Martha Schwartz on the softer side of sustainability

It goes beyond just the performative perspective and soft doesn’t mean just temporary or flexible:

She suggests that “the urban landscape is not only about technical or science-based systems. The urban landscape is greatly shaped and organized and enables what people think, feel, and do. To design in the city, there must be a recognition of ALL the systems, the natural and the people systems that must be accounted for…Longevity in the urban environment can only be achieved if people value it.

McLeod Tailings, Geraldton, Canada- Martha Schwartz Partners

The she goes on to make a strong argument for the notion of a built landscape, of seeing land(s)cape as a “built artifact“. A nature that can be shaped and that can be ecological and sustainable (using her expanded notion), but yet not look like we expect. For instance a rural wilderness that is unnatural (see her McLeod Tailings project) or a wilderness within the urban jungle (see her Rio Shopping Center project).

Schwartz contends “A built landscape is not required to look or mimic nature. If we are creating it, like any other cultural art form, it can be what we wish it to be…But to most in the U.S., a landscape must represent nature or the process of nature.

More in an interview with Martha from ASLA’s the DIRT

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