Thursday, April 2, 2009

landscape provocations

While not technically part of the conference, I thought it appropriate that the first dialogue in the Landscape Provocations series was today, leading up to the conference. Contemporary issues of practice, research, and representation in Landscape Architecture must confront Ecology at all levels, and the event was an exciting prequel to the weekend.

The conversation between Gary Hildebrand and Chris Reed touched on the economic value of ecology in the urban environment - addressing the ever increasing value of defining ecosystem services and the potential for urban ecology to provide an infrastructural role in the city.

As Gary hinted at this afternoon, a street tree is not just a tree, but a critical element of our city, cleaning air, sequestering carbon, diminishing the urban heat island effect, and providing countless other environmental and economic benefits to the city. Indeed, a city of trees therefore would be a more livable city - ecological or otherwise. Chris spoke of the potential of landscape to function as a water filtration mechanism, and to be both more cost effective and attractive than traditional systems of civil engineering. In the examples that they raised landscape functions as infrastructure - an idea which fits nicely into the more abstract ecological urbanism. A landscape always contains ecology. So it would follow that the more landscape you have the more ecology. Landscape infrastructure should therefore be a fundamental component of the Ecological City.

The thing that I like about the exhibit and what I hope to discover through the conference, is the notion that ecological urbanism includes not only this infrastructural landscape approach, but that is goes beyond the landscape. It more pluralistic and encompassing of multiple disciplines - it says that it isn't just us landscape folks who can green the city and you don't have to portend to be a landscape designer to be a part of this movement. What I can ascertain from the exhibit is that ecological urbanism is design which impacts the city at all its scales, and attempts to do so in a way that learns from nature and/or is harmonious with its principals. That's exciting.

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