© Christian Maryska


Diana Balmori

FASLA the founding principal of Balmori Associates, is recognized internationally for her creative interplay between landscape and architecture. She established Balmori Associates in 1990. In 2006, she created balmoriLABS within the firm to undertake and join the search for form in landscape and the intersection with architecture, art or engineering: Green Roofs, Floating Islands, Temporary Landscapes, Forms of Representation, and Zero Waste City are some of the labs. Diana Balmori has been featured in publications and programs including Dwell, The Architects Newspaper, Monocle, El Pais, PBS, WNYC, Design Observer, Inhabitat, and Utne Reader, which named her 1 of 50 „Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World“ in 2009. In addition to teaching at Yale University in both the School of Architecture and the School of Forestry and Environmental studies, she has lectured and published extensively. Her most recent book is Groundwork: Between Landscape and Architecture, written with Joel Sanders (Random House, September 2011). A Landscape Manifesto was published by Yale University Press (2010). She is the co-author of many books, such as Saarinen Garden: A Total Work of Art; Redesigning the American Lawn: A Search for Environmental Harmony; Transitory Gardens, Uprooted Lives; The Land and Natural Development (LAND) Code: Guidelines for Environmentally Sustainable Land Development; Beatrix Farrand, American Landscapes; Garden and Campus Designs.

Found in Translation

3 Landscape Ideals

Landscape practice, based on systemic readings and operations, engages both physical context and time. We co-opt fluxes of water, vegetation, infrastructure, and humans across site boundaries, and project across seasons and decades. Yet, when teaching design we typically rely on the contemporary and immediate past for case studies, as if projects were indelibly marked by their social raison d’être at the time of creation.

This paper tracks three landscape ideals across time and space. I will examine the notion of terrain – both physical and professional – from the late nineteenth century to today in a series of key moments and movements. Attitudes toward vegetation and topography, which are typically considered the keystone of landscape expertise, ultimately express strategies for spatial and emotional place-making. Thus when William Robinson advocated for the wild garden in 1870, he also staked a territory that was professional (against architects), geo-political (the British Empire), and poetic (the feeling for Englishness). Fifty years later, Danish landscape architect G.N. Brandt revised the wild garden to counter the achitektonische Garten and provide space for the imagination. Today, Robinson’s aesthetic and ethical process of naturalness can be re-evaluated against the planting theories of Gilles Clément’s jardin en mouvement or Piet Oudolf’s perennial movement. Likewise, the bulbous shapes of Michel Corajoud’s 1970s parks can find echo in George Hargreaves’s sculptural landforms or West 8’s micro-topographies. Finally, the tree patterns of Garrett Eckbo’s depression-era camps and postwar housing belie a desire to hold space with simple means, anticipating the territorial and urban forestry of Michel Desvigne.

This viewing of contemporary projects through the lens of time doesn’t so much reveal the genesis of concepts as it does underscore the resilience of landscape ideals – simultaneously essential and complex.