The Nature of Difference: Theories and Practices of Landscape Architecture

This course explores how notions of cultural difference are embedded in the design of landscape. Social landscapes—as understood through race, class, nationality, indigeneity, disability, gender, and sexuality—will be the focus of each class. By learning to “read” these landscapes and related projects of landscape architecture, we will study the ways in which landscapes shape identity, produce power and inequality, and commemorate diverse cultural meaning.

The course is organized by two kinds of investigations: one that focuses on built forms and another on the ideas and conceptual frameworks that guide the production of those forms. We will attend to diverse projects and topics, including border regions, urban landscapes, colonial plantations, territories of extraction, zones of environmental risk, national parks, native lands, domestic spheres, and postcolonial gardens. Through these sites, we will critically explore the nature of difference in spatial forms of exclusion, inclusion, conflict, and cooperation.

At the end of this class, students will be able to articulate the diverse social and political dimensions of landscapes and refer to a history of landscape architecture projects oriented to related issues. Assignments will include a combination of written responses to assigned readings and hands-on exercises designed to train students in the social analysis of landscapes in and around the university.