Originally published in Landscape Urbanism Journal 01: Indeterminacy and Multiplicity
by Sarah Peck and Eliza Valk
Photo by Kevin Saavedra
Indeterminacy and Multiplicity
What is landscape urbanism? What do we envision—we, who design in cities, who create landscapes, and who imagine the possibilities and potential of future urban environments? What do you want to see and do—you, who create work and life in cities and the surrounding regions? What are our goals and objectives, and do they cohere, conflict, or cohabitate?
Are landscape urbanists intentionally avoiding concrete answers, side-stepping specifications and detailing because we cannot articulate or formulate our visions from broad regional plans to the grained materiality of a specific site? Are we charismatic chimeras who spin tales and pretty pictures that evaporate as we slip away at the first sign of hammers and nails, contracts and bluebooks?
We believe that we are trying to do something different. We are in uncharted territory because we are spinning new narratives. We are taking on new responsibilities, and we are approaching challenges with faceted lenses, recognizing and incorporating—with sense and sensibilities—the vast variety of interests, concerns, investments, and collisions that are the landscape of cities.
Similarly, the making of this website has been a kind of SimCity gaming with all the anticipatory glee, hope, and stumbles. On top of the pins and needles of constructing the site itself—acquiring and editing content, marketing and outreach—whole sections of the site were scrapped and months later re-introduced; endless iterations of workflow management posted and trashed; and hours spent pondering puzzles and formulating systematic answers in memos and diagrams—e.g., is landscape urbanism capitalized? Caveats aside, we say no. Why? We err in the belief that landscape urbanism is a study, with parameters, but not an ideology. One conundrum among many.
Working with all of the writers, designers, practitioners, editors, advisors, and investors, without whom this site would have been never realized, has been an incredible and gratifying experience. With every decision and detail looming large, threatening or hearkening some unknown, this site is a work in progress with more to come. We aim to create a resource and tool for you in your own work, for the designer, for the city dweller, for the scholar, and for the curious. In doing so, we hope to stimulate your mind, delight your senses, offer reference and inspiration, and provide a platform for thoughtful discussion. And we turn it to you, as we build this site, to offer feedback, dialogue, critique, and innovation about what it means to design and create cities, to create landscapes, and to practice landscape urbanism.
In this website’s launch, you’ll find the start of an ongoing blog with summaries and citations on landscape and urban news; we have a twitter feed and Facebook page that we encourage you to follow; a section we call “strategies” is a visual archive in which we feature works, built and unbuilt, by firms and individuals that exhibit characteristics of landscape urbanism; and finally, we have our first issue, a collection of feature articles, interviews, essays, and photo essays under the rubric of a particular theme.
Issue One examines landscape urbanism’s origins and future potential; its coherencies and incoherencies; and working definitions that hold the seemingly conflicting factors of space, time, indeterminacy, and multiplicity. Inside, you’ll find Christopher Gray and Shanti Levy illuminating the antecedents and legacies of landscape urbanism, while SWA president Gerdo Aquino calls for more built works to bolster its role. Editor Eliza Valk haunts New York City’s parks puzzling terms and definitions, while Laura Tepper scurries across Dutch highways wondering what happened to a West 8 installation. Finally, website founder Sarah Peck interviews longtime blogger and landscape advocate Jason King; while further south, architects Thom Mayne and Karen Lohrmann and a UCLA design studio examine the future of America’s regional cities.
For the editors, the past year and more has been a unique privilege synthesizing and coordinating a rush of ideas, feedback, enthusiasm, and efforts from many talented people and remarkable firms, publications, and organizations. Our worlds have cracked open through all those we have met and who have entered into conversation with us. We are so grateful. And we hope that your world is opened too. We welcome your comments. Please, come in, and let us know what you think.
Sarah Kathleen Peck works in the spaces between landscape architecture, technology, communications, and strategy. She is the founder and editor of LandscapeUrbanism.com and the editor of this issue.
Eliza Shaw Valk is co-editor of LandscapeUrbanism.com and is a designer and writer with a background in dance and performance.