Landscape as Urbanism

Landscape as Urbanism


In the module Cities and Culture, that ran parallel with the Alternative Housing module, my group were required to read a piece of literature by Charles Waldheim. The literature was ‘Landscape as Urbanism’. In the previous semester I was required to produce a summary on the text, however in the cities and culture module we were required to produce a presentation in a group. Prior to last semester, this concept was new. The summary allowed me to understand the topic, however the presentation allowed me to really divulge into the topic and try and fully understand every aspect of it. Having to present it meant that me and my group needed to be confident on the topic, because after all, it was not only us needing to understand the topic, but the rest of the class were to hear out view on it. This is because Landscape Urbanism would be a pivotal part of the module and developing a proposal for an area in Nantes.


Firstly, it is important to introduce the topic. From our understanding as a group, the reading by Waldeim on landscape urbanism produced 4 key ideas that we felt were most important. They were:


1) Landscape as a Medium

2) Indeterminacy

3) Ecology

4) Paradigm Shift.



Landscape as a medium refers to a landscape that can respond to temporal change, transformation, adaptation and succession. There is the potential for landscape architecture to supplant design disciplines responsible for reordering urban sites. Stan Allen referred to Landscape as ‘a model for process’. A prime example for this thinking was the Parc De La Villette.


Indeterminacy refers to the conditions of contemporary urban culture that are rapidly and constantly transforming. Landscape urbanism is seen as an organising element. A continuous process of change and indeterminacy, hence a greater focus on process and not the ultimate product. Rem Koolhaas claimed ‘landscape is the primary element of urban order’.


Ecology, landscape urbanism allowed for the reordering of relationship between the ecology and infrastructure. Operational methodologies of field ecology: the studies of species as they relate to their natural environment. There is a complex interweaving of natural ecologies with the social, cultural and infrastructural layers of the contemporary city. Richard Weller referred to ‘the landscape itself… is the infrastructure of the future’.


Finally, the idea of a paradigm shift. It is the intellectual and cultural renewal of the landscape discipline. James Corner called for an imaginative reordering of categories in the built environment. A disciplinary realignment in which landscape supplants architectures historical role as the basic building block of urban design.


The four ideas that are portrayed in the reading provide a helpful understanding of landscape urbanism. After reading this literature I could really help relate the proposals to the site in Nantes and as a result I felt it helped our understanding on the whole. I hope this summary provides a snapshot and can help people in their future endeavours into landscape urbanism.



Reference: Charles Waldeim, Ladscape, Landscape as Urbanism.

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