An Ecological Approach to Landscape Architecture
What nature looks like, or is supposed to look like, appears to be our problem, a cultural matter; it has little to do with ecology. – Laurie Olin, FASLA
Ethics and aesthetics are the same thing. – Richard Haag, FASLA
We, as landscape architects practicing in the early twenty-first century, talk a lot about ecology and ecological design. A glance at the program from the 2014 ASLA Annual Meeting in Denver or the 2015 ASLA Professional Awards illustrates this point. As we hurdle ever rapidly toward greater imbalance between limited natural resources and a growing human population, this resurgence of ecological discourse could build much needed momentum toward widespread application of a truly ecological approach to built and managed environments.
Landscape architectural history is populated by ecologically-minded thinkers, from Jens Jensen and Ian McHarg to current practitioners and academics like Carol Franklin, Grant Jones, Bill Wenk, and Chris Reed. More and more landscape architecture firms are collaborating closely with ecologists, and some have added them to their rosters. It’s an exciting time to practice ecologically focused landscape architecture; we are on the leading edge of what may prove to be a philosophical sea change in design and planning.
So, what does it actually mean to practice “ecological design?” How are academic theories, lofty ideas, and benevolent leanings transmogrified onto the physical plane? It begins with science.