Landscape Architecture I: First Semester Core Studio

GSD 1111 is the first in a sequence of four core studios that, together, constitute the foundation of your time at the GSD. The school’s curriculum asserts that design is at the center of a landscape architecture education. In the studios, the hands-on experience of design is a synthetic act, bringing together theory, technique, and aesthetic sensibility in the making of a landscape. In this studio, you will apply the skills and knowledge acquired through other first year courses—Histories of Landscape Architecture; Landscape Representation; and Ecologies, Techniques, Technologies.

The central topic of this semester’s studio is the PUBLIC. It will be explored through two themes— SPACE FOR PROTESTS: landscape as a venue that accommodate the right to congregate to discuss matters of public interest; and SPACE FOR HEALING: landscape as an agent of reconciliation. As a discipline that deals with the transformation and the production of space, landscape architecture is in essence as a materialist practice, whose outcome is made out of real, physical things. In this course we will put the accent on how the physical configurations produced by landscape architecture can also have significant consequences that transcend the physical. The landscapes we design enable and inhibit different forms of relationship between different entities. In urban contexts, such as the ones we will be working with during this semester, PEOPLE constitute the central subject and object of those interactions. Within urban landscapes, it is the public space, more specifically, what constitutes the fundamental domain in the provision and protection of democracy, for it is in the public space where the most profound manifestations of social conflict, individual self-expression, and cultural exchange take place.

In the design of the public, it is therefore impossible to extricate the political dimension. In this studio we will investigate both the physical and the political implications in the transformation of the City Hall Plaza in Boston, and the Charles River right bank in Allston. We will think of design as the initiation of processes, as the introduction of specific physical transformations for later and not fully predictable social processes to develop. Through these two different sites, we will look into public space as representation of our shared conditions of existence, as expression of difference, values, individuality, universality, knowledge, and power, and we will study how the changes we introduce in the received configuration of the public imply, inevitably, the affirmation, the manipulation, and the suppression of some of those conditions. While the landscapes we design are nested and largely determined by broad and intricate networks of social and economic processes, in this studio we will focus on how the specific forms we provide our landscapes with might constitute in themselves powerful tools in the transformation of those processes.