Landscape is an appropriate place for artistic ideas. The visual quality of our landscapes is important to our well-being. These two ideas are the foundation and central theme in the practice of Martha Schwartz Partners. The firm was launched in the early 1980s with the publication of the Bagel Garden, being one of the very first practices that used the media to leverage a manifesto into a practice. The Bagel Garden, although a temporary landscape installation, became a seminal project in contemporary landscape architecture. Its highly controversial nature provided Schwartz a platform from which she challenged cultural expectations of what was “appropriate” visual content for a designed landscape, and declared the built landscape to be a cultural territory. The basis for her work, then and now, is that landscape, along with fulfilling an environmental agenda, can play an important cultural role by being created as a work of art. Now the pursuit of this agenda has become more grounded and sophisticated as the visual environment has become scientifically linked with human health.
The mission of the course is to represent the value of the physical qualities of the designed landscape. This will be done by examining the trajectory of Martha Schwartz Partner\’s work and will follow the expansion of Schwartz’s belief that landscape is a place for art AND that the qualities and specifics of the visual content of constructed landscapes can impact people’s physical and psychological health. The connection between visual quality, well-being and healthy cities is a line of inquiry that MSP\’s practice has been exploring through a variety of project in countries such as China, Korea, India, Israel, United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and the US.
Recently the practice has been involved in the landscape design for a large public hospital, Krankenhaus Nord, in Vienna. The generous budget for the landscape component of the hospital is based upon an economic pro-forma that proves that the length of a patient’s hospital stay is related to their visual access to greenery. Part of this seminar will focus on Krankenhaus Nord as a case-study to further identify and discuss existing research on the topic of health, visual quality of the landscape and how this may relate to healthy cities. The finding of this research will be applied back to the projects of MSP as an analysis and critique of the practice.