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Landscape Architecture Studio I + II [21FL-22SP CCNY]

Cultivated Wildness

Spitzer School of Architecture
City College of New York
Fall 2021 - Spring 2022

Central Park, a canonical work of modern landscape architecture, has long been narrated as a piece of nature reserved in the bustling modern metropolitan -- an escape, a pastoral dream, an ultimate juxtaposition of the human and the nonhuman realms.

"Central Park is not only the major recreational facility of Manhattan but also the record of its progress: a taxidermic preservation of nature that exhibits forever the drama of culture outdistancing nature." -- Rem Koolhaas, Delirious New York (1978)

The first-year Landscape Architecture unit challenges this long-held narrative by re-envisioning what an urban park could be in the 21st century -- a time of challenge, awakening, and opportunity: Anthropocene, climate change, sea level rise, pandemic, lockdown, social inequality, the Green New Deal, #BLM, #StopAsianHate, wildfire, ocean fire, subway flooding, nuisance flooding...

To address these complexities, the students will take on a series of rigorous investigations and conduct a sequence of design experiments throughout the fall and spring semesters. Each module (typically 3-4 weeks) will feed into the next and build complexity over time.

Conceptually, students will engage with emerging post-humanist cognition and more-than-human ontological concerns across fields, including landscape architecture. For example, with ideas found in multispecies ethnography and new materialism, students will question the illusory boundaries between nature and technology, ecology and machine, human and nonhuman, biotic and abiotic, living and nonliving.

"To think ourselves capable of causing 'the end of nature' is an act of great hubris, for it means forgetting the wildness that dwells everywhere within and around us."
-- William Cronon, "The Trouble with Wilderness" (1995)

Students will also be introduced to emerging landscape concerns and process-based design frameworks. Exercises are designed to explore the liminal space between the designer's intent and the reality co-produced by more-than-human agents. Students are asked to use landscape elements as media to cultivate living and dynamic relations between humans, nonhuman species and machines in the shared environment.

"Since a thing can't be known directly or totally, one can only attune to it, with greater or lesser degrees of intimacy…Since appearance can't be peeled decisively from the reality of a thing, attunement is a living, dynamic relation with another being."

-- Timothy Morton, "Attunement" (2014)

Eventually, students will explore landscape design as a long-term engagement with the land, developing process-based frameworks through ideas such as maintenance and adaptive management, and re-envisioning alternative modes of landscape practices outside the traditional business models.  

Student Works

© 2021 Zihao Zhang