Critical Ecologies

Over the past 30 years, the study and practice of ecology has broadened from a classical Newtonian paradigm and a Kuhnian normal science focused on stability, prediction and certainty, to a contemporary transdisciplinary field of studies concerned with post-normal understandings of dynamic ecosystem change and the related phenomena of adaptability, resilience, and flexibility. Increasingly these ecological phenomena are found useful as heuristics for planning and decision-making generally, models or metaphors for cultural production broadly, and design in particular. This places landscape architecture in a particular disciplinary and practical space, equally informed by ecology as an applied science, as a construct for managing change, and – in particular, in the context of sustainability-as a conceptual model of cultural production and design. The critical ecologies seminar will explore the recent scientific shifts that have occurred in the sub-fields and practices of ecology with a particular focus on advanced research in complex adaptive systems. These explorations will reveal a range of implications for decision-making generally and design in particular. The plurality, diversity, and scalar-nature of ecological theory and applied research will be used to foreground contemporary understandings of cultural and natural living systems as they inform both our thinking about and design responses to the interrelationships between the biological and cultural domains in which live. Through these explorations, the seminar will probe the growing alignment between these ideas and contemporary theories about the complex, unpredictable, and emergent nature of the world – a world in which old dualisms are being supplanted by transdisciplinary thinking, uneasy synergies, complex networks and surprising collaborations.