Manifesto: Is the postmodern condition of landscape architecture its extinction? or is it landscape ecological urbanism?

Landscape architecture: an apocalyptic manifesto, was the title of a landscape architecture manifesto published in 2004 by Heidi Hohmann and Joern Langhorst (and republished as ‘Landscape Architecture: A Terminal Case?’ in Landscape Architecture Magazine 95, no. 4 (April 2005): 26-45.). The original manifesto is still available as a pdf document. The Hohmann-Langhorst diagnosis was as excellent. Their prognosis was pessimistic and melancholic.
Having a nostalgic affection for manifestos, I responded with my own manifesto – and plan to mark its 10th anniversary with a revised version.
The above diagram, from the Hohmann-Langhorst article, shows the disciplines from which landscape architecture emerged and the disciplines into which they expected it to dissolve. Worldwide, this has definitely not been landscape architecture’s fate in the last decade. It has had a great many successes without, in my view, coming near to realising its full potential.
There is a great contrast between the two countries (Britain and America) which gave birth to landscape architecture as an organized profession. Landscape architecture is flourishing in the US and stagnant in the UK. It could be that the Hohmann-Langhorst article stimulated the US profession to examine its navel and engage in renewal and re-generation. In part, the regeneration has come from the body of theory known as Landscape Urbanism. Proponents have had many competition successes and advocates of New Urbanism feel themselves under threat. Andres Duany and Emily Talen have responded with a book on Landscape Urbanism and Its Discontents: Dissimulating the Sustainable City. The blurb to their book (which I have not yet read) states that ‘While there is significant overlap between Landscape Urbanism and the New Urbanism, the former has assumed prominence amongst most critical theorists, whereas the latter’s proponents are more practically oriented.’ This is despite the fact that Landscape Urbanists have done a poor job of explaining themselves. They should be grateful to Ian Thompson for his account of its Ten Tenets – and I hope his clarity will stimulate the much-needed revival of English landscape architecture. It is of interest that one of the landscape architects with the clearest vision of where the profession should be heading was born in the UK and works in the US – see this interview, in which Time Magazine describes James Corner as an Urban Dreamscaper.

2 thoughts on “Manifesto: Is the postmodern condition of landscape architecture its extinction? or is it landscape ecological urbanism?

  1. Christine

    I am planning to do a comprehensive read of the manifesto posted as well as your own. But on a cursory perusal it is possible to say I am in complete agreement that the landscape architecture profession hasn’t come even close to realising its full potential.

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      I look forward to your comments. Re the H&L Manifesto my view is that their survey of the symptoms was excellent but their theoretical and historical analysis of what caused the symptoms was flawed. With these ‘minor’ issues resolved, landscape architecture can have a brilliant future. A medical analogy can help: first notice the symptoms (eg British sailors reaching Australia with spots on the skin, spongy gums, and bleeding from the mucous membranes), then diagnose the cause (lack of vitamin C), then give them citrus fruit, call them Limeys and expect them to live happily every after. Some of them may even settle in Australia, become landscape architects and go on to design subversive gardens for the National Museum. The volume falls off part-way through but here is a link to a great lecture from Richard Weller


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