Saturday, October 15, 2011

a protest, the landscape and what goal?

The recent growth of the 'Occupy' movement and its lack of a decisive end goal made me think about what landscape is in relation to the concept of 'Occupy.' While the 'Occupy' movement wants to last for two months and have its participants develop their own desired outcome, there won't truly be a way to say it was successful when it ends. Yes, if it lasts two months, then it has been successful for lasting a second on the pop culture clock. But, with no goals set in the beginning, how do you evaluate its success at the end in more than one dimension?

This thinking can be attributed to landscape architecture. The 21st century has been and will continue to be full of complex problems that need to be addressed through a holistic, multi-dimensional approach. I'm thinking on the larger scale here, at the community, regional or city level where we are making decisions that will impact a great number of people. My recent Fulbright proposal looked into analyzing the success of post-industrial reuse by attributing a value to a diverse collection of landscape pieces. Imagine taking your definition of landscape and individually expanding every component that you considered to be part of landscape: environmental factors, cultural perceptions and community organization, needs and desires as well as physical infrastructure, economic structure (the job market, real estate market, land values, etc.) and the notion of beauty, then attribute a way to analyze each of these elements to observe how a proposed design will perform in relation to the existing condition.

Sure, this question was aimed at the post-industrial landscape and generated to identify why creatively inserting new uses into the landscape can be more successful than tearing down and starting from scratch, but it is widely applicable to design on the whole. If we want our landscapes to last the test of time and be successful in positively impacting those who they are designed for, then shouldn't goals be set at the beginning in order to evaluate at the end? If we want to evolve the definition of landscape architecture, then we should be able to show communities, people, developers, politicians, local governments and other consituent groups that what we do has successfully made a difference in bettering an existing landscape.

Does our work need defined goals to proove that is has actually done something? I'm sure, just like the 'Occupy' movement there will be multiple opinions and those that say art has an impact with no goals, it exists to make a difference by being. I belive otherwise, if we can't prove success then how do we actually say we've made a positive difference or a working solution to a complex problem?

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