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Landscape Urbanism

Practitioners and theorist have several definitions of what Landscape Urbanism is; Gray states it “considers the horizontal field over the vertical figure-ground and secondly, it describes a move from the pictorial to the operational.” (C, Gray, 2006.) Sarah Peck puts it perfectly as “a mode of thinking about the design and function of cities that places landscape architecture as one of the first steps in urban development.” (S, Peck, 2017.)

Landscape, Ecology, Landscape Urbanism, Sustainability.
Figure 1 (Alter, L. 2007). Farmadelphia.

Geoff Whitten’s lecture on Landscape Urbanisms theory and practice was particularly stimulating as he discussed real world projects, one of those being in my hometown of Manchester. Because of urban overheating in the centre, this has led to designers looking outwards for solutions. First they assessed the current landscape and found gap called Mosslands which is one of the biggest peat bogs. Turley proposed to open this up as a park, human waste has enriched the land making it a highly productive location. This site has been designed to house different types of ecological projects, terra-fluxus allows flexibility in this area change of uses over its lifetime. As Geoff puts it “this development is Landscape Urbanism in its purest form.” (G, Whitten. 2016)

Urban Over heating
Figure 2. Urban Overheating Diagram. G, Whitten 2016.
He discusses the history and origins of Landscape Urbanism which began with a competition for Parc de Villette. Rem Koolhaus had an interesting layered approach with nodes connecting across the landscape. This layered approach has been used recently within the Rotterdam redevelopment. (pictured bellow) Which looked at how the city can be stitched together through layering a process and linkages, connecting areas of open space.
Figure 3. Urban Metabolism Green Networks. G, Whitten 2016.
Figure 4. Urban Metabolism Nodes. G, Whitten 2016.

There was a few interesting terms Geoff Whitten used describe the current Belfast redevelopment as an example of terra incognita. He described the development site as a “dross-scape,” which he uses to describe the de-unindustrialisation of many cities that have areas falling apart. This is a recurring element in post-industrial cities with leftover land from past industries.

Terra fluxus another term, relates to a shifting movement in Landscape Urbanism. Moving away from terra-firma idea of landscape as “firm, not changing; fixed and definite.” Whereas terra fluxus is “shifting processes coursing through and across the urban field.” (J, Corner. 2003)

Bellow are two masterplans of the Belfast development, the first was the original which was to be developed. But the site has special restricting circumstances, its past history of building the Titanic. It still has the two original cranes onsite and “blue chip, plane builders are based there, although at a reduced rate.” The second restricting issue is that the site is home to the Game of Thrones studio (to the north) restricting adjacent development. In the second plan, both areas have been scrubbed off the proposal. Terra fluxus has allowed the development near the studio to be adapted into a media city area.

Landscape, Terrafluxus, Terra Incognita, Landscape Urbanism, Belfast
Figure 5. Belfast Development 1. G, Whitten 2016.
Landscape, Terrafluxus, Terra Incognita, Landscape Urbanism, Belfast
Figure 5. Belfast Development 2. G, Whitten 2016.

The garden city movement is linked with Landscape Urbanism, as there was a resurgence in the modernist era. He discussed Milton Keynes, which was rather than an “articular circular” themes it was more of a grid type layout. The area has aged with lots of green spaces locked in, with pods of development. Which he describes as an “Arcadian paradise which has got terra fluxes built into it.” (G, Whitten. 2016) The plan here was to make this more of a place by making it denser, without having to build in the middle of nowhere and make use of what land there is. Its loose and open landscape structure provides a major piece of ecological value.

Charles Waldheim, suggests that Landