Utilizing a professional practice model, the studio contemplates how the Anthropocene is an opportunity to see our world anew and how we can begin to explore potential theories, concepts and modes of practice suited to our strange new world bound by human geologic agency. LA8201 seeks to engage the contemporary Anthropocene discourse and, via the design process, conduct speculative yet applied project-based research to examine and postulate on landscape-based Anthropocene futures that transcend disciplinary boundaries.What new garden typologies of the Anthropocene could emerge from this paradigm shift? What new concepts and terms are emerging from the sciences and humanities that could influence how we think of the garden and the urban park? What new ways of thinking about the environment and "waste" or "contamination" are possible? How might urban processes be reconsidered as essential socio-ecological processes or new forms of urban parks? For Fall 2017, New York City and the contaminated Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn will serve as our laboratory as we examine such issues and consider new directions for critical landscape architectural practice in the 21st century.
The course is an award-winning graduate landscape architecture studio that focuses upon a single, complex urban project, which poses significant programmatic, infrastructural, spatial and aesthetic challenges found in the 21st century urban context. Selected projects typically are post-industrial sites that are layered with meaningful- and often contested-historical, environmental and social legacies. The course pedagogy is grounded in that of project-based learning and the future critical practice studio. The pace and methodology of the course approximates that found in leading professional offices, providing students with preparatory experience necessary for the rigors of challenging contemporary practice and project leadership. These experiences lead to the development of a professional portfolio that can leverage future opportunities for management of complex urban projects utilizing a synthetic and collaborative landscape architectural methodology.
The course has achieved early praise for its work. In just the past four years the studio has garnered numerous awards. Most notably, the 2012 student work for Seattle’s Duwamish River received the 2013 Minnesota ASLA Award of Excellence, besting over 30 other professional projects and nationally-recognized design offices to win the Award of Excellence, the highest professional annual award that can be bestowed upon professional work. In addition, this award was the first collaborative studio project to win an ASLA Professional Award in the 50 year history of the University of Minnesota LA Department. In 2013, the Willamette studio resulted in the only student work to receive an award in the first annual Minnesota ASLA Student Awards program. The 2013 studio’s work also garnered two ESRI-sponsored USpatial mapping awards, also in the award program’s inaugural year. In the past three years, the studio's work in Chicago, Illinois and the Missouri Ozarks has garnered four additional Minnesota ASLA awards, including the “People’s Choice” award for work completed in 2014. The studio work has been shown as case studies at lectures at several Universities throughout the US and was the focus of the EverywhereNowhere exhibition in the Rapson Hall HGA Gallery in 2015. This recognition is in large part due to the student work, but also due to the studio pedagogy that situates student speculative work as critical practice in our world of complex socio-ecological issues and rapidly shifting environmental values and paradigms.