A theory of design within both architecture andlandscape is Landscape Urbanism.
It is also considered as a theory of urbanplanning arguing that the best way to organize cities is through the design ofthe city’s landscape, rather than the design of its buildings. The ecologicalaspect has always been a minor thought during the design process. Theseprojects are considered as expensive schemes with a commercial and aestheticpurpose. Landscape urbanism is largely theoretical, with a few, highly visibleactual projects. Being a complex definition it offers a way to consider thecomplex urban condition; one that is capable of tackling infrastructure, watermanagement, biodiversity, and human activity, and one that asks and examinesthe implications of the city in the landscape and landscape in the city.
Rather than being a theoretical concept, this ensuresto define and ensure design methods that would look into specifics of ecology,economic and social conditions. Even the basic ideology of the middle ground asreferred by Michael Pollan (2014) “the idea of a middle landscape, equallypartaking nature and culture, striking a compromise or connection between thetwo has received too little attention”. If the ecological advances wereincorporated, then one might imagine a truly new synthesis: landscapeecological urbanism.
Ecological urbanism is yet another new term coined byCharles Waldheim, proposing increased focus on landscapes and urban regions. Thecombination of landscape and urbanism introduces critical connections withnatural and hidden systems and uses these systems as means to propose aflexible approach to current urban concerns. In other words bringing back theurban and landscape resilience. As citedby landscape architect Tom Turner “the city of the future will be an infiniteseries of landscapes: psychological and physical, urban and rural, flowingapart and together.
They will be mapped and planned for special purposes, withthe results recorded in geographical information systems (GIS), which have thepower to construct and retrieve innumerable plans, images and other records.Christopher Alexander was right: a city is not a tree. It is a landscape.” In practice, landscape and urbanism have been set apartas two different entities. These are reinforced by divergent tactics and urbanscales which recently sparked new ways of approaching the condition of citiesas vast horizontal networks. Built examples of landscape urbanism are stillrare because projects set to test its principles are still under construction. The claim of landscape urbanist Charles Waldheim(2006) that “landscape design can become the lens through which contemporarydesigns are represented and a medium through which they are constructed” is oneof the small steps taken.
This can be seen in the conceptual realignment oflandscape design away from advocating parks within the city or the regiontoward the city itself as a park or landscape was momentous, as it not onlyrepositioned landscape as one of the primary professions shaping the builtenvironment but also relegated traditional urban design, focused on densityand, above all, buildings, to a lesser position. Landscape urbanism’s claim onurban design was bolstered by its relationship to the environment and toenvironmentalism broadly considered. During the 1990s and early 2000s thefinest landscape urbanism projects developed in places with healthy economies,vibrant cities, and strong state support for urbanism, for example the Highline in New York. This is seen lesser in shrinking cities, where in Detroit,conventional open space projects such as the Dequindre Cut rail- to- trail anda pedestrian path along the Detroit River during the early 2000s, and urbanfarming (a mix of landscape and everyday urbanism) proliferated in the city’sneighborhoods, with more than eight hundred community gardens and urban farmsby 2010. “Human based design theories will be more powerful inhow cities are designed”. The urbanists who believe that the ideal environmentis to design clusters of housing for wealthy individuals where the impact ofbuilding on the city is only for aesthetic attention. Human activities are one of the factors thatdetermine ecosystem structure and function.
There is a need to reinvest inresearch and a need for new creative interconnections among the social, densityand environmental networks to improve the quality of work. As cited by JaneJacobs (1961) that an ecological approach to designing and managing cities,arguing that cities are problems of organized complexity, akin to livingorganisms, and that there are lessons for urban design from the study ofsystems where “half-dozen or even several dozen quantities are all varyingsimultaneously and in subtly interconnected ways. People interact with otherhumans and with other species as well as their built and natural environments.The city is a human dominated ecosystem. Landscape urbanism projects, such asthe High Line and the Toronto waterfront, illustrate how designing with naturecan improve the quality of cities for people, plants, and animals. Global temperatures are increasing at an alarming rate in just the past 50years, northern hemisphere temperatures were higher than during any other50-year period in the last 500 years, perhaps even the past 1,300 years. Giventhe effects to climate change already considered, Landscape urbanism can beused/practiced as a resiliency mechanism that addresses climate change.
Theapproach may differ depending on either the species or the ecology. Places with inherent propertiesthat build resilience will likely also be natural strongholds for species andnature into the future. The permeability, complexity, resilience and changecould be the factors that needs to be approached in detail. The urban trees forexample intercept large quantities of precipitation, buffers cities fromflooding impacts, a high diversity of urban tree species directly contributesto the response diversity function of precipitation interception.
Largescale interventions by planners and designers can shape the existing and newcommunities to encourage the use of more sustainable lifestyles. Greeninfrastructure is a network of spaces that are interconnected with ourlandscape. It is a holistic approach that can be considered with respect to theeconomy and green diversity. This can be seen by fully integrating building andsite into the landscape planning process, taking account of landscapecharacteristics such as topography, vegetation and microclimate and helping tomaximize the benefits of shelter from intense wind and sun while seeking toincorporate maximum solar energy and water heating benefits. “In landscape ecology diversity and redundancy are understoodas ecological strategies for risk spreading”.
A modular theory with discrete elementsand diversity is considered when resilience is integrated to urban design andplanning. Urban planning and design is inherently locationspecific. Planning and design projects focus on, and respond to their specificgeophysical, social, economic and political contexts.
Adaptive design provides an alternativescientific and professional strategy approach in which plans and policies aredeveloped in a context of uncertainty and incomplete knowledge. Adaptive designworks with minimal knowledge. With majority of the world now trending urban, focusingon sustainable design strategies has become the main theme of urban andlandscape designs. Systemic relationships among landscape sustainability, people’s contactwith nature, and complex place-based problems are few of those factors thatplay a role in this context.
Landscape urbanism, even though it could bemajorly criticized as an expensive strategy, could be one of the majorinfluential design methodology that must be incorporated to achieve a resilientplace.