towards an experimental maintenance practice

Just as the creation of a garden is not immediate, only coming into full existence through gardening, the construction of landscape is an ongoing cultural practice involving a host of actors and operating at varying scales.  Yet despite a long-held infatuation with landscape process, in contemporary professional practice, landscape is often mediated entirely through digital technology, marginalizing the material and experiential qualities of the medium.  Sites are discovered under the all seeing eye of GIS and created in 3D; atmosphere is conjured on the delicately composed stage of utopian rendering; the form is sleek, with just the right tangent on the AutoCAD curve– but even if the scheme is finally built, the designer likely abandons their creation as soon as the professional photographer immortalizes the glossy finished product, and it is the lowly landscaper who assumes control as the landscape begins its new life.

The life of a landscape is intrinsically bound to the actors that maintain it, that “enable a condition to continue in being.”  Under this definition, maintenance is not conservatively locked into the formaldehyde of preservation, but operates as an assertion, an alliance of actors that together continually recreate an event at the expense of other forces.  As an alternative method to engage the medium, lndscpr will investigate the generative capacity of landscape maintenance to determine how it can be utilized as a design instrument through everyday spatial practices and direct mediation with site materials. Through 1:1 experimentation,  representational techniques will be developed specific to a maintenance design practice—one that employs design allies and a much maligned industry to operate on landscapes both within and outside of the realm of landscape architecture.


2 thoughts on “towards an experimental maintenance practice

  1. MUD MAP
    In a way what you are talking about is what has been referred to as a “mud map”, a drawing that captures the relationships found on site, anchored to the sites own datums, that are more perspectival than plan based. They are instructions related to whats there, as an adjunct. In a way, because they are relational, they could be seen as parametric: if the datum grows (e.g., you related something to a plant that is bigger when you finally get there) then you can see from the mud map that the proposition must adjust.
    Don’t use the language of the enemy dude! Is doing something generative? Isn’t it just action? I think what you are talking about is actual form. Its wrong to think about it as sculpture but that one to one engagement we see in art practice is indeed what we are talking about. Whats wrong with form? In the 1:1 you bring intentionality, and thats the same as composition.
    The Australian aboriginals did exactly this with fire: check out Bill Gammage’s The Biggest Estate on Earth ( They used fire to encourage grass growth, suppress scrub regeneration to draw kangaroo’s down for hunting, and allow them an easy method of moving through the landscape. In doing so they also reduced dangerous bush fire.

  2. I know, I know, I guessing I’m showing my gener-ation. But I’m in this case I’m not using it in the same way, avoiding the “generative” whatever that inspires a design form from an abstract map and then gets stamped down in the name of process, but more like Bargmann’s re-Generative philosophy (working with what we got on site to make more) or FASLA’s “generative capacity” anti-teleological definition, where the practice is creative (yes formal, and spatial) but the outcome is not entirely expected, generating future compositions…actors/components. Form also carries its own baggage, and if I said I was just exploring the formal capacity of maintenance I could equally be accused of ignoring the spatial, ecological, and social dimensions. I suppose I need more specificity with this term to illustrate the formal/spatial/eco/social/potential characteristics I’m working with while avoiding being labeled with a maintenance fetish (or to boring). While presenting proposals for the exhibitions I’ve just been using “creative-ability” which is enough of a counter to the preservation connotation that people usually get it enough.

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