Architecture in all togetherness is one of the most diverse professions to learn and practice anywhere in the world with every aspect of it dealing with human, nature, and the built environment, famously it is said that “one is never too old to fully grasp architecture thus it is but a lifelong process”. Out of various such alternatives landscape architecture is one of the most recognized and acknowledged fields of Architecture, with its rich history, predominant present, and a promising future appealing to all vital aspects of what we should aim for with Architecture.
Okay, I understand it is important!! But what is Landscape Architecture?
Landscape architecture is a manmade feature that resonates with the built structure to create an ecosystem and harmony between various elements; an attempt to aestheticize and at the same time create a balance of human intervention in nature. Over the years experts in the field have come up with several of their definitions and theories but the general idea had always been to constantly improve the growing living conditions of people as a human being a biophilic creature can never thrive without seeking nature.
Through this article, we’ll look upon how the landscape evolved throughout its history and its growing relevance in today’s world and how they can be a key factor to understand the new paradigms of public and private spaces in the current state we are living in.
The Brief History of Landscape Architecture.
Frederick Law Olmsted is considered the father of landscape Architecture for his professional work on the central park, New York in the mid-19th century but the term was first used by Gilbert Laing Meason in his book on Landscape architecture, some even give credit to Thomas H. Mawson—the first president of the British landscape institute.
Even with all the controversy, the main objective of all of these planners was to distinguish between garden design and public or civic design of landscape as in the modern era it became necessary to not just acknowledge but to include them in the development process of these megacities. Though the concept was new, it was not the first time it was seen we got a glimpse of it through ancient civilizations of Egypt, China, and India.
Even during the time of nomadic man various Landscape theories were associated with their movement patterns, choice of shelter, and their association of balance with nature. One such theory is of “Prospect & Refuge” of 1975 which was subconsciously used by them to seek out opportunities from the visual information explore and then take refuge which meant to be safe in a shelter like cave hence again appealing to the balance as all thing should be.
As we move forward to more civilized eras all around the world landscape got associated more with gardens than civic elements and the idea these big beautiful gardens with aesthetic appeals got popular but at the same time more conserve only for elites and noble member of society who had access of these privileges, many kings and nobles of Europe used these not only as a personal hobby but also to demonstrate power and status in the society especially in English, French, Spanish and Italian gardens, which were inspired from one another but could be differentiated on local factors such as climate, terrain, and history.
One of the most famous and oldest Gardens of Europe is the mosque of Abdurrahman-I at Cordoba, Spain with a cathedral at the front and a beautiful rectangular orange garden at the rear. As we moved towards the east these gardens started to hold meaning as a medium for people to connect with the spiritual and divine, in Persian gardens water is a sacred element which flows throughout the garden and meets at the center, the theory of Yin-Yang in Chinese gardens and of Purusha and nature in Indian garden.
It was first thought by the famous architect of the renaissance period, Vitruvius, to segregate fancy, private gardens into something more meaningful as a whole for the society and cities. With its fair share of time it did which brings us back to the first mega landscape project executed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in 1876 through a design competition, the garden was placed which was envisioned would be the center of the Manhattan city, thus, enormous chunk of 778 acres earlier then afterward increased to 843 acres is one of the most visited gardens in the world, mostly known for its huge water bodies and meadows ideals for a Sunday picnic.
Finally, from elements and parts of the city dedicated to landscape, some town planners proposed constructing entire cities around the blends of manmade and nature. Sir Ebenezer Howard is the one who proposed the idea in his book “garden cities of tomorrow” to develop cities without slums and proper housing and working management. Letchworth, a city near London catering to a population of 33,600 in an area of 3822 acres is one of the prime examples of his work of a garden city though the idea was effective but due to its limitation couldn’t be adopted worldwide, but worked as case studies for future possible attempts.
Understanding how landscape affects us in today’s world.
History acts as a remarkable teacher and from this history lesson we can really say that it affects smaller to larger, materialistic to spiritual parts of our life. And it laid the foundations for us to think about the sustainable and green architecture that we push for these days. In this contemporary era where urbanization is at the rise and the demand for more interactive civic spaces is increasing like never before, landscapes act as a tool to help us create small ecosystems of buildings; proving that it is not just the aesthetic but functionality that is affected by not only the building but the surrounding elements as well. To a future prospect where buildings would be self-reliant and maybe more contributory to its environment and expand from one building to entire cities.
But before we take that leap in the future, we must realize that the current state we are living through is one of the most challenging times of this century when we have arrived at a spot from where we have to rethink and redo everything or to improve it for better and we as architects should be at the fore forefront, especially landscape architects at a time, where everyone has been inside their home landscape has the power to improve right from a tiny work desk to entire backyard gardens which would make living just a bit more bakeable and not just private but public spaces, as well as that’s the part that really needs to be redeveloped; thus experts of these fields should get together(virtually) and pool in resources to figure out the most effective solutions because at the end of the day we are but problem solvers.
On a final note, Winston Churchill once said we shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us, though the guy also said that if the famine is so bad why hasn’t Gandhi died yet? But looking on his better side, which is the building one—that a beautiful and functional building will have a beautiful impact on us and our surroundings.