The garden and the layered landscape: landscape urbanism through the lens of garden design

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In the era of globalization, also landscape architects and urban designers have learnt to think big–in large scales and far-reaching visions. Landscape is called upon as the model and the medium of urbanism, feeding into a grand narrative of saving the day when architecture as the ordering principle of the city has become obsolete or inadequate. The horizontality, large scale organisational techniques, and landscape processes associated with landscape are called upon to provide a new understanding of urbanism, able to solve the problems where the classical architectural repertoire falls short. (Waldheim 2016, p. 3; Corner 2006, p. 23) Understanding the fluid or changing nature of any environment and the processes that effect change over time, landscape urbanism is concerned with a working surface over time–a type of urbanism that anticipates change, openendedness and negotiation. This suggests shifting attention from the object qualities of spaces to the systems that condition the distribution and density of urban form. In this vision however, landscape is indeed the carrier of urban developments but has no independent formal status. (Steenbergen and Reh 2011, pp. 428-430)
On the other hand, we can observe tendencies to think small again: design interventions on the neighbourhood level, transformations of unused spaces through low-cost, bottom-up actions, awareness rising and community building projects that shape space temporarily. Unfortunately, the tendency to involve users and actors in the design, is associated with a crumbling attention to spatial design and the associated notions of place, space, and form.
Space does not emerge naturally when social and landscape processes and a sustainable programme are addressed, so aren’t we thus letting go of the specific spatial and experiential qualities of the landscape and of the architectonic culture in which these landscape qualities can manifest and develop? Of the associated notions of place, space, and form that a landscape architectural lens, rather than a landscape lens, could provide?
The garden has always been a place where urbanism, architecture and landscape are seamlessly intertwined. It is also a small and defined object with a formal, spatial design, which does not appear to deserve a place in the definition of landscape urbanism. If we were to give it a place, what could that be, and what can landscape urbanism learn from the design of gardens?
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings Beyond ism: the landscape of landscape urbanism
EditorsCaroline Dahl, Lisa Diedrich, Gunilla Lindholm, Vera Vicenzotti, Nina Vogel
Place of PublicationAlnarp, Sweden
PublisherSwedish University of Agricultural Science
ISBN (Print)978-91-576-9472-0
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventBeyond ism: the landscape of landscape urbanism : FUSE International Conference - Malmö, Sweden
Duration: 19 Oct 201621 Oct 2016


ConferenceBeyond ism: the landscape of landscape urbanism
Internet address


  • landscape urbanism
  • garden
  • spatial design
  • St. Catherine’s College Quadrangle

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