Comments for mammoth the herculez gomez of architecture blogs Fri, 14 Nov 2014 16:37:48 +0000 hourly 1 Comment on on landscape science by rholmes Fri, 14 Nov 2014 16:37:48 +0000 Thanks for your comments, all.

I look forward to your further thoughts on my first two points. Where you say that “We could probably use a bit more organization and systematic knowledge-building…”, I’m not sure that those things are mutually exclusive (“pockets of resistance” and “systematic knowledge-building”), but, *if* they are — yeah, I probably lean towards the former.

But, then, to your more developed objections to my objections (I guess this make these my objections to your objections to my objections to your proposal)…
1. Unfortunately, I think you start off by mischaracterizing my position as describing a “hard line/fundamental difference between making and knowing” (to which you “could not be more opposed”). I think I explicitly stated the opposite, or at least a much more nuanced position than you are allowing me: “While making and knowing should not be perceived as being purely exclusive (in fact, I would argue that making can be a way of knowing — this is central to the notion of design as research), their overlap is far from entire.”
2. Moreover, I didn’t say it, but, conversely, I don’t have any problem with acknowledging the converse: that knowing can be a form of making. (Without having carefully considered it, I think I’m also fine with the extreme version of this: all knowing is a form of making.)
3. I also don’t think the two sides of this summary of my position — hard line/fundamental difference — are equivalent. I’ve asserted that there is a substantive difference between making and knowing, not that there is a hard line between them. Acknowledging that these are different things does not require maintaining that they cannot be aspects of the same action. Rather, I think it is helpful in permitting us to more finely characterize any given action, recognizing that an action may be composed variously of different amounts of making and knowing. My assertion about the Discipline Formerly Known As Landscape Architecture (DFKALA) was and is that it is oriented toward making in a way that science is not, particularly as science is currently construed (but, to a lesser degree, also as science has historically been construed, even under the Marxian use you are proposing a return to).
4. I’m curious whether you have a problem with Dan Hill’s formulation of design’s core value: “[design’s] core value… is addressing genuinely meaningful, genuinely knotty problems by convincingly articulating and delivering alternative ways of being”. (The part that I am worried about losing when I assert a substantive difference between knowing and making is the delivering.)
5. I suppose I am also curious whether you see design as being at the core of the DFKALA. (I think so, from other conversations? I’ll leave aside the nasty problem of defining design.)
6. There are a number of places in your article where you formulate a description of what you see landscape science as (or of what you are trying to bundle into landscape science), and most of those leave me much more comfortable with your proposal than the actual selection of science as a term does. For instance: “conceiving, experiencing, and making landscapes”.
7. I do find this one objectionable, though: “landscape science is the organization of this work into a systematic study of landscapes themselves, and of processes of landscape-making, in an effort to discern the difference between surface and substance, appearance and essence.” It is objectionable to me because I can’t buy the idea — at least not without much further elaboration — that the aim of the DFKALA is to discern differences. To me, that sounds a lot like the making is slipping away in favor of the knowing, which was my original third objection…

I think this leads me to Michael’s comments.

