As a form of play, sports are deeply embedded in human nature and culture. Throughout history, sports have had considerable impact on how we design and understand landscapes. Vice versa, designed and pre-modern “natural” landscapes have contributed to the formation and development of new sports activities, cultures of movement and the body. With the development of new sports and their increasing commodification, new types of landscapes continue to be created across the globe, invariably transforming our living environment in the process. Indeed, the physical environment and its built form have been key to sports activities.
Scholars from fields like sports history and geography have often described a movement away from localized, contextualized, and place-based sport landscapes towards placeless, contained environments in which sports facilities and equipment are standardized, artificial, mass-produced and inherently international, or global. However, what many studies have neglected to consider, is the site design itself and its social, political, and cultural context and meanings. Even within landscape and environmental histories sport landscapes have been conspicuously absent although some of the first sport landscapes were part of designed gardens, parks, and cities.
In this seminar we will address this lack of knowledge, exploring the design of different sport landscapes over time and how they have given expression to various understandings of nature and culture. What are the relationships between sport landscapes and their environment? What is the relationship between the site itself and the culture of sports embedded within it? How have sport landscapes, like the activities and their cultures, been tools for colonization? How do they embody constructions of race, place, gender, and identity? How have body and movement cultures, and the public health movement shaped sport landscapes? And vice versa, how have landscapes and the ideas of landscape shaped the specific sports grounds?
The course will include lectures and seminar discussions. On the basis of class readings in the theory and history of sport landscapes students will be directed to research a particular case study. All studies will be presented and assembled as a “sports park” at the end of the semester, where gold, silver, and bronze medals will be awarded.