Gardening is an action, in fact, a gerund. This verb form highlights temporality, longevity, and change, while also implying an object, the garden, with its own suggestions. Unlike the word “landscape,” “garden” suggests a boundary and an activity intended to improve upon nature. The scale of a garden ranges from a single plant to an ecosystem covering or connecting entire continents. Gardening is rural and urban, natural and artificial, mundane and exceptional. Instead of considering the garden as the genius product of a single designer, this series will approach gardens as bounded spaces rich with historical and theoretical opportunities across a range of scales.
Gardening, while linked to mythology and art, effortlessly crosses many other disciplines and disparate concepts. Eighteenth-century English gardens were productive sites of engineering experimentation for testing canal building. National agenda meets local politics in the space of public gardens, bringing to the fore a plethora of fiscal and ethical debates. The political economy of production enters the fray around subsistence gardening in working-class families. Middle-class identity, American independence and privacy were reconciled in turn of the century suburban garden design. And, the conservation movement elevated gardening to a new scale with large-scale land management and forestry. Exploring these and other fertile sites of gardening is the goal of this series.
The speakers in the 2008 Landscape and Urbanism Lecture Series will investigate the spatial practices and strategies of working the earth and transforming the world for human purposes. As an analytical device, the theme will also explore the tension between gardening as transformation and as delimited upkeep. In its many guises, gardening will be shown to have subtle but powerful architectural implications for the built environment as a result of human manipulation of botanical agents.