1. It’s helpful, Michael, that you stake out a clear position for landscape science as an umbrella discipline which includes landscape architecture — I think Brian and Thomas went back and forth between doing that and not doing that in the proposal, and that makes their proposal a bit tough to evaluate precisely.
2. You say “Science is a philosophy, a way of understanding the material through repeated observation (the scientific method).”
Indeed, science is a philosophy, and that is precisely the problem: it is a philosophy with a great deal of baggage (like Brett says).
This is super unfair of me (although it is one of many things that makes me think that we’re not actually all that far apart on these matters), but I’d like to quote something that Brian said in another context, describing what members of the DFKALA might contribute to a particular set of landscapes currently made and known almost exclusively by scientists and engineers: ”the intersection, realignment, and reinterpretation of spatial strategies, materials and technologies, and social/cultural value systems. (values seems to be a thing that constantly flumoxes the engineers- us, too, actually, but at least we’re more comfortable with being flumoxed; might tap in to some value added proposition here).”
It’s values that the scientific method has very little to tell us about.
(Well, values and aesthetics, both of which are terribly important parts of landscape architecture. Look at Alex’s work with the USACE at Owens Lake that Brian talks about — the value proposition of landscape architecture in that case is almost entirely about understanding and manipulating aesthetics.)
3. You say “There is already a very closely allied field that operates this way: agricultural sciences understand how to best cultivate crops by GROWING them, KNOWING what is true through by testing experiments using the scientific method.”
Would you also say that the purpose of landscape science would be to “know what is true”? Because I would have a really tough time getting behind that.
4. You say “we can see how the science of restoration ecology has required the act of restoration to understand “degraded” and “restored” ecologies.”
I think this gets the teleological relationship backwards: restoration ecology’s self-definition is that it is the study of the practice of ecological restoration. The end is restoration; the understanding is instrumental. (In that, I think it’s a great parallel to the DFKALA: the end is making landscapes, understanding them is instrumental towards that end.)
5. Finally, you say “Yes, I do believe maintenance workers can be scientists — T. Fleisher’s organic maintenance experiments at the Battery Park Conservancy and Harvard is a clear example — that’s whats partly so exiting about this idea.”
I would say there is a huge difference between is and can be — between saying that “to be a maintenance worker is to be a scientist” and “it is possible to be both a maintenance worker and a scientist”. I wouldn’t deny the latter, but I find the former pretty unconvincing. (But I agree wholeheartedly that the project of thinking through maintenance as landscape-making is relevant and exciting.)

Comment on on landscape science by Michael Sat, 08 Nov 2014 03:26:13 +0000 A little late to the party but here nonetheless. Needless to say I’m quite sympathetic to the pursuit of landscape science (which I see as an umbrella discipline which includes landscape architecture), but not simply because of the very generous shout-out by Brian and Thomas.

Science is a philosophy, a way of understanding the material through repeated observation (the scientific method). While the natural sciences position humans apart from nature, forcing the scientific inquiry to always be about observing and never making, landscape is always constructed, strict observation only able to understand certain aspects of the material. A landscape science must also construct landscapes in order to understand them fully.

There is already a very closely allied field that operates this way: agricultural sciences understand how to best cultivate crops by GROWING them, KNOWING what is true through by testing experiments using the scientific method. Research farms and experimental forests are only a couple products of this inquiry. There is no inherent dichotomy between knowing and making and landscape science must operate in the same way.

Instead, I think the real wall that stands between knowing and making is the dichotomy between science and art. Architecture has obviously allied itself firmly with the latter (or the idea that there is such a thing as art that stands opposite science) causing the majority of landscape to be out of our professional realm. No matter how much we observe and report back on the vernacular landscape, the engineered landscape, the political landscape, the architectural model only allows landscape architects to make certain types of landscapes, designed landscapes. (preaching to the choir). Landscape science is not encumbered with this distinction, because it’s prerogative is knowing, which require making, which may not create landscape architecture but will definitely create new landscapes.

To borrow from another allied discipline, we can see how the science of restoration ecology has required the act of restoration to understand “degraded” and “restored” ecologies. But instead of finding all these landscapes back to normal, we now also understand how restoration creates new ecologies. The critical basis for my experimental maintenance series was analogous to this: that in order to understand how maintenance constructs landscape, we must construct landscape through maintenance. And what came out these experiments (IMHO) was a peak at the novel landscapes that could be constructed through the maintenance model. Yes, I do believe maintenance workers can be scientists — T. Fleisher’s organic maintenance experiments at the Battery Park Conservancy and Harvard is a clear example — that’s whats partly so exiting about this idea. It requires the landscape scientists to get out of the simulation and back out into the field again.

Comment on on landscape science by Excavations, Shockwaves, and Limits – mammoth // building nothing out of something Thu, 06 Nov 2014 14:19:42 +0000 […] home // hide asides // links // index.archive // contact us // teaching // about « on landscape science […]

Comment on on landscape science by Brian Sat, 01 Nov 2014 17:01:02 +0000 well, there are few things more gratifying than producing something that people I admire and draw from engage with!

regarding points 1 and 2, rob makes some great arguments that belie the trickiness of the task before us. Thomas and I don’t suppose that we have all of the answers to these things. I have thought about several of them however, and after I marinate on it a bit more I hope to write some lengthier thoughts down and share them somewhere. In short, I mostly agree with the points. However, the tendency toward more and further atomization (even if provocatively described as ‘pockets of resistance’ and ‘a shifting set of tactical alliances between fields that share interests, methodologies, and terrain’) may actually be a problem. At any rate these approaches also need not be mutually exclusive. We could probably use a bit more organization and systematic knowledge-building…

