Resurfacing the Topographic Imagination: landform, representation, & process
Estes, II, William
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While social and environmental challenges are the focus of much of contemporary practice, the role of technical skills and basic knowledge of land manipulation has been marginalized within landscape architecture. This thesis explores landscape architectural pedagogy with a focus on the instruction of technical skills within landscape architectural curriculum through the lens of landform manipulation. As a fundamental operation in the practice of landscape architecture, landform manipulation is often taught from the perspective of land art, site engineering, or through the lens of representation separate from other design courses and studios. This study proposes an alternative model for teaching terrain manipulation as a creative endeavor that bridges the theory and practice of landform and representation. Drawing on readings, interviews, and syllabi, this study seeks to reflect current approaches to site grading instruction, while exploring opportunities for reconstituting and embedding history, theory, and representation within an alternative teaching format. A framework for landform manipulation instruction is created that expands the boundaries of traditional site engineering practices to explore production and representation as process through the lenses of cultural, spatial, and temporal aspects of topography that is inclusive of aesthetic, speculative, and theoretical practice. This approach is developed into a studio syllabus as an example for future implementation in a landscape architectural curriculum and as a catalyst for dialog on contemporary practice and landscape architecture education.