In place of traditional research on maintenance convention, a maintenance palette will be developed, beginning with the most elemental tactics of mowing, hedging and spraying. These tactics will serve as the foundation of the maintenance series, as they are the most closely associated with “landscaping”—with human control over nature being the connotation—and thus by demonstrating their potential to create landscape, they can be instrumental in representing the generative capacity of maintenance.
Of course, while developing a maintenance palette, convention still serves as an important resource — with the calibration of mowing height and grass species a particularly revealing example. Although the mow height is usually adjusted based on which species have been seeded, it can also be used to maintain for those species, giving the landscaper the potential to create his plant palette through process. This may have considerable ecological merit because the resulting vegetation will inherently possess increased genetic diversity and be more closely adapted to local conditions, minimal disturbance during establishment. Aesthetically, vastly different material and spatial qualities can be juxtaposed and cycled with an ever evolving alliance of plants.
While a variety of landscape architects and artists have dabbled in maintenance, nearly all focus on ephemerality and subversion, with few attempting to construct through its instrumentalism. This is a major source of criticism for maintenance design practice: the connotation that any such design is temporary at best. The counter argument—which I am partial to of course—is that all design is ephemeral, entirely dependent on its capacity to generate desire and thus maintain itself, but that a design created through maintenance has the unique advantage of emerging from the spatial practices of site. While ephemerality may be germane to the material quality of the landscape medium, it can be viewed as a collaborative opportunity in design, not merely as a poetic garnish.