The Language of Landscape

  • The Language of Landscape
    Yale University Press, 1998

    The idea of landscape as language is derived from the core activity of landscape architecture: artful shaping, from garden to region, to fulfill function and express meaning. The roots of this theory are deep and varied, grounded in many fields – anthropology, geography, geology, ecology, history, art history,literature, linguistics, and design, among others. It is a radical theory: in the sense of being rooted in the basic elements of nature and human nature; in the sense of offering a fundamentally different perspective than from any one individual root; and in demanding and enabling radical change in how we choose to think and act.
  • Magney House, by Glenn Murcutt, who is fluent in landscape language.
  • Two floodplains revealed.
  • The effects of ignoring landscape “grammar.” Literacy in landscape language enables people to read environmental, social, economic, and political stories embedded in their local landscape and empowers them to think about how to tell new stories. The West Philadelphia Landscape Project was a laboratory for the testing and refinement of these ideas, and findings from the project are featured throughout the book.
  • Photography was an important mode of research, a way to explore ideas about design adaptation to a landscape’s deep structure (above) and to reflect on the interplay between Euclidean and fractal geometry in the poetics of landscape expression (below).
  • The Language of Landscape was written out of my experience as a scholar, practitioner, and photographer of landscape, out of fieldwork and archival research. The West Philadelphia Landscape project was a laboratory for testing and refining the ideas. Photographs prompted and pushed my thinking. Scholarly research on the theory and methods of past environmental designers, such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Frederick Law Olmsted, led me to appreciate the larger tradition within which the language of landscape belongs. The pages above show how these strands of practice, art, and scholarship contributed to this work.