“Urbanism and the Landscape Architect
Mark Hough. May 30, 2013
Landscape architects are not given nearly enough recognition for being urbanists.
This is not because we don’t get enough work in cities but, rather, it is the types of projects we get or, more importantly, don’t get. We have always been the go-to designers for parks, waterfronts and streetscapes, but have had a tougher time finding seats at the table alongside (or instead of) planners and architects when broader planning decisions are being made. Because of this, we are usually forced to respond to change orchestrated by others rather than direct it ourselves. Exceptions to this certainly exist, but aside from landscape architects working as planners in public offices, there aren’t many.
I’m not whining. I’m just trying to establish a benchmark in relation to the more optimistic direction I see things headed. Urban design is changing, and it is changing fast. Due in large part to environmental and climatological crises that are translating directly into quality of life issues, cities are focused on their urban landscapes as perhaps never before. This is not groundbreaking news, and I’m not the first person to bring it up, but it is still a worthy discussion.
Urban landscape is a tricky term that is often misunderstood and incorrectly used by people who don’t really know what to do with it. Architects, for instance, whose preference for a top-down, figure-ground approach to urban design that lets buildings alone dictate urban form, relegates the landscape to a series of insertions fitting within the pattern of buildings. Planners, whose sensibilities are typically more in line with landscape architects, don’t really get it either. Their habit of treating landscape as generic green shapes on land use maps or as elements to standardize within form-based codes isn’t much better.”