“Needless to say inhabitants of this area are living in an ongoing nightmare threatened by the possibility to suddenly sink into the ground.”

disciplinary boundaries

Faust: So, still I seek the force, the reason governing life’s flow, and not just its external show.

Mephistopheles: The governing force? The reason? Some things cannot be known; they are beyond your reach even when shown.

Faust: Why should that be so?

Mephistopheles: They lie outside the boundaries that words can address; and man can only grasp those thoughts which language can express.

Faust: What? Do you mean that words are greater yet than man?

Mephistopheles: Indeed they are.

Faust: Then what of longing? Or affection, pain and grief? I can’t describe these, yet I know they are in my breast. What are they?

Mephistopheles: Without substance, as mist is.

Faust: In that case man is only air as well!


“Perhaps we can assume that compared to form, materiality is embroidered with appearance, texture, tactility, acoustics, and all other types of senses. That’s why it generates deeper and broader spiritual interaction with landscape.”

—an anonymous student


“There a pause will be made in order to consider the rain garden”

“In three different manuscripts Louis himself dictated how people should view the Versailles gardens: he told them to turn left or right, where to pause and ‘consider’ (‘there a pause will be made in order to consider the ramps‘).”

—John Dixon Hunt, “The Role of Movement in Garden Reception”

Not much has changed for our discipline since the sixteen-eighties save that these days “ramps” might be more likely to refer to special onions~


“[The role of the landscape architect] is to build an expanse that can hold what is divided.”

—an anonymous student

landscape architecture as time magic

The great irony of the discipline is that although our practice is preoccupied with space, our product is pure time. Even the sportswriter-philosopher Graham Harman manged to observe that “a landscape is like a wormhole linking different times. . . . The fossils are themselves the landscape.” When we plant trees, pour concrete, embed stones, and erect mounds, we are burying the fossils that Anthropocene society will use to order its universe. Why, then, do we waste this transcendent power on gazebos and putting greens that will all be underwater before we’re even dead? If we love fishes so much that we’re designing dog parks and jogging trails for them, why do we kill three trillion every year?

ecology and landscape as wild ferment

“. . .for, as philosopher Erazim Kohák writes: ‘If there is no God, then everything is not a creation, lovingly created and endowed with purpose and value by its creator. It can only be a cosmic accident, dead matter propelled by blind force, ordered by efficient causality. In such a context, a moral subject, living his life in terms of value and purpose, would indeed be an anomaly.’ [. . .] It is within the space of this anonymous dialectic that further discussion of ecology and creativity as active agents in the unfolding of evolutionary time must lie, and from within which more critical and active practices of landscape architecture may emerge.”


“If there were no eternal consciousness in a man, if at the bottom of everything there were only a wild ferment, a power that twisting in dark passions produced everything great or inconsequential; if an unfathomable, insatiable emptiness lay hid beneath everything, what would life be but despair?”

What can explain the ability of James Corner—way back in 1997—to look unflinchingly into the void at the core of existence and pluck from it a thrilling dialectic—to achieve what so [so!] few have done and transform, rigorously, a metaphysics into an ethics of building without resorting to bullshit or childish wordplay like most [almost all] architects? That is, what power does Corner have over Kierkegaard?

Maybe we’ve been getting climate nihilism backwards; is anthropogenic mass extinction actually the first reasonable argument—ever—for meaning in human life? 

Maybe it’s simply the difference between people who grew up in a world where nature made them happy instead of sad (everyone born before 1975, let’s say). Holocene refugees.

Or maybe this just explains why some people become celebrity designers (in this light it is unsurprising that “Ecology and Landscape as Agents of Creativity” passes as “Introduction to Nietzsche for Design Students”).