However, regarding Rob’s third point (the centrality of making) and the hard line/fundamental difference between making and knowing, I am pretty opposed. I’ll try to do more work on this argument in some future piece, but a few assertions might do for the moment. The first and most fundamental point is that knowledge is produced, and it is a material practice. Being a material practice does not mean however, that it must be a matter battle (though that is one super interesting and relevant form). Knowledge processes are always located and contingent and its products are always made. Science understands this (at least if it is good science) and these arguments have been rediscovered and furthered in recent years.

Relatedly, I think design needs to spend a lot more time excavating its instrumental roots (look at the relationship between Dewey, Black Mountain College- especially Albers and Gropius- and design education is an interesting place to start). Much contemporary design education is built on the instrumental theory of knowledge which according to John Dewey holds that “the activities of thinking and knowing occur when an organism experiences conflict within a specific situation.” Ideas are something of an action plan which function as instruments by seeking to resolve or negotiate contingencies.

Similarly, the technology historian David Nye argues that using tools and composing a narrative are both instrumental processes. They are both normative. Whether or not you actually dig into the dirt (matter battle) or merely experience a place as you walk through it, leaving your own trace (Richard Long-style) or walk the perimeter of a terrain along the ancestral songlines (see David Turnbull’s discussion of Australian aboriginal songlines, or Wiley Ludeña Urquizo’s discussion of the Nazca lines in Peru), you are still actively making landscape (not just experiencing it). While the emphasis on matter battles is certainly important in contemporary landscape architecture, this has more to do with the architectural tendency toward capital projects (and our default position to rely on architectural practices, histories, and theories) and the european emphasis on garden-history-as-landscape-history than anything fundamental to landscape-making (they are important strains, but not fundamental).

This emphasis on decentering architectural concerns is an important part of the article. Indeed it is the starting point, both because of the name of our discipline as well as our current situation, where architecture appears to be attempting to swallow landscape, as we noted. That was the reason for the more thorough discussion of landscape urbanism rather than some of the interesting, exciting disciplines that often get short shrift- and continued to in our piece- such as geography, geomorphology, anthropology. And while Brett, you definitely have an ally in me regarding your argument that a closer relationship with geography is needed (and that they are doing some amazing things) it is fundamentally a descriptive/positive science: geo (meaning ‘globe’ or ‘earth’) and graphy (meaning ‘description’). If the practice of some geographers is now normative then that only underscores the fact that a new normative landscape science which offers a space to that brand of geography is needed…

All that said, i’m gaining a lot from this thinking. And the difficulties/possibilities of adopting the term ‘science’ are interesting to hash out further, especially while considering alternatives, such as ‘technics’ (love it, but whether something actually has cultural currency does matter. And would we then be ‘landscape technicians’?) and ‘studies’ (appreciated, but too ‘meh’, no?). Looking forward to hearing more over time…

Comment on on landscape science by Brett Tue, 21 Oct 2014 03:20:21 +0000 So it seems it would be great if the new Places interface could include a comment forum to give the authors access to the worthy discussion they have provoked. Need identified.
I arrived at generally the same place: I agree with the need to distinguish landscape and get out from under architecture, but also feel science isn’t quite the answer. By doing so we drop off one type of baggage only to pick up even more, as you’ve described here. I’m not sure what the added moniker is, but I’m personally most tempted to just go with ‘landscape’ and remake it as our own. That said, I’m intrigued by why landscape urbanism featured so prominently in the piece, yet geography was so lightly touched on. I don’t think it is accurate that contemporary geography is just a ‘descriptive science’. Maybe it once was, back when geographers were map makers, but geography is a bit like us: disappeared from prominence about 50-60 years ago and has come back with a vengeance. It’s now far more projective and instrumental in application and orientation – a spatial science in the most diverse sense. I think the argument can be made that geography has become far more design focused (witness what it is doing with infrastructure) while landscape architecture has simultaneously become far more geographic (by necessity) as it attempts to expand its scope. There’s something in that, I think.

