This feature has been created in collaboration with urbanNext, a multi-platform aimed at developing, disseminating and distributing content centered on architecture through a focus on the contemporary human milieu and its challenges. Architizer features a weekly discussion from urbanNext’s journals to support its investigation of urban conditions and innovations facing the architectural profession today.
“This notion of the countryside as romantic, bucolic, something that is unaffected by design no longer exists,” says Mohsen Mostafavi in an interview with urbanNext at the 2016 Venice Biennale, “Everything … is artificial, everything is a subject of transformation and a subject of design.” In this video interview, the Dean and Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor of Design at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design discusses the “radical transformation” that the field of landscape architecture has undergone in the past several decades due to the increasing scale of designed territories around the globe.
“In the past, when people thought about landscape, they really thought either about the garden or they thought about … public parks,” says Mostafavi, citing the traditions of English, French and Italian landscape parks, whose prevalences have solidified these typologies as the champions of landscape architecture for much of the collective imaginary. However, Mostafavi sees this association splintering and expanding as our territories continue to urbanize, the landscape architect’s role having become critical in aiding and shaping this transformation.
Additionally, as the field of urban planning shifts its productivity away from physical design and more into policy making, the need for physically designed spaces is beginning to be fulfilled by landscape architects. “What used to be historically … physical planning in many places has now been … supplanted by what landscape architects do,” says Mostafavi of this phenomenon, “because landscape architects are also dealing now with this larger-scale territory — [at] the level of the operations with the state — which planning, in terms of physical planning, is not necessarily dealing with directly.”
For Mostafavi, the particular skills that landscape architects have acquired in designing large-scale territories have equipped them with the tools necessary to tackle the needs of our rapidly expanding cities. “We need … experts that understand the correlations between the physical space as an artifact, as something which is an artificial environment but also simultaneously a natural … habitat,” he argues. As our natural landscapes continue to be coopted for development, “We need now these different understandings of the various scales … That is why landscape is so important as a key component of the way in which we think about the question of urbanization.”
Words by Joanna Kloppenburg
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