The discourse of the digital in contemporary landscape architecture

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In the last twenty years a body of thought has emerged within the broad sphere of architectural design and its siblings that I have called ‘the process discourse’.1 A switch in design emphasis from form to process characterizes the process discourse. In landscape architecture the most prominent process discourse has been ‘landscape urbanism’,2 while in architecture it is the ‘parametric’ that has become popularized by the work of Patrick Schumacher at Zaha Hadid Architects.3 This twenty-year transition in landscape architecture has been accompanied by a speculative mythology, starting with the mappings of McHarg, moving on to the generation of the OMA design for Parc de la Villette.4 A key part of this mythology has been the potential to treat the conventions of the map not as neutral or descriptive, but speculative, changing the map from an object, as noun, to map as the result of process, as verb.5 The computer, dislocating the self-consciousness implicit in representation, has naturalized the quasi-scientific process discourse, rendering representation to ‘workflow’, and site to ‘model’ and ‘simulation’, nonetheless with some beautiful images in between. Reading the process discourse in landscape architecture via its inherent medium, the computer, is the basis of this ‘extended book review’, which examines the chronology and lineage of seven books and journals over the last five years to reveal changes in digital discourse in landscape architecture. The sections in the review correspond to changes in this discourse, from Workflow, which is about making digital images, to Model, which is about modelling site inside the computer, to Response, which is about creating a dynamic relationship between site and model, to Simulation, where the virtual model dislocates the physical site, ending in Aesthetics, where finally the image from the simulation has become naturalized. All the books share the common characteristic of using case studies or exemplar projects and images to make their points.6
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-93
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Landscape Architecture
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2017
Externally publishedYes


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