Course description: This lecture course explores landscape architecture’s ethical and political power to shape the world. It will provide students with fieldwork skills to understand human interactions with the land and to apply this knowledge to design practice and theory. We will see how a sociocultural focus ultimately leads to more successful design practice, processes, and projects. A central premise is that experiential knowledge—gained from the embodied engagement of landscape fieldwork—can help to revise how we understand and use Western canons of landscape knowledge and offer us new possibilities for the design imagination.
Structure of the course: The course is structured in five parts— 1) Flat Fieldwork; 2) Experiential Knowledge; 3) Walking and Talking; 4) Collective Endeavour; and 5) Operational Fields. Each of the five sections is framed with a landscape project that outlines a particular set of fieldwork challenges.. Cases include smaller-scale public spaces, border landscapes, sacred groves, archipelagos, and regions. We will concentrate mostly in the postcolonial and Islamic worlds in the Arabian Peninsula, the Caribbean, Brazil and West Africa, as well as Western Europe. We will unpack these case studies using theory and formulate new epistemological understandings of landscape. In doing so, we will apply the descriptive, participatory, and reflective aspects of ethnography to design and the imaginative, projective, and prescriptive capacities of design to ethnography. By cultivating the common ethnographic ground between landscape architecture and anthropology, this course opens up new possibilities for understanding the present and imaging the future.
In addition, the course will be punctuated with discussion on required readings, fieldwork assignments, and mostly asynchronous interviews with fieldworkers. These weekly interviews with practicing landscape architects, architects, and academics will help to reveal diverse landscape fieldwork methods, and in the process help conceptualize landscape fieldwork. For the list of interviewees see the course syllabus on Canvas.
Structure of the sessions: Classes will alternate between asynchronous, pre-recorded lectures posted on Canvas, and synchronous lectures and class discussions on Wednesdays, 6-7:30 pm, ET. All required readings, and recordings, will be available on Canvas: https://canvas.harvard.edu/courses/86656
Evaluation: Final grades are based on participation, completion of weekly response papers, and three assignments including a remote fieldwork project. Recognizing the limitations imposed by COVID-19, the fieldwork assignment will be completed remotely. Working collaboratively, the final design proposal will focus on the Osun Sacred Grove and a nearby site in Osun State, Nigeria using remote fieldwork techniques presented in class. A brief final project will be based on the collective fieldwork.
Learning outcomes: This course provides students with training in ethnographic fieldwork methods that can be applied in several academic and professional projects and will prepare students to conduct landscape fieldwork, either alone or collectively.
There are no prerequisites. Undergraduates as well as masters and doctoral students are welcome to enroll. The course has no enrollment limit. Cross-listed between the Department of Landscape Architecture and the Department of Anthropology, a version of this course was previously offered as “Design Anthropology: Objects, Landscapes, Cities.”
Note: the instructor will offer live course presentations on 01/19-01/21. To access the detailed schedule and Zoom links, please visit the Live Course Presentations Website. If you need assistance, please contact Estefanía Ibáñez.