Landscape Infrastructures DVD edited by Pierre Bélanger (Toronto, Canada: National Research Council Canada, 2009).
DVD 439 min.
©2008-2009 University of Toronto – Centre for Landscape Research – Landscape Infrastructure Lab
Foregrounding the reciprocity between landscape and infrastructure, this one-day symposium gathers a series of influential thinkers and practitioners from around the world to discuss emerging practices, paradigms and technologies that are reshaping the contemporary urban landscape. Reexamining the historically divisive, technocratic nature of engineered infrastructure, the symposium aims at formulating a more synthetic vision of urban infrastructure as a landscape that combines ecological and economic imperatives of big cities and urban regions. The penultimate objective of the symposium is to reposition the agency of landscape architects, urban designers and architects vis-àvis the design of urban infrastructures for the new economy of the 21st century.
From the dvd sleeve:
The growing inertia of urban planning and the unchallenged predominance of civil engineering at the close of the 20th century is spawning a convergence of the design professions. Precipitated by urbanization worldwide, three cumulative shifts are triggering change across the city building disciplines: the rise of ecological concerns since the 1970s, the crisis of public works planning in the 1980s, and the erosion of engineered structures from the 1990s onwards. Sudden power outages across the Northeastern United States and Canada in 2003, earthquakes and fatal tsunamis across the Indian Ocean Region in 2004, disastrous hurricanes on the Gulf Coast and subsequent spiking of oil prices in 2005, deferred maintenance programs across North America with resulting bridge collapses in Minneapolis and Montreal in 2006, land grabbing across Africa for food production in 2007 and racing for underwater energy across the Arctic in 2008, mark a decisive shift in conventional regional planning and city building whereby the unchecked globalization of either generic, end-of-pipe engineering or uncoordinated, reactionary planning has reached its natural limits. The vertical, industrial structure of cities today largely explains the dangerous dependence on unwavering water abstraction, waste landfilling, oil import, food processing, soil depletion, and uniform transportation; a phenomenon aptly captured by John Kenneth Galbraith (1967) where “in the last century, capital and power became more important than land”. Signaling a critical tipping point, the re-examination of historical practices reveals that the landscape of biological processes and natural resources – integral to larger, regional systems - cannot, and should not be segregated from the discourse or the design of urban infrastructure. The inseparability of landscape from contemporary urbanism expresses an urgent need for the decoupling of current models of city governance and the decentralization of spatial patterns in order to initiate a more ecologically-responsive, socially-expedient, and fiscally-effective rebundling of essential public services and reorganization of urban lands. How then, can the synthesis of urban infrastructures - including water resources, waste cycling, energy generation, food cultivation and mass mobility – be repositioned as the basic, irreducible strata of the contemporary urban region?
Emerging from these economic exigencies and ecological imperatives, landscape infrastructure proposes a new operating system for urban regions where the full complexity of living systems and dynamic processes are deployed as active agents underpinning urban economies. As a radical departure from conventional bureaucratic and centralized forms of civic administration, this contemporary formulation foreshadows a more flexible, cooperative and process-driven agency for the design disciplines with a concurrent commitment to the metrics of design, research and visualization. From this platform, design strategies can be launched across two distant extremes: short, immediate interventions that are graduated and sequenced over long periods of time with large, durable geopolitical and ecological effects. Design - including the research that precedes it - becomes telescopic, capable of integrating multiple scales of intervention at once spanning the economic-ecological divide currently facing urban regions.
Stemming from the precedent-setting research of Howard T. Odum and Michael Hough on regional systems and urban ecology, the double-entendre of the landscape infrastructure project maintains an operative, polyfunctional objective. Sponsoring interdisciplinary cross-over, this nascent field implies a dual identity in both practice and in research, where synthesis of ecology preconditions the detail of implementation, where long term resource management is as important as the short term mobilization of capital, where the commonwealth of public systems presides over the uncoordinated guise of self-interests, requiring the sustained engagement from public and private motives. Transcending jurisdictional boundaries, the integrative and horizontal enterprise of landscape infrastructure enlists reenvisioning, rezoning, replanning, reengineering and redesigning as the most influential mechanisms in the structural transformation of urban regions to effect change on the large scale operational and logistical aspects of urbanization; those dimensions that are often hidden and banal yet widespread and pervasive. Staging uncertainty, harnessing contingency, representing invisibility, generating synergy and anticipating indeterminacy become the new urban imperatives, through the design of robust yet flexible urban infrastructures. Redefining the conventional role of infrastructure by foregrounding the biophysical processes that the industrial city has historically suppressed, this compound formulation therefore projects landscape as a sophisticated, instrumental system of essential resources, services and processes that spawns, supports, and sustains urban economies for the relentless challenge of the 21st century.
For students, educators, researchers and professionals in the interrelated fields of design, planning, engineering and public administration, the disc set includes lecture presentations by Stan Allen, George Baird, Pierre Bélanger, Julia Czerniak, Herbert Dreiseitl, Kristina Hill, Michael Jakob, Nina-Marie Lister, Kate Orff and Jane Wolff as well as plenary discussions with Rodolphe El-Khoury, David Fletcher, Ted Kesik, Robert Levit, Liat Margolis, Alissa North, Mason White and Robert Wright. The dvd also features a new afterword, and a full list of reference readings on the converging fields of landscape and infrastructure. For librarians and archivists, the DVD comes with CIP data, ISBN and UPC code for cataloguing purposes. The DVD project was awarded an Honor Award in the Professional Communcations Award from the American Society of Landscape Architects in 2010.
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