Humans are inextricably linked to the natural world. We all yearn to connect with other living systems; it is hard-wired into our DNA. But conventionally designed landscapes do not feed this longing.
Conventionally designed landscapes lie to you. They tell you there is enough water. They say technology can overcome any adversity. They present themselves as exterior decoration—passive and tame. In truth, they are fragile. These instant, static compositions will increasingly fall apart in the wake of unpredictable change. More importantly, they fail to resonate with people in the ways only landscapes can. Communion requires an intimate communication grounded in truth. There can be no communion in designed landscapes without honesty.
Some landscape architects speak of the need for urban green space as a way to connect to the natural world. “More parks!” is the mantra. But today's parks look more and more like outdoor rec rooms. They are unacceptable substitutes for the intimacy our hearts desire. We are mistaken when we confuse proximity to plants with fellowship with nature. We are mistaken that we can subdue biology for the sake of recreation and think it comparable to a walk in the forest. To feel that connection to the natural world we desire, we must be immersed. We need to see nature at work.
Homogeneous designs propped up by chemicals and manufactured soil are mere assemblies. Made of foreign stone, globally-available products, and exotic plants, conventionally designed landscapes erase the character that differentiates one place from another. It is the specific qualities of each place that define that place and carry its value. Only when we are aware of the particulars of a place can we feel rooted. There can be no connection without specificity.
We call for the creation of landscapes that draw on the natural and extant assets of each site to inspire lasting bonds between people and place.
We will design and build in new ways. We will replace quick, resource-intensive solutions with slow, deliberate cultivation. We will mine the natural and cultural history of each place to uncover its essence. We will look outside the bounds of the site to find the strong patterns at work. We will divert budgets away from mature plants installed with cranes, into landscapes grown from seedlings that have the capacity to acclimate. We will reveal the wild parts that arouse that undomesticated nature inside us. We will develop adaptable spaces that bring hope in the face of uncertainty.
We will build landscapes that make a difference.