Two dots, anyway. One dot concerns general workforce needs. 3 basic skills needed in a knowledge economy, according to Tony Wagner, Harvard education expert and author of The Global Achievement Gap, summarized in a NY Times column (Nov. 21, 2010) by Thomas Friedman: “the ability to do critical thinking and problem-solving; the ability to communicate effectively; and the ability to collaborate.” This is good news for landscape architecture because the studio model of instruction does this – or at least it has the potential to do this. Can the studio model be pushed further to do this better?
Another dot concerns present opportunities for landscape architects – opportunities that are perhaps unique to the present moment. An unusual source for this dot – a YouTube video from the Future of Design conference held at Taubman College, University of Michigan in late 2009. It’s unusual because conference organizers videotaped the tables of conference attendees during a small group discussion session and posted the videos online. And it is unusual because the attendees are architects talking about landscape architecture. I think it’s helpful to see how others view us, especially those in allied fields. (Presumably, the people speaking in the video are architecture faculty members – if you recognize them, let me know.) Some lines that caught my attention:
“Landscape architecture is the discipline that is well-positioned to think about planning, ecology, infrastructure” in a way that architects cannot.
“Landscape architects gave up the [leadership] role to architects 20 years ago.”
“Landscape architecture went through a fairly bad period in the late 80s, early 90s when it was very narrative based. There was a notion that landscape architects were doing second-rate versions of land art.” That is when people like Mary Miss moved in and landscape architecture was squeezed.
“I think that is why … [landscape urbanists, progressive young landscape architects] are trying to return to performance and ecology and not something that is purely pictorial and narrative based.”
And the architects go on to question whether or not landscape architecture can seize the opportunity that is in front of them. Yes, controversial positions, perhaps.
Some connections (including to past posts, here and here):
The U.S. is undergoing a profound transformation, and the profession in this country has already changed. We cannot just wait for the old world to return. When we graduate new landscape architects, we will send some into traditional practice in this country (a smaller number than in the past), some into other
roles in the U.S. where their problem-solving and communication abilities will be valued, and some to other countries where both traditional skills and
critical thinking/problem solving apart from form-making will be valued. We have to broaden our thinking about what constitutes landscape architecture
education. Tremendous opportunities are before us, if we only act to capture them. The skills of the landscape architect – perhaps sharpened to a degree not common in the past – are needed now, but the opportunities have to be sought out in less-than-traditional realms.