Comment on on landscape science by Ryan Lee Waldron, PE Mon, 20 Oct 2014 19:58:45 +0000 I don’t think Landscape Architecture should be renamed landscape science, just as I don’t think architecture is the same thing as science. These are related, but distinct things… different disciplines of the same study.

I am an engineer that frequently deals on this scale; I call my self a Coastal Engineer, or a Water Resources Engineer (and sometimes just a Civil Engineer), but I suppose what I really am is a Landscape Engineer. I am neither scientist nor architect; I am most certainly an engineer. Nevertheless, what I end up designing — Marsh Creation Projects, River Diversions, and Barrier Islands — is probably best grouped on that landscape scale.

…Landscape studies with multiple different disciples maybe?

Comment on on landscape science by Alan Wiig Fri, 17 Oct 2014 16:37:22 +0000 For whatever reason, when reading this commentary I thought of John McPhee’s book The Pine Barrens, about the unique local culture and landscape of southern New Jersey. Chapter 4 begins with a digression into the vernacular description of the place:

“When highway workers do anything to a road, they are said to be sciencing it. One day while I was driving along with Fred Brown, he said, ‘I didn’t know this road was oiled all the way to here.’ The road was covered with pavement.”

New terms and new ways of seeing the need to break down disciplinary boundaries are certainly welcome when issues impacting common concerns, like sea-level rise, stretch across methods of interpretation and understanding. But science’s need to name, number, and define is perhaps antithetical fostering new methods of understanding and making. The turn to “science” is somewhat problematic even if the discussion, certainly, needs to continue.

Comment on landscape information modeling by Julian Raxworthy Fri, 09 May 2014 07:51:53 +0000 Interesting discussion Rob, and great to be referred to and introduced to your blog.
Reading this post, and your response to my take on the process discourse, there is another section where I note, roughly, that ecology has become denatured and machinic and that this take on ecology removes the fact that ecology is specific not general.In other words there is no longer any ecology in ecology. For me this is a turn from the world and a loss of the real potential of ecology as a way of understanding the world, whereas the machinic version of ecology models the world and then responds to this model. Add this is precisely what the problem of economics has been: it has created a separate, disconnected world that nonetheless effects the world, but does not, as yet in the growth paradigm, get feed back from it.
a more radical, and for me more interesting paradigm is that which I remember from a lecture by Brian Massumi around the time of Parables of the Virtual, where he seemed to argue that we needed to derive a physics from the conditions of the virtual while working in the machine, that was separate from the world, since it was its own world. The odd discrepancy of programs like Second Life, and books like Otherland, that fictionalise the virtual, is that their simulations are real world fantasies, not digital realities. Here I am reminded of Bateson and his epistemological rigor, and I would urge people to read Mind and Nature to get a sense of how we need to be careful that one view deos not spill into or make claims to the other when they are nit actually linked.
Instead, I would argue that some fundamental landscape thinking concepts operate in an interesting correlate in the digital space: organisation, object/field, centre/periphery, emergence, qualities, etc. All the stuff that LU loved but which it kept simply being rhetorical about in the world, can be worked with in a rational and logically consistent way in the digital space, where a landscape sensibility and systemic thought process can be a useful adjunct to speculating that space.

Comment on glitches, flash crashes, and very bad futurists by “Glitches, Flash Crashes, and Very Bad Futurists”… | Thoughts on Everything under the Sun or I am a guilty Secularist Wed, 05 Feb 2014 21:07:28 +0000 […] h/t […]

Comment on elephant butte reservoir by Anchorite Wed, 31 Jul 2013 05:46:15 +0000 If NM fails to meet its water obligations to TX they don’t pay a simple penalty, a federal judge said the state engineer goes to jail. Why should he go to jail so everyone else can take the water TX is entitled to? It’s an artificial reservoir to begin with, and global climate change which started this drought is the fault of all of us. If we want that water back we have to start paying a premium for food so it can be farmed by techniques that don’t destroy the soil, and we have to plant a ton of trees in a hurry to keep it here, and stop acting like sacrificing our cars for our childrens’ future is out of line. Government is not going to solve this as industry capture is all but complete. We have to just go ahead and fight it on all levels.

Comment on elephant butte reservoir by Jack Doil Sat, 27 Jul 2013 19:35:10 +0000 The governor did not make that decision, it was because Texas and Mexico filed lawsuits for their water.

