Forest, Grove, Tree: Planting Urban Landscapes

“Discussions about the urban forest and tree canopy, carbon sequestration, sustainability, and tree adoption programs are becoming more prevalent by the day. In this lecture course we will look at the evolution of this green heritage in our designed landscapes. The course explores the use and meaning of trees in designed rural and urban landscapes throughout the ages. It deals with the tree landscapes of a variety of scales, and explores the different meanings and functions that these landscapes and their designs have embodied at different moments of time. From a single tree, to tree rows, clumps, grids, quincunx, groves, woods, and forests, trees have been dominant features in our designed landscapes for millennia. Trees have been planted and uprooted to stake out territory and create place, and they have been used to forge and obscure identities. They have provided sustenance and essential building and design materials. They have been the origin and subject of myths and legends, and of war and peace. They have inspired artists, musicians, architects, designers, gardeners, and scientists, and they are what many designed landscapes are made of.

Questions that will be addressed include the following: what is the relationship between trees and cities, planting and building, forestry and urbanization? What role have trees played in the definition of nature conservation and preservation? How has the preoccupation with trees contributed to scientific advancement? What role have trees played in fostering local, regional and national identities, in political diplomacy, and how have they promoted xenophobia? How have they been used to create different types of tree landscapes like forest gardens, arboreta, nurseries, sacred groves and woodland cemeteries, and how have trees been represented in various media and at different times? Studying trees in time and place offers the opportunity to address these and many other questions and topics that straddle landscape, environmental, forest, and cultural history, and that connect the human with the non-human, the local with the global, as well as micro- and macro histories.

The lecture course will include guest lectures as well as seminar discussions that will build upon the course readings. Students will contribute to a weekly course blog and work on a research paper related to the course content that will be presented in class.