[Canceled for Today] Landscape Department Colloquium: “Claiming Landscape as Architecture”

A colloquium of the Harvard Graduate School of Design
co – convened by Charles Waldheim + Edward Eigen

Questions of professional nomenclature and disciplinary identity have preoccupied proponents and advocates of the new field of landscape architecture since its inception in the 19th century. Longstanding debates over the origins of the term itself illustrate this tension over the professional purview and scope of work for the landscape architect. In spite of the field’s increasing visibility and recent renaissance, many of the most fundamental questions regarding the original claims of the field’s identity remain unanswered.

It was self-evident in both the European and North American origins of the field that landscape architecture was conceived as encompassing the urban and the infrastructural arts. In both contexts landscape architecture was conceived as a progressive response to the social, environmental, and infrastructural challenges of contemporary urbanization. It was much less clear what to call the new profession and its attendant field of study. In fact, the very claim of a new profession and academic discipline was itself met with skepticism by many.

In France the nomenclature of ‘architecte-paysagiste’ (architect-landscapist) was adopted beginning in the 19th century, yet the formulation remains in flux today. In spite of this foundational role in the formulation, contemporary French usage favors the reductive ‘paysagiste’ (landscapist, i.e. designer of landscapes) in lieu of the original ‘architecte paysagiste’ which is rejected today by many as mannered and officious.

In America the formulation ‘landscape architect’ was resisted by many if not most founders of the field. Olmsted himself, among other notable boosters found the term inadequate, yet found no preferable alternative. Many founders of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) found the English form ‘landscape gardener’ more suitable, and the ASLA’s first charter invited fellowship from either ‘landscape architects‘ or ‘landscape gardeners’.

While the English themselves generally favored the term ‘landscape gardening,’ they too ultimately succumbed to the formulation of ‘landscape architecture,’ yet misgivings over the term persisted well into the 20th century. As late as 1960, no less a figure than Geoffrey Jellicoe, president emeritus of the International Federation of Landscape Architects argued that the “. . . landscape architect, who was first called a landscape gardener, is still surely wrongly named.”

The decision of this new field of landscape to claim architecture as its professional peer group and cultural lens is an important story for contemporary understandings of the core of landscape architecture. It also sheds compelling light on contemporary debates regarding the claiming of landscape as a form of urbanism, in the wake of planning’s emergence from, and eventual abandonment of, landscape architecture as a disciplinary and professional field.

What did it mean for this new field would claim landscape as architecture, in lieu of landscape as garden? What alternatives were available, and what value might a counter-factual history afford contemporary readers? How do these histories continue to shape the professional purview and intellectual commitments of the field today?

Detailed Schedule

Introductions (Charles Waldheim, GSD + Edward Eigen, GSD)

Introductions (Anita Berrizbeitia, GSD)

“Early Landscape Architects Who Weren’t ‘Landscape Architects”

John Dixon Hunt, Professor of the History and Theory of Landscape, Emeritus Department of Landscape Architecture, University of Pennsylvania

“John Claudius Loudon (1783 -1843) and the Field’s Identity”
Mark Laird, Adjunct Professor of Landscape Architecture
Department of Landscape Architecture, Harvard Graduate School of Design

Response (Anita Berrizbeitia, GSD)

Introductions (Erika Naginski, GSD)

“Constructing (and reconstructing) the classical landscape”
Jason Nguyen, Doctoral Candidate
Harvard University, Graduate School of Design

 “Landscape Architect/-ture: A Brief Account of Origins”

Joseph Disponzio, Preservation Architect New York City Department of Parks and Recreation
Columbia University, Director, M.S. in Landscape Design Program

Response (Erika Naginski, GSD)

Introductions (Antoine Picon, GSD)

“In the West You Have Landscape, Here We Have…”

Gareth Doherty, Lecturer in Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning and Design Harvard University, Graduate School of Design

“What’s in a Word: On the Politics of Language in Landscape Architecture”

Sonja Duempelmann, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture
Harvard University, Graduate School of Design 

Response (Antoine Picon, GSD)

Conclusions (Edward Eigen, GSD + Michael Hays, GSD)

Principal Speaker: 2733

Additional Speakers: 1860

Anyone requiring accessibility accommodations should contact the Public Programs Office at (617) 496-2414 or [email protected].