Comment on elephant butte reservoir by Zen Sat, 27 Jul 2013 18:30:37 +0000 Bullshit, The reason the butte is so low is because suddenly the New Mexico Governor decided it would honor a 100 year old deal with Texas for water, and they opened the dam and let all the water go. Sure the drought may have some responsibility, but the reality is, the low level of the lake is because they let all the water out. Way to kill the local tourist economy. Keep it up dumbasses.

Comment on elephant butte reservoir by Jack Doil Sat, 27 Jul 2013 02:11:01 +0000 As a fishing guide on this lake, I am living this drought every day. We will make it and the lake will survive!

Comment on very bad futurists by Neil (@fitnr) Thu, 18 Jul 2013 14:03:44 +0000 Nice to see Lydia’s work here! She was my student long ago in the GSD Career Discovery program.

Comment on very bad futurists by Annick Labeca Wed, 17 Jul 2013 23:38:47 +0000 A very good post that raises lots of questions. Are architects simply futurists? Your post leads me to draw up two main statements (among many others).
1) I’m reminded of three books — Jan Zalasiewicz’s “The Earth after Us” and “The Planet in a Peeble: A Journey into Earth’s Deep History”; Annalee Newitz’s “Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extension”. Zalasiewicz and Newitz say this very basic but important statement: “Human minds are not just born storytellers; We are ingenious.” Indeed, we are capable of drawing up scenarios to adapt to changing contexts. However, our current system is based on the fact that we can control, program future for our matter. It is based on the fact that we are solvers. We analyse constraints; we then solve them. However ingenious we may be, the problems we solve create new problems. But these problems are interconnected, more and more complex, requiring new, mutable tools and methods — if not a new business model — that the discipline of landscape-architecture, alone, cannot yet provide. In my view, this may be explained with the status of the architect as solver, as expert. I couldn’t agree more with Jeremy Till who writes in his “Architecture depends’ that (the landscape-)architecture should abandon its autonomy to become more ‘modest’.” In doing so, the landscape-architecture may rediscover its agency. This may be possible a) with the shifting role of the architect as agent; and b) throughout interdisciplinarity, for instance.
2) “Corporations and the military have been using this technique [of scenarios-based forecasting] in their long-range planning for years, but architects, ecologists, and urbanists have been slower to adopt it.” J’applaudis (I couldn’t once again agree more)! Indeed, the landscape-architecture should integrate forecasting future as scientists, biologists, the military already do. This is what François Roche of New Territories/R&Sie(n) says. New Territories/R&Sie(n) articulates three principles: a) Research as speculations, b) Fiction as practice, Practice as Fiction; and c) Practice as lifespan. In short, a practice based on contingent scenarios that, rather than predicting futures, attempt to think futures. Hence my interest in these concepts of uncertainty, indeterminacy, contingency. Let’s take one: contingency. This concept is a very important concept for New Territories/R&Sie(n). As François Roche rightfully states, “contingency suggests that there is a design, but the certainty with which it will be executed is questionable. There is a great fragility to the process.” Put it simply, according to Roche, elaborating scenarios that would allow us to adapt to unstable, contingent future, requires integration of contingency — not the Hegelian contingency (versus Necessity), but the concept whose meaning is closed to that of elaborated by the movement Speculative Realism (Tim Morton, Ray Brassier, Graham Harman, Martin Hägglund, Quentin Meillassoux…).
To summarize, it is possible — if not crucial — for architecture to integrate scenarios as operative tools if and only if 1) architects modify their status from experts to active agents, or enablers or whatsoever; 2) landscape-architecture recognizes that scenarios are one — if not the only, at least for this moment — among multiple conditions that allow to forecast futures, and to problem-form, adapt, transform challenging issues; 3) landscape-architecture accepts interdisciplinarity (science, biology, genetics, and the list is long); 4) landscape-architecture accepts to abandon the paradigm of problem-solving to endorse that of problem-forming — as problem-forming allows for scenarios-based research; 5) landscape-architecture integrates contingency, and of course uncertainty as conditions that will offer more creativity, better but responsive — productive to say it with Mason White — vision of the world.
Voilà! My apology for being very (I should say ‘too’) long…