urban prototypes A Research Cluster of the Architectural Association

urban prototypes
Charles Waldheim interview

An extract from an interview conducted with Charles Waldheim in Mexico City:

Charles Waldheim: There is a part of Landscape Urbanism that has been interested in the tension between global, economic development structures on the one hand, and the way they are expressed in local geological or ecological contexts. So, one of the functions of Landscape Urbanism has been to be critical of the history of landscape architecture in its kind of geological determinism in which landscape architecture almost invariably demands a site. The difference between architecture and landscape architecture has been architecture’s ability to think before site, without site, in a variety of ways in relationship to sitedness whereas landscape architecture, by and large, let’s say in the west, has tended to fetishize site above many other things […] I think the reason why LU has been valuable for people is the tension between sitedness of ecological systems or social conditions or specific urban/architectural culture histories on the one hand, and the larger, if not global, scales of production, of urbanization and so, in that regard, we could stretch prototypical in that direction. In fact, we know that LU has been interested in infrastructure as a way to if not balance, or problematize the geological determinism of much site-specific landscape architecture. On the other hand, LU tries to avoid repeating modernist planning –in that sense of a prototype where you essentially could roll up the same answer everywhere- and to focus on what are the particular ecological conditions; foregrounding ecology before geology. So, in that definition of prototypical, I think there is something, there is a kind of ambivalence or anxiety about the fact that the landscape side of LU has historically been so over dependent upon sitedness as origin.” Charles Waldheim, Mexico City, 26.06.12.


Charles Waldheim, FAAR is the John E. Irving Professor of Landscape Architecture and Chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. His teaching and research examine the relationships between landscape and contemporary urbanism.

Waldheim coined the term “landscape urbanism” to describe the recent emergence of landscape as a medium of urban order for the contemporary city. Waldheim has authored numerous articles and chapters on the topic, and edited The Landscape Urbanism Reader. Waldheim’s writing on landscape and contemporary urbanism has appeared in Landscape Journal, Topos, Log, Praxis, 306090, Canadian Architect, and Landscape Architecture Magazine.  Waldheim is editor of CASE: Lafayette Park Detroit and co-editor, with Georgia Daskalakis and Jason Young, of Stalking Detroit. 

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