Landscape Ecological Urbanism

Landscape (Ecological) Urbanism is a better name

Landscape (Ecological) Urbanism is a better name

Wiki has the following accounts of landscape and ecological urbanism
Landscape Urbanism is a theory of urban planning arguing that the best way to organise cities is through the design of the city’s landscape, rather than the design of its buildings…. The first major event to do with ‘landscape urbanism’ was the Landscape Urbanism conference sponsored by the Graham Foundation in Chicago in April 1997. Speakers included Charles Waldheim, Mohsen Mostafavi, James Corner of James Corner/Field Operations, Alex Wall, and Adriaan Geuze of the firm West 8, among others.
The ecological urbanism project draws from ecology to inspire an urbanism that is more socially inclusive and sensitive to the environment, as well as less ideologically driven, than green urbanism or sustainable urbanism. In many ways, ecological urbanism is an evolution of, and a critique of, Landscape Urbanism arguing for a more holistic approach to the design and management of cities.
I welcome both initiatives as perhaps the most significant contributions to landscape design theory since the landscape architecture profession was launched in the mid-nineteenth century. But much the same group of people are involved in both initiatives and I am unpersuaded by the change of name. For the construct Ecological Urbanism to have a good chance of a long and happy life its two components would need careful definitions and accounts of their intension and extension.
LANDSCAPE Architecture has established itself as a design profession and uses the word landscape evaluatively – just as ‘a work of architecture’ differs from ‘a building’. ECOLOGICAL can be used evaluatively but is more often used to describe one of the natural sciences. The compound LANDSCAPE ECOLOGY uses both words descriptively. I would appreciate a justification for Ecological Urbanism’s claim, quoted above, to social inclusiveness. Mostafavi, in his introduction to a large book on the subject, provides no evidence of an interest in the social use of urban space – unless you include his final remark that ‘Guattari’s conception of an ethics of the ecological is an inherently political project with a commitment to countering the global dominance of capitalism’. I predict not many clients will brief ecological urbanists to overthrow global capitalism. So I suggest using the term Landscape (Ecological) Urbanism for a while – and then dropping the (Ecological) when people have recognized the ecological commitment. As Ian Thompson argued in 2000 (in his book on Ecology, Community and Delight: An Inquiry into Values in Landscape Architecture: Sources of Value in Landscape Architecture) the Vitruvian aims of landscape architecture already include Ecology. We just need to bang on about this important point.
See also Gardenvisit notes on Landscape and Ecological Urbanism
Note on the illustration: it shows James Craig’s famous plan for Edinburgh New Town superimposed on ‘the bark of a tree‘. The section of Craig’s drawing north of Princes Street was built and is a great success in its response to landform and views. The section south of Princes Street was not built and hardly could have been built. The land falls into a deep valley, occupied by a loch when the plan was drawn, and then rises steeply to Edinburgh Castle Rock – which is shown on the plan.

17 thoughts on “Landscape Ecological Urbanism

  1. Christine

    The New Town and Old Town in Edinburgh are remarkably harmonious both architecturally and [ ] it would seem topographically. The aerial view of New Town suggests this has been achieved with an admirable dose of ‘cold broccoli soup’. [ ]

    This admirable relationship seems to have grown from the inspired Royal Mile.
    [ ]

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      Yes, Edinburgh’s Old Town and New Town is by far the best architecture and landscape composition in the British Isles. The current Scottish government is however wrecking it. I do not think they particularly want to do this but they very particularly do want to win the referendum vote on independence from the Auld Enemy. It will be held on Thursday 18 September 2014 (and being born in Scotland and owning a house in Scotland are not sufficient criteria for having a vote). Alex Salmond, a canny old, think that money is what the Scots care most about so he encourages any kind of trashy development which will bring in the cash. I have supported the case for Scottish independence for years but the ghastly development around Edinburgh has made me change my mind.

  2. Christine

    I am wondering if it would be possible for the UK to have a federation of nations in the same way that Australia has a federation of states? The European Union is based on a model of united nations – perhaps by looking at the federation arrangements in Australia and the union arrangements in the EU – it might be possible for the UK to remain united as nations in one kingdom?

