The Landscape Guide

Tim Waterman Fundamentals of Landscape Architecture AVA Publishing(UK) ISBN 9782940373918 2009

This is a useful, well-illustrated and attractive book. But, I would say, better suited to persuading non-landscape architects to join the profession than to 'doing what it says on the box', in the sense of setting forth the fundamentals of  landscape architecture. Waterman studied in the US and teaches in the UK. The book has chapters which:

  • place landscape architecture in a historical context
  • explain how landscape architects respond to the characteristics of places (the 'genius of the place')
  • set for the range of representational techniques which landscape architects use
  • give exciting and dramatic examples of landscape architecture projects
  • outline the range of careers available to qualified landscape architects

The illustrations and captions are the best feature of the book, leaving one with the feeling 'PLEASE, oh please, please let me have a go at projects like these!'

The weakness of the book is the fragility of its theoretical and historical underpinning. Waterman states (p.11) that ''as a profession, landscape architecture is relatively new, dating back only about a century and a half". But he then devotes pages 12-50 (approx 20% of the book content) to a history of the subject over the past 10,000 years! He is absolutely right to include this history but absolutely wrong to take the standard American line that the art of landscape architecture was invented by Frederick Law Olmsted in the mid-nineteenth century. Undermined by this historical error, the Americans who dominated twentieth century landscape architecture were unable to give a passable definition of the subject.

Note: an interesting aspect of the book is a note from the publishers on Ethics (which I would call Applied Ethics). Central Park in New York is given as an example and the following questions are asked:

  1. What responsibility does a landscape architect have to ensure a public space is maintained once it is complete?
  2. Was it unethical to evict people in order to build a public park?
  3. Would you have worked on this project?

They arise from the facts that about 1600 people 'most of whom were poor and either African Americans or immigrants' were evicted from the site, and that after completion of the park it fell into several periods of neglect.