Agency, a multi-disciplinary consultancy in design and urbanism. Waldheim / Urban Agency engage with public agencies, private clients, design professionals, and multi-disciplinary teams on a range of projects at the intersection of contemporary urbanism and landscape.