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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Elizabeth A Umbanhowar
L ARCH 553
Seattle Campus

History of Modern Landscape Architecture

Focuses on building an historic and critical overview of modernism and modernist designs in the practice and discipline of landscape architecture. Focuses on critical readings of historical narratives to explore the emergence of theory in practice.

Class description

During the quarter, we will explore the intimate and complex relationship between people and their environments from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. We will focus on the roots and developments of modernism and modernist design primarily in Europe and the United States, with reference to developments in Central and South America and Asia. We will examine the ways in which we have been shaped by our surroundings and at the same time, how and why we have striven to make our own marks upon the land, both subtle and transformative, metaphorical and actual, negative and positive, archetypal and deeply personal.

In lecture and discussion, we will explore several key questions as they relate to modern and contemporary landscapes: What is a �modern�? What is �landscape�? How do designed landscapes from the past reflect ideas about nature and culture throughout history? How has the role of �designer� manifested itself in the design of landscapes through time and across geographical boundaries? How does our interpretation of history shape our perception of our own environments and how do these perceptions change over time? How are historical ideas, themes, patterns and forms manifested in contemporary design practice? Throughout the course, we will explore approaches and tools to discern and critique the connection between people and land/scape(s), to appreciate differing historical interpretations and methodologies, and ultimately begin to see how an understanding of the history of landscape architecture can play a critical role in our present lives, whether we are aspiring designers or engaged in other disciplines.

Student learning goals

understand and articulate definitions and approaches to modern and contemporary landscape architecture practice and theory in Europe and the United States, as well as identify trends in Central and South America and Asia

identify how historical and social narratives and theory shape and at the same time are influenced by landscape architecture practice in history and in the present time

explore relationships among landscape, architecture, fine arts and other media and disciplines

explore relationships among landscape, architecture, fine arts and other media and disciplines

cultivate skills and approaches in critical thinking and formal analysis of built work and contribute thoughtfully to discussions of landscape theory, historiography and practice

build proficiency in effective research and compelling writing about landscape architecture, including organizing and composing descriptions, analysis, and arguments in a variety of written formats

General method of instruction

The course involves lecture, graduate-level seminar discussion, class collaboration, site visits, readings, writing and peer critique, and short experimental in-class exercises and responses. The course uses visual and aural aids such as PowerPoint, film, and music, as well as visiting built landscape projects in and around Seattle.

Recommended preparation

Students are expected to have experience with and knowledge of academic environment, and methods of formal research and writing as well as the ability to broach complex, intellectual topics.

Class assignments and grading

The course involves lecture, discussion, class collaboration, site visits, readings, writing including weekly reading responses and a term research paper, and short experimental in-class exercises and responses. The course uses visual and aural aids such as PowerPoint, film, and music, as well as visiting built landscape projects in and around Seattle.

Grades are determined based upon cumulative points assigned to a research paper, journal entries for site visits, discussion/contribution/seminar leadership and weekly reading responses.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Additional Information
Last Update by Elizabeth A Umbanhowar
Date: 01/07/2014