Landscape Urbanism

This modern period, architecture gives attention not only on creating new designs on buildings and structures but on reinventing the environment as well by taming the nature and aestheticizing them for man’s use and pleasure.  Architects understand arts and environmental care which they formed together to reflect a culture and history in the midst of modernization and industrialization.  This is because people begun to reject the complexity of urban life and the consequence of global capitalism.

Landscape urbanism is one area of architecture which becomes significant in the overall formation of a building’s construction.  Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, defined landscape urbanism as a “theory of urbanism arguing that landscape … is more capable of organizing the city and enhancing the urban experience.”  Its purpose is to create an environment for human to enjoy, live and work; thus making the city or urban distinct from rural areas. This concept was elaborated by Charles Waldheim in his book in which he stated that landscape urbanism is the union of landscape with urbanism which “promises new relational and systematic workings across territories of vast scale and scope, situating the parts in relation to the whole” (p. 33).

  In his explanation, he emphasized that the concept lies on “mobilizing the new ecologies of our future metropolitan regions” (p. 33).  Ad Graafland, Leslie Jaye Kavanaugh and George Baird on the other ha        nd, described the term as a strategy that “the overlaying of ecological and urban strategies can offer a means by which projects may create new systems of interconnected networks that complement the existing structures” (p. 585).

Thus, landscape urbanism is integration in the architectural design of the evocative power of landscape and the principles of ecology; it is a celebration of diversity or urban life by discovering and articulating the aesthetic appreciation and expression of urban life. It is indeed sustainability that is taking place in a city in a technical way by giving it a character in between buildings and public places.

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Why Landscape Urbanism Emerged in Architecture

The discipline of landscape urbanism according to Charles Waldheim has emerged from landscape architecture but with greater consideration of “cultural and historical as well as natural and ecological” (p. 127).   Waldheim strongly pointed out that it has emerged from architecture because, the concept of landscape urbanism lies strongly on one function of architecture as a device in urban transformation (p. 127).

Landscape urbanism has come out from the very idea of landscape architecture according to Richard Weller is “relatively ineffectual in reshaping the world… and seems nonetheless theoretically correct and worthy in its aspiration” (p. 71), because of the influence of capitalism and traditional hegemony of engineering and architecture.  In the same way, Weller believed that landscape urbanism alone could “prepare and practically capable of collapsing the divide between planning and design” (p. 71).

Igor Marjanovic, Lesley Naa Norle Lokko clearly pointed out that landscape urbanism is distinct from landscape architecture in a way that the former is not traditional and it even “looks at the contemporary city and its problems and tries to define the possible contributions that architects… can make” (p. 24).  Urbanism looks at the city and responds to aspect of popular culture while architecture proposes big structures derived from everyday consumer culture; these two work hand in hand for one goal which, the emphasis is on aesthetic and position of public places within community for human comfort that feed human spirit.

Comparison and Contrast between the Park de la Villette and Downsview Park

The two considered great models in terms of landscape urbanism are the Park de la Villette by Bernard Tschumi and Downsview Park by Bruce Mau.

Heather Stimmier-Hall narrated that La Villette was built in an abandoned quarrysite or dump area and at the same time slaughterhouses.   The park which was designed by Bernard Tschumi, was redeveloped and opened in 1986 as a modern city park in Paris “dedicated to science, arts and entertainment” (p. 96).  In the description made by Stimmier-Hall, Parc de la Villette does not have gates or walls; it has mini-forests, bamboo groves and vast lawn in its seventy acres of land.  In that vast of land, it has numerous museums, concert halls and whimsical playground.  At the entrance of the science and technology museum was the sphere La Geode Cinema that mirrors the green grass and blue skies. The author added that Parc de la Villette has “all there is to see and do” (p. 96).

Downsview Park on the other hand, is a former Canadian military base at the north end of Toronto, Canada since 1929; and in 1996, it was closed for renovation.  Downsview Park is approximately 586 acres or 237 hectares that is underutilized tract of land.  With the initiative of its parent company, it became very important place in the heart of Toronto.  It is committed to sustain education and community development and awareness by offering venues for backyard birds, eco-footprints, butterfly landing, tree city, natural habitats and wildlife, history and walking tours.  Both children and adults are accommodated in this place for special civic activities (Parc Downsview Park).  Downsview Park is committed as a “unique recreational greenspace, a safe and peaceful place, developed according to the principles of environmental, economic and social sustainability, for Canadian to enjoy in all seasons (Parc Downsview Park).

These two great and beautiful parks were both renovated from once unproductive and underutilized ground.  Both won the awards for being the largest park that give emphasis on green open space for appreciation of nature though domesticated.  These two parks serve same purposes which are to house special and big events from cultural to sports.  Both have museums and landscape designs.

On the other hand, they differ in many ways.  (1) First, they differ in emphasis in aesthetical concept.  Downsview Park promotes the social and natural histories that supports natural ecology; it does not intent to change the site but simply to inaugurate the transformation of it (Van Alen Institute).  Parc de la Villette’s design suggests the conventional conception of a park designed to “express the fact that it is artificial and domesticated” (Berman, 1999), meaning it has a lot of man-made design to make it beautiful.  (2) Downsview Park retains the old military buildings which are kept for special uses such as for cultural, recreational and community; while Park de la Villette is a total renovation of a place in which the relics of the old place cannot be seen in the place. (3) Park de la Villette is completely constructed and Downsview Park is set for further development which will last after many more years. (4)Lastly, Park de la Villette is privately owned while Downsview Park is government owned and controlled yet self-supporting.

Work Cited

Berman, Jay 1999.  Le Parc de la Villette, Paris.

Downsview Park International Design Competition,’ Van Alen Institute.

Graafland, A., Jaye Kayanaugh, L. and Baird, G. 2006.  Crossover: Architecture, Urbanism, Technology.  Netherlands:  010 Publishers.

Gauzin-Muller, Dominique, 2004.  Sustainable Architecture and Urbanism: Concepts, Technologies, Examples.

‘Landscape Urbanism.’ Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.

Marjanovic, I. and Norle Lokko, L. 2003.  The Portfolio: An Architecture Student’s Handbook.  Elsevier Ltd.

Stimmer-Hall, Heather, 2004.  Adventure Guide. England: Hunter Publishing, Inc.
Waldheim, Charles, 2006.  The Landscape Urbanism Reader.  USA: Princeton Architectural Press
‘Making it a Reality.’ Parc Downsview Park Inc. (PDP). Canada, 2005/

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