Fall 2023
DES 3241
September 5 - December 6
Tuesday 9:00 AM - 10:15 AM, Wednesday 10:30 AM - 11:45 AM, Friday 3:00 PM - 5:45 PM
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Theories of Landscape as Urbanism


This course introduces contemporary theories of landscape as a medium of urbanism and product of urbanization. The course surveys sites and subjects, texts and topics describing landscape’s embeddedness in processes of urbanization as well as economic transformations informing the shape of the city. The course introduces students to landscape as a form of cultural production, as a mode of human subjectivity, as a medium of design, as a profession, and as an academic discipline. Through lectures, discussions, readings, and case study projects, students will be introduced to landscape through the lenses of capital, labor, material, subject, and environment. The first half of the course revisits the origins of landscape in response to the societal and environmental challenges of industrialization and the attendant transformations in industrial economy shaping the modern metropolis. The second half of the course repositions recent discourse on landscape as urbanism in relation to the economic and territorial transformations associated with ongoing urbanization at the planetary scale.

The first quarter of the course introduces the origins of landscape as a genre of painting and the invention of the ‘new art’ of landscape architecture as responses to urbanization and their attendant social, economic, and cultural transformations. This portion of the course describes the material and cultural contexts in which landscape was conceived as well as the sites and subjects it invoked. The second quarter of the course describes the emergence of city planning from within landscape architecture and the subsequent impoverishment of the field in the absence of its urban contents. This portion of the course introduces the aspirations and implications of ecologically informed regional planning in the 20thcentury, as well as the ongoing ideological effects of that agenda in the context of neoliberalism.

The third quarter of the course introduces the discourse and practices of landscape urbanism over the past two decades. This portion of the course surveys the discursive and projective potentials of an ecological urbanism, as distinct from those of ecological planning, and speculates on the recent formulation of projective ecologies, among other discursive formations shaping the field. The final quarter of the course follows the transition from region to territory, and from regional urbanization to planetary urbanization. This portion of the course describes landscape’s role as a medium of cultural production and critical revelation in relation to the increased scale and scope of anthropogenic impacts across the planet.

Course readings and supplementary multimedia materials are made available for asynchronous review via Canvas. Course meetings are bi-weekly with lectures Tuesdays 9:00-10:15 and Wednesdays 10:30-11:45. Weekly discussions sections are led by Teaching Fellows on Fridays 15:00-16:15 or 16:30-17:15. Students are invited to contribute to discussions, prepare brief response papers, and complete a design research dossier on a topic attendant to the course content at the end of the term. The course is required for candidates in the Master in Landscape Architecture Program, is recommended for candidates in the Ecologies domain of the Master in Design Studies Program, and invites elective students from all programs and departments of the School.

Landscape Architecture
Harvard Graduate School of Design
Course Level
Interest Area
Design & Architecture
Cross Registration