Time’s Arrow, Time’s Cycle: Landscape, Energy, Matter

The structures and forms we perceive on the surface 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 deal with the temporal dimension of landscape. As Henri Bergson said, time is invention, creation of forms. As a result of the interaction of different forces, the environment is in a continuous state of transformation, a state of becoming, of which we are not always aware. In landscape architecture today, ideas about time, process, and change are addressed through discourses often borrowed from the field of ecology. In this course, we will investigate these notions through lectures, readings, and discussions on the history of ecology and other concurrent theories—such as evolutionary theory and thermodynamics—which ultimately deal with the different kinds of order that emerge over time as different forms of energy—radiant, potential, kinetic, chemical and so on—inject life and transformation on matter, and thus in the landscape.

Students in the course will also have to choose and investigate a vernacular agricultural landscape, that is, a landscape that has slowly evolved through the agricultural practices of those who inhabit it. By selecting these case studies, the course as a whole will try to cover the broadest possible range of environmental conditions around the world: from the very hot to the very cold, the very dry to the very wet, the very high to the very deep. With the impacts of climate change in mind, we will focus on anthropogenic landscapes that arise from extreme conditions, such as deserts, rainforests, tundras, and great mountain ranges. We will draw these agricultural landscapes, trying to reveal their climatic and geomorphological processes and constraints, as well as the specific technologies that intervene on them and from which they receive their forms. This constructive and representative inquiry into the vernacular will support the theoretical component of the seminar, allowing the class to engage in a more productive conversation about the metaphysics of energy and matter, time and life, as well as to discuss the different propensities that exist on earth prior to human intervention, and to question how design and technology interfere with, accelerate, slow down or even eliminate them.

Students will be assessed on their contribution to the overall class discussion and their specific vernacular landscape research. The course is open to all GSD students, but solid graphic and representational skills are recommended.

Note: the instructor will offer live course presentations on 08/26, and/or 08/27. To access the detailed schedule and Zoom links, please visit the Live Course Presentations Website.

Please note this course will meet online through 9/15.

The first class meeting will be on Wednesday, September 1st. The rest of the semester, classes will meet during the official scheduled time.