FORD’s FIELDS: Landscape, Urbanism, and Industrial Economy, Charles Waldheim, 9th May 2007
Across a range of disciplines, landscape has become a lens through which the contemporary city is represented and a medium through which it is constructed. These sentiments are evident in the emergent discourse of “landscape urbanism.” Landscape urbanism describes a disciplinary realignment currently underway in which landscape supplants architecture as the basic building block of city making. This lecture presents an introduction to practices of landscape urbanism and locates the recent emergence of landscape in the context of decentralizing industry and the emergence of a distributed global economy. The brownfield sites of abandoned industry and the greenfield sites of new exurban development invoke the landscape medium as uniquely relevant to the pressing environmental and social conditions in the wake of industrial economy. Citing Detroit as a special locus for the exploration of these topics, Ford’s Fields describes the conditions for urbanism in the “motor city” as among the most legible of examples in the region. The lecture references Ludwig Hilberseimer’s “New Regional Pattern” and partially realized plan for Detroit’s Lafayette Park as exemplary of a critically engaged, proto-ecological urban planning practice.