summary of research to date

Contemporary practice marginalizes landscape process

Conventional Design Sequence

Despite a long-held infatuation with landscape process, the contemporary professional model is linear.  Landscape is often mediated entirely through digital technology, marginalizing the material and experiential qualities of the medium.  After construction, the designer likely abandons their creation after “establishment.”

Maintenance is the ultimate and continual test of design

Conventional Maintenance Sequence

Because the design process is primarily conducted within the confines of abstract and digital space, it is immediately tested by the everyday spatial practices that operate on and across a site.  Maintenance reflects this tension, a constant component of and negotiation with the ephemeral, creating a disturbance-mediated equilibrium that we rely on as infrastructure.

Maintenance is not static, but a recursive negotiation with landscape process

maintenance network

The life of a landscape is intrinsically bound to the actors that maintain it, that “enable a condition to continue in being.”  In this way, it operates as an assertion, an alliance of actors that together continually recreate an event at the expense of other forces.

Landscapes only come into full existence through landscaping

maintenance as infrastructural service

Just as the creation of a garden is not immediate, only coming into full existence through gardening, the construction of landscape also requires the ongoing cultural practices of maintenance.  Landscaping therefore is a continual curation reflecting our intentions mediated by evolving site conditions, an infrastructural service which enables landscape existence.

in a maintenance design practice:

Existing conditions generate design intent

shadow mowing

As an alternative professional model, maintenance design practice begins by defining desirable site conditions as a means of generating intent.  By grounding design in the everyday spatial practices of the site, it fosters resilience instead of inserting utopian design vision.

The specific materials of site become the maintenance design palette

grass at middle field

If landscape maintenance is the collective alliance of site actors, and landscaping is the continual curation of site, a designer’s material palette is determined by these specificities and the available instruments that enable their curation.

The formal logic and economy of tools mediate design

middle field tool path

Instruments carry their own agency — their own potential and limitations.   Because economy is essential to maintenance practice, their operation is germane to developing the formal qualities of a design, both in the permanent and ephemeral landscape.

Intervention is adaptive,  incremental and attentive to schedule

shadow mowing and transects

Maintenance practice understands landscape process primarily from doing: a recursive schedule of observation, diagnosis and event.  While the techniques of maintenance are underlaid by knowledge and theory, they remain flexible and adaptive through the constant mediation of site conditions.

Maintenance allows for and encourages 1:1 physical experimentation 

leaf blown mulch

The recursive schedule of maintenance allows a designer to physically test formal and spatial concepts at a 1:1 scale, developing design resolution on site instead of through the computer screen.

Maintenance allows a designer to engage landscapes outside of the professional model

madison arms apartment complex, | the next site in the experimental maintenance series

madison arms | the next site in the experimental maintenance series

Under the seemingly innocuous guise and economy of maintenance, designers may tactically intervene in liminal territories to cultivate a right to the city that builds out of the novel ecologies and everyday spatial practices of site.


One thought on “summary of research to date

  1. Pingback: LNDSCPR is moving | lndscpr

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