    Amazing that the EU began as a union to promote the free movement of coal and steel with the signing of the Paris Treaty! The current arrangements for integration are found in the Maastricht Treaty:

    “The treaty established a European Union (EU), with EU citizenship granted to every person who was a citizen of a member state. EU citizenship enabled people to vote and run for office in local and European Parliament elections in the EU country in which they lived, regardless of their nationality. The treaty also provided for the introduction of a central banking system and a common currency (the euro), committed members to implementing common foreign and security policies, and called for greater cooperation on various other issues, including the environment, policing, and social policy.”

    So perhaps in a complementary model you would be entitled to European, UK and Scottish citizenship?

    The European Union model is still being developed and no-one seems to sure how stable it is to a range of challenges (ie the GFC), whereas the UK has stood the test of time, at least until now.

    Is the idea of an Auld Enemy still current? In what ways do the Scottish people see themselves as enemies of the ‘Auld Enemy’?

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      I lot of European people feel they have been cheated by the EU. We signed up for an economic union and the bureaucrats, dreaming of ever more jobs and ever higher salaries, decided to give us ‘ever-closer union’. The peoples of Europe are expected to tell them what they think of this on Thursday 22 May 2014.
      My guess is that the EU will evolve, when I am pushing up daisies, into a new, flexible and excellent form of political arrangement in which states and regions work together on things they have to work together on but decide for themselves on all other matters. This is known as A La Carte Europe. The bureaucrats hate it but I do not think they will be able to stop it. When it is working I think it will be a great model for other parts of the world (eg India/Pakistan/Bangladesh/Sri Lanka).
      As you say, something like it works well for Australia (and the US – and within Germany) but I think it needs to be more flexible for Europe because of its complicated history. I can’t see India and Pakistan agreeing to cede any power to each other but they have to cooperate on some things.
      Scots history is largely an extended grudge against the English. It compares with the African view of the white races and, in fact, English immigrants to Scotland have been called ‘white settlers’ for a long time.

  3. Christine

    All of this antagonism towards each other is exceedingly difficult if you have an English and Scottish heritage – it becomes more like a family fight than a fight between Auld (national) enemies! There are some great things about the separate sense of identity within the union – i.e. the increase in cultural richness – but negative things also like name calling : ‘white settlers’.

    Could a good rugby match do anything to bring the two sides together in friendly rivalry. Perhaps a series of grudge matches are needed to vent these historic feelings of ill will in a positive way?

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      The English like the Scots: it’s the Scots who regard the English as the Auld Enemy. Rugby matches take place regularly. They are bitterly contested and, unfortunately for the Scots, the English win more often than they do.

  4. Christine

    Perhaps the Scots need to make a television serialized program on famous Scots and their contributions to the world.

    Being or considering yourself ‘the underdog’ can be a position of strength. I am sure it is why Australians ‘punch above their weight’ as the saying goes. It’s negative side in the Australian character is the cultural cringe but its positive side is a brilliant independence which makes them do incredible things.

    It probably wouldn’t work for those amiable English to let the Scotch win at rugby a bit more, as the Scots are fiercely proud. (It is one of their endearing characteristics!) Perhaps the Scots could employ an English rugby coach?

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      I don’t think anyone could accuse the Scots of not praising their famous men and women.
      The difficulty Scots independence might encounter was identified by a former neighbour of mine. He was English but had spent his life (as an architect, engineer and planner) in the Scottish civil service. His conclusion (c1965) was that independence could never work because he had never been at a meeting when two Scots were able to agree with each other on any point. He did not say it, but hatred of the Auld Enemy would probably have been an exception – so it has an important role in Scots life (as it does in the Zimbabwe society).

  5. Christine

    Nelson Mandela says because no one is born hating everyone can learn to love. I am not sure what it would take to have the Scots agree on loving the Auld enemy instead?

    Here is a website about why Americans love English people. [ ] If we are going on the American experience perhaps it does take independence to change hate to love?

    I am wondering whether you would add to that list ‘The English Garden Tradition’?

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      John Marston wrote (after the Union of the Crowns) of a play that ‘It seems to have been written shortly after James’ accession, when the hungry Scots were swarming southwards in quest of preferment Englishmen were justly indignant at the favours bestowed by James on these Scotch adventurers’ and, as with the Irish, there have been many things the Scots like about England, despite a list of complaints as long as your plaid.
      History is not a science and, if they wanted to, the Americans could regard the War of Independence as a continuation of the English Civil War. I have read that there was as much support for American self-government on the east side of the Atlantic as there was on the west side. In England, it was plain old-fashioned anti-royalism.
      Re English gardens, yes.

