Time’s Arrow, Time’s Cycle

The structures and forms we perceive on the face of the land are produced by forces that make order, and those that upset it. Landscape architecture is one of these forces. 

Borrowing the title from Stephen Jay Gould’s book on the history of geology, this course will focus on the temporal dimension of landscape. As Henri Bergson put it, time is invention, the creation of forms. As a result of the interaction of forces exerted by different entities, the environment is in a continuous state of transformation, a state of becoming, of which we are not always aware. In today’s landscape architecture, ideas of time, process, change, and transformation are often approached through vague ecological discourse. In this course, we will investigate these notions through lectures, readings, and discussion on the history of ecological ideas and concurrent theories of evolution and thermodynamics, all of which ultimately deal with different kinds of order we see in the world as time flows through energy and matter. 

Students in the course will also be asked to choose and investigate a vernacular agricultural landscape, that is, a landscape that has slowly evolved through the agricultural practices of those who live in it. The course as a whole will aim at covering the widest possible range of environmental conditions across the globe, with particular interest in landscapes emerging from extreme climatic conditions, such as deserts, tropical rainforests, and tundras. Through drawing and modeling these agricultural landscapes, we will aim to reveal the specific climatic, geomorphological, and technical processes and constraints through which they receive their forms. This constructive and representational inquiry into the vernacular will allow the seminar to engage in conversation about the metaphysics of time and life, energy and matter, discuss the different tendencies that exist on the land prior to human intervention, and question how design and technology interfere with, speed up, slow down, or even wipe out such tendencies. 

Students will be evaluated by their contribution to the general class discussion and their specific investigation. The course is open to all GSD students, but strong graphic and representational skills are recommended.