Archived Landscapes

An aged framed photo of pinapple plants

Image Credit: The United Fruit Company Photograph Collection, Baker Business Library, Harvard University.

“Environmental Histories, Archived Landscapes” is a seminar that investigates the relationships between design history and environmental history through archival research. Participants explore archives as evidence of material, spatial, ecological, and cultural change in constructed landscapes using measured drawings, diagrams, and visual analysis. Because archives seek comprehensiveness–rather than the discretionary aims of a curated collection–they often contain undeclared evidence of the fleeting and sometimes unwelcome behaviors of living systems and human inhabitants in official accounts of constructed lands.

Each student selects a local archive at Harvard (or beyond); the subject is entirely up to the student, but the archive must be image-based and accessible in person. Through a series of guided prompts, participants analyze scientific, technical, or commercial images for spatial configuration, compositional qualities, visual patterns, and cultural references; evaluate the relationship of media to the subject matter; and document these findings through analytical and projective drawings.

This exhibition is a visual index of the design research undertaken in the “Environmental Histories, Archived Landscapes” seminar. Its general structure represents the sequence of the course through the display of a set of four books (designed specifically for this exhibition) and (pending approval from GSD Special Collections) one-two artifacts. The format of the books will be image-heavy, a full-bleed scrapbook rather than a linear narrative.