  6. Christine

    Yes it is an historical irony that King James of Scotland united the Crowns and yet it somehow seems as if it was an English king that was responsible for taking over the Scottish crown – given the historical animosity that resulted. [ ]

    I am not sure why history seems to play out this way.

    It often seems the Hollywood star system has resulted in America to compensate for not having a royal family. Sometimes political (ie the Kennedy’s) and other establishment families are given similar socio-historical benefits. So, in the light of these eventualities ‘anti-royalism’ is quite a strange phenomenon.

    However, it does inform the American dream with Arnold Schwarzenegger neatly encapsulating its celebrity and political elements.

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      I am inclined to republicanism but can’t see it has conferred many benefits on eg America and France. And I can think of two benefits from a royal family (1) the thought of having ANY of our recent politicians as a president is intolerable (2) the Royal Family is a great soap opera.

  7. Christine

    The royalty seems to have served the English well since the reign of Edward the Confessor. Undoubtedly Scotland and Ireland will need to make similar assessments of the benefits of royalty since the crowns were united.

    It does seem that the French are still enjoying the legacy of the royalty through their cuisine, fashion, gardens, architecture, music, ballet etc. If the populous is the genesis of popular culture it can be seen that royalty is the genesis of high culture.

    The UK currently has the advantage of a strong high culture and a strong popular culture. I am not sure if these advantages are considered to their fullest extent?

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      ‘What know they of England who only England know?’ Not enough. Your view from ‘the ends of the earth’ (seen from the UK) is wise. From London, it is easy think of the Royal family as the best illustration of Lloyd George’s comment on the need to reform the House of Lords: ‘The question will be asked whether five hundred men, ordinary men chosen accidentally from among the unemployed, should override the judgment, the deliberate judgment, of millions of people who are engaged in the industry which makes the wealth of the country.’
      Maybe the Scots will make former PM Gordon Brown ‘the next King of Scotland’ – and then regret it.
      I also agree that France’s position in the luxury goods and tourism markets comes from the Bourbons. Ditto, China’s tourist industry has a lot to do with Qin Shi Huang (260–210 BC). It is respectful of the Chinese not to excavate his tomb and I support the policy – while also regretting it. Maybe they should go in, have a peep, and shut it up again.

  8. Christine

    Perhaps it was Australia’s brush with the squattocracy that demonstrated that it is human nature to want to invent an establishment with similar right to royalty where one doesn’t exist.
    [ ]

    Much of the law of the commonwealth was built on the wisdom of the law Lords and this has been the basis for stable democratic government for many countries including Australia. So from afar it is more difficult to see the need to reform the House of Lords (upon which our Senate or Upper House is modeled).

    Yes, it is often not appreciated that the revolution in China was as much a cultural revolution as it was a social one. The implications of this will take perhaps may centuries to unfold. It seems however that China is once again beginning to embrace the idea of culture – that is good.
    And the young Germans with no experience of East Germany are able to gaze in astonishment at the arrangements and material culture which once existed when the country was divided.

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      I am doubtful about the wisdom of two elected chambers competing with each other and wonder if there could be another way of filling the second chamber. Eg what about having representatives (equivalent to the medieval lords) representing the big institutions: universities, national trusts, the forest service, trade unions, big companies, professional bodies etc. They could bring a lot of wisdom to the legislative process but it would be a pity of their political views came to influence their appointment to positions of responsibility.

  9. Christine

    The difference between the two chambers and how the balance of power is held under various electoral permutations is quite marked. The Senate term is longer than the term for the House of Representatives and this provides for some continuity of government even when the party forming government changes. Senators represent their states rather than constituents of a particular electorate. Sometimes when the balance of power is held in the Senate it is held by a minority party, while at other times independent senators hold the balance of power.

    The interest of institutions are necessarily more narrow. The trade unions here are affiliated with the Labour party and typically big companies are seen to support the Liberal party with the National party more typically representing agricultural interests.

    You are very right. Political views and appointments to positions of public responsibility ought ideally be separate. Of course, some people are very political in an ideological sense and of course if there political views were part of their public persona and they were appointed with a high degree of transparency there should be no difficulty with this also.

    So, hopefully, would be the operations of institutions for example it should be possible to be a member of the national trust and also be a member of any of or none of the three political parties mentioned.

    The UK is different and has an historical basis with hereditary Lords. It is good to see some born and others created in this context.


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