Ford’s Fields: Readings in Urbanism, Ecology, and Industrial Economy

Across a range of disciplines, landscape has emerged over the past decade as model and medium for the contemporary city. This has been particularly true in urban regions that continue to disperse horizontally or sprawl as a result of decentralization associated with mature fordist industrial economies as well as those that continue to shrink in the context of de-industrialization associated with post-fordist economies. It is equally true in urban regions where ongoing industrialization is associated with rapid urbanization and growth attendant to neo-liberal economies associated with globalization. The seminar Ford\’s Fields will survey these topics as well as the origins, development, and reception of landscape urbanism. The seminar will also survey certain nineteenth and twentieth century antecedents to landscape urbanism as well as contemporary alternatives and allied discourses. In so doing, the seminar aspires to construct a general theory of landscape urbanism. If successful, this general theory would simultaneously account for the emergence of landscape as a medium of urbanism in contexts of rapid urbanization and growth as well as those contexts experiencing decentralization or depopulation. Such a unifying framework would link contemporary claims for landscape as a medium of urbanism with earlier formations of landscape as a medium of modernist planning over the course of the twentieth century. Equally, it would account for the recent shift in relationships within and between the various professions, disciplines, and media of design attendant to the contemporary city. As a necessary precondition for this work, the seminar will seek to articulate the emergence of landscape urbanism in the structural economic and cultural conditions of late modern urbanization. Toward these ends the seminar will begin with readings from David Harvey\’s The Condition of Postmodernity, and a body of related texts associated with post-Fordist economic geography. Reading Harvey\’s account of postmodern urbanism as the resultant of economic forces rather than autonomous cultural expression, we will attempt to map Harvey\’s account of neoliberal capital and its impact on the creation of destination urban environments onto recent claims for landscape as a medium of urbanism. The seminar will meet weekly around assigned readings, and each member of the seminar will be invited to present one portion of Harvey\’s corpus or related material in response to a selected weekly reading from the body of literature around landscape urbanism.