GSD Alum questions Professor Chris Reed on “Landscape Optimism”

Quilian Riano, MArch ’09 interviewed Adjunct Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture Chris Reed about “Landscape Optimism.”  The following is excerpted from the full interview.
QR: Government at all levels is facing a tough economy. Are you concerned that major infrastructural systems—water, energy, transportation—are being neglected? And that the kinds of large-scale projects that define landscape urbanism will be scarce?
CR: No. In fact, I think the current strain on resources actually spurs innovation. Public agencies can no longer afford projects that respond to only a discrete set of goals. Projects must now do multiple things; they’ve got to meet many goals simultaneously. In this sense it’s actually easier for us to hybridize agendas—to mix infrastructure, landscape, urbanism, ecology—because in this way we can create efficiencies and cost savings in both the short and long term. Landscapes that perform utilitarian or ecological functions—that process stormwater, produce energy, grow food, and so on—and that also create new types of civic space and generate revenues, or at least set up robust frameworks for economic development, are likely to gain both popular and political support.
But it’s important that landscape architects and urban designers provide leadership. We can’t simply wait around for clients or patrons to invent projects for us. We need to take a more proactive, entrepreneurial role in showing potential clients the extraordinary range of possible projects and the various tools that will help realize them. We need to break down traditional disciplinary distinctions and professional versus academic divides. And we also need to tap into broad networks of colleagues—such as applied ecologists, housing specialists, anthropologists, community organizers, economic advisors, local foundation officers and management consultants. And we must integrate research and funding initiatives that can help propel projects forward, and positively test the limits of knowledge.
PLACES, Sept. 20, 2011