NDSU Landscape Architecture Abroad

Emescher River, Germany image: Kathleen Pepple
Emscher River, Germany
image: Kathleen Pepple

Without unnecessarily denigrating the general quality and value of landscape architecture programs and curricula in the United States, sometimes our teaching can be somewhat myopic. By extension, our students learn to inhabit a worldview that remains quite provincial as international and global influences advance exponentially.

So, on a brisk morning in February 2012, twelve students from the 3rd and 4th year landscape architecture program at North Dakota State University stood in the old Traleze slate quarries in Angers, France, a roughly one thousand acre site that has been active since the twelfth century.

The pervasive French history permeated the sensory and analytical processes of both our Midwestern U.S. students and their more familiar associates from Agro Campus Ouest University. This historical context for site inventory, and the project thesis for reintegrating this largely forgotten landscape into the urban fabric of Angers – introducing tram connections to the adjacent city, and carefully utilizing the lakes and their surrounding terrain as natural amenities for residential housing – required a degree of awareness and appreciation, a growing sense of sophistication that flowed like adrenaline through these students as they confronted landscape architecture in a much larger and more complex world.

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Zoo Play

image: Kary Arimoto-Mercer
image: Kary Arimoto-Mercer

“Play is children’s work.
It is an exercise in self-definition; it reveals what we choose to do, not what we have to do.

We not only play because we are. We play the way we are. And the ways we could be.
Play is our free connection to pure possibility.”
Hara Estroff Marano, “The Power of Play”

The psychologist quoted above, Hara Estroff Marano, argues that modern attitudes to parenting mean anxious mums and dads are crowding out the unsupervised play that kids used to enjoy. As a result children don’t get much opportunity to solve their own problems, to practice co-operation and to test their leadership skills.

This is where play comes in – in one of the most naturally interesting, egalitarian and safe places that a family can spend time together … a zoo.

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