Cities to Develop New Landscapes

Event: Toward a Sustainable Urban Landscape
Location: The Morgan Library & Museum, 06.13.07
Speakers: Kenneth Frampton — Ware Professor of Architecture; Kate Orff, ASLA — Adjunct Assistant Professor of Architecture, Columbia University, Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation (GSAPP)
Organizers & Sponsors: Columbia University Alumni Association

NYC from above

Frampton and Orff call for a re-conceptualization of urban landscapes.

Jessica Sheridan

The future of the urban landscape depends on collaboration between architects and landscape architects. “The megalopolis is new nature,” writes Kenneth Frampton, Ware Professor Architecture at Columbia University, Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation (GSAPP), in his essay “Toward an Urban Landscape.” To Kate Orff, ASLA, principal of SCAPE and Assistant Professor of Architecture at Columbia University, GSAPP, new urban reality is fertile ground for exploration.

The use of design strategies associated with landscape architecture may be the most promising response to the “unprecedented scale of urbanization” underway internationally, according to Frampton. Urban form must be re-conceptualized as “urban landscape” to create continuity across multiple scales. As examples, Frampton cites the Diagonals Haus L’Illa building by Rafael Moneo and Manuel de Solá-Morales in Barcelona, where architecture merges with urban form to create new hybrids of public space, and the Yokohama International Port Terminal by Foreign Office Architects, where a landscape-like spatial experience is fused with architectonic form, alluding to a new poetics of construction. Above all, Frampton hopes the integration of landscape and architecture, with an emphasis on the public realm, will renew architecture’s role as a “social, cultural, and political act.”

To Kate Orff, designers must address the meaning of “new nature” posed by Frampton. Orff adds her own call to action for designers to think of “nature as a design issue” requiring cross-disciplinary methods that unite nature and engineering. While this is not a new concept (see Olmsted’s Central Park), it is particularly appropriate in response to contemporary issues of climate change, resource scarcity, and environmental degradation. With the Urban Landscape Lab at Columbia, Orff leads Urban Ecology studios focused on complex urban/natural environments such as the Gateway National Recreation Area and Flushing Meadows/Corona Park. She and her students find design inspiration in the pragmatic demands of environmental issues such a waste management. By blurring boundaries of design and science, Orff endeavors to “fabricate” these “new natures.”