Corporate Ecologies in Print

For interested readers, F.A.D. has a feature article in the latest issue of the European Journal of Landscape Architecture (JoLA), illustrating the concept of Corporate Ecologies.  JoLA is one of the few journals that seeks to “support, stimulate and increase scholarly debate in Landscape Architecture” and is dedicated to “expanding the range of communication modes for research.”

Corporate Ecologies attempts to bridge theory and practice in proposing a revised design approach for corporate systems.  An abstract of the article can be found here, and below is a copy of the introduction:

“We rarely define sites in a way that will permit exploration of organizational or network architecture, in part because we rarely define sites in multiples” (Easterling 1999).

“The use of land to yield goods and services represents the most substantial human alteration of the earth system” (Vitousek et al. 2008).

Contemporary landscape architectural theory and speculative practices are premised on concepts borrowed from the sciences and other disciplines. In particular, landscape architecture’s expanded breadth of inquiry and nomenclature that includes such concepts as self-organization, emergence and resilience are evidence of the discipline’s ability to integrate a range of influences from contemporary systems theory and recent developments in the ecological sciences (Lister 2007).

Of particular interest in this essay is how corporate landscape fits into contemporary landscape architecture’s paradigm shift from object- or scenic-based design practices to an emphasis on systems and how they perform in landscape. This conceptual shift has launched a debate between the spatial vagaries of designing open systems and processes on one hand, and the articulation (or lack of articulation) of deliberate forms on the other. This debate has added renewed vigor to the broader question of how form is generated in the designing of landscape.

This essay argues that corporate landscape, an established yet ambiguous realm of landscape architecture, has largely missed the contemporary shift from servitude-to-the-scenic to the articulation of large-scale operative frameworks.  Within the discipline of landscape architecture, the term corporate landscape has been co-opted to mean the design of the symbolic façade of corporate headquarters and campuses. This definition of corporate landscape is misleading because corporate headquarters constitute only a small fraction of corporate operations. Corporate systems play a major role in the ever-increasing human dominance of the world’s ecology – a role barely addressed by academic and client/commercial modes of contemporary practice. The term corporate ecologies acknowledges the complexity, scale and landscape effects of corporate systems and processes, and serves as an invitation to more critical inquiry and holistic design engagement with corporate landscapes.

2 comments

  1. congratulations, brett.

    being in new york and a cyclists (or, more appropriately “bike rider”), I can’t help but think of the Hudson River reading this. The mouth of the Hudson is of course the harbor (in NJ) with it’s massive ports and highway infrastructure. Just up 9W in NJ the road is lined with spacious, scenic (if boaring) corporate headquarters, the kind that Pete Walker loved and which I think you are referring to as the predominant popular image. Then, even further upstream are the ConEd plants that have so polluted what still appears to be a beautiful, pristine landscape with PCBs, that the EPA has been running around in circles for decades trying to determine the extent of the environmental catastrophe (excellent profile in Harper’s Magazine here).

    I assume your take is more leaning toward infrastructure (the port of NY/NJ) rather than the environmental decimation that is impossible to account for…?

  2. Hopefully, it encompasses all of the above…infrastructure, the ‘designed’ facade, and the environmental relationships as parts of the larger systems

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