Artful park restoration with ecological benefits – but my one question is – where are the people in these pictures – do these beautiful pictures represent the needs of anyone who lives there – what do they do for enhancing peoples lives or are they only for the ‘environment?’These are political questions that Landscape Architects and designers are loath to enter into – after all we need the work don’t we?

3 thoughts on “

  1. vchefti says:

    A good question: “Do these beautiful pictures represent the needs of [the people]?”

    And the short answer, that I would argue, alludes analogous to the early conservation movement with Gifford Pinchot and the National Parks.

    1906 Antiquities Act afforded the President of the United States to designate as national moments objects of historic or ‘scenic value.’ This led to preservations, by President Roosevelt, such as the Grand Canyon, Washington’s Olympic peninsula, and by the end of Roosevelt’s Presidency, 41 national forest reserves encompassing 41 million acres and by 1909, 159 national forests containing 150 million acres (stat source: ‘Preserving the Nation’ by Thomas R. Wellock). Professor of Environmental History at North Dakota State University, Dr. Mark Harvey, argues that people are willing to pay for the protection of scenic places, such as Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon, without ever visiting them. He suggests that in the minds of many, it is the knowledge that these places exist that suffices. Perhaps the same can be said of local park systems. I can wake up in morning happier with knowledge I could go for a jog on a scenic trail if I wanted to…even if I don’t, I am more contented in life to have the option.

    Pinchot made the statement in Breaking New Ground, “The one great central problem [was] the use of the earth for the good of man…When the use of all the natural resources for the general good is seen to be a common policy with a common purpose, the chance for wise use of each of them becomes infinitely greater than it had ever been before.” Therefore, even if, for argument’s sake, people do not frequent the land, if the natural resources of the land are serving the common good, for example, in rainwater collection, stormwater treatment, the abatement of further development, therefore preserving the scenic land value for current residents, etc, it is of wise use of the land.

    So…are these landscapes “enhancing the lives” of the people who live there? Without asking them personally or following through with an in-depth site analysis, I can not concretely say one way or another. But what I can say with all certainty is that these designs entice me to move to one of those locations, so I could be one of those people with the leisure to enjoy them for their recreational benefits in addition to their scenic and environmental ones.

    And I apologize for the rather lengthy diatribe. 🙂

  2. Urban Choreography says:

    Hi VC, That is a good answer – thanks for taking the time – no doubt we are all better off for having the “wilds”, its just that these places are not wild and could our conception as Western trained Landscape Architects focused on the “religion” of design and representation, be overwhelmingly biased and might different actors see these places differently – could it possibly be that desecrated and abandoned places are better off just left to their own devices and allowed to be reclaimed by time as is evident in many of them that are not “reclaimed” – our hubris that we know how to “fix them”, or as James Corner in Gary Hustwit’s ‘Urbanised” says “What will design mess up here?”
    Could our worldview, our love of order, neatness and images be clouding our perception of what is good and beautiful?

    • vchefti says:

      That is very true, there is indeed little purpose in having swaths of golf course-like maintained landscapes with environmental costs that outweigh their economic benefits.

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