Instability and landscape by Bridget Keane

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Abstract

Landscape architecture as a discipline has multiple origins. With lineages from diverse fields of knowledge such as gardening, the sciences, planning, environmental management, landscape painting and architecture. Each of these fields of influence has distinct approaches to looking at (mediating) and acting upon (modifying) the landscape.

Various devices from these fields – instruments, models and mechanisms – are widely used in Landscape Architectural practice to establish the landscape prior to design. Often the devices are applied without modification, assumed to be inert and seen as distinct from the design process.

Given this, to date, little attention has been paid to the agency of the device. This research asks: could we reclaim a critical, creative approach to the devices that construct landscape? Proposing a reorientation of these lenses to allow the construction of landscape as a formative act in the design process. Through the recalibration and modification of a series of devices, this research generates techniques for producing multiple variations of landscape and subsequent design outcomes. Drawing in the influences of other disciplines in ways that are transformative rather than applied.

Three devices begin to unfold a series of design approaches. The microscope recalibrates scale and produces variation. The petri dish acts as a container for growth – constraining and governing formation. The grid discerns, measures, adapts and allows for an integration of formative and material pressures.

The relation between the device and its agency in the landscape revealed the notion of instability. Instability describes the gap between the acts of looking and acting as a productive force making variations between device and matter. Together the laboratories and the associated devices describe a practice that is, by its nature, multiple. Reflecting that the landscape itself is an inherently variable condition and that Landscape Architecture is a discipline with multiple origins.

The research contributes to the discipline of Landscape Architecture by offering critical rethinking of key devices imported from other disciplines. This rethinking occurs through:

  • Generating multiple lenses for landscape
  • Identification of three devices for landscape architecture
  • Reframing the foundation of the devices
  • Modification of the devices to produce new techniques for landscape
  • Positing instability as a key to understanding the mediation of landscape through the devices.

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