11:550:101, Fall 2010, Department of Landscape Architecture, open to all majors, fulfills SEBS Arts and Humanities requirement
Dr. Wolfram Hoefer
Overview: Tools for Interpreting Place
“… a little acute observation of ordinary things like power lines, railroad rights-of-way, post office equipment, back roads and shopping districts, alleys and the interstate highway system, fences and revitalized main streets, even motels and highway interchanges opens up larger issues that invigorate the mind, that entice understanding, that flex mental muscle, that fit the explorer for further exploring. [It is] about awareness in ordinary surroundings…. awareness that builds into mindfulness, into the enduring pleasures of noticing and thinking about what one notices.”
(John R. Stilgoe, “Outside Lies Magic”, p. 18)
This broad-ranging course is an introduction to the idea of landscape as cultural phenomenon and the role of the term landscape as a representation of how society views the built world. The goal of this course is to:
- Improve the student’s perception of the built and un-built environments.
- Establish vocabularies to describe, and analytical frameworks to assess natural and cultural aspects of the environment.
- Determine some of the forces and values that are shaping the landscape and determining its organization and order
- Discover the relation between the idea of landscape and the physical object landscape.
- Consider the role of the landscape in not only satisfying society's needs, but also in expressing society's aspirations.
- Introduction of aspects of the historic, political, and economic context of landscape as cultural symbol
By orchestrating diverse resources (film, lectures, field trips, and general audience books by research scientists), this introductory class presents a variety of landscape interpretations in terms of natural processes and cultural history.
Several broad landscape categories provide a framework for looking at the landscape: local town; beach (wilderness—the moving beach); landscape infrastructure (water--dams and carrying capacity of the land); agriculture (ways of farming and the social and environmental impacts); carscape (the strip and the landscape of mobility); post-industrial landscapes (brownfields as elements of the public realm); city (people and parks).
History, video narrative, and scientific literature are presented to allow students to determine for themselves some of the forces shaping the landscape while considering its role in expressing society’s aspirations and satisfying society’s needs. Scientific readings and documentary films act as case studies and help to explain field trip observations. Films serve the secondary role of virtual field trips and provide cultural history background. Lectures will provide a historic and cultural context for the class discussions.
Readings, written responses, and class discussions will help the student to think differently about landscape in order to see landscape in a different way. Journal assignments are intended to provide a mechanism for recording thoughts and observations in an organized manner and provide a permanent record of individual experience that can be shared in class.
This course develops landscape observation skills; it also requires students to integrate their knowledge of science with visible landscape processes and uses. The ability to read one’s surroundings is an essential part of environmental literacy. The assignments are designed to give an introduction into methods of analysis and research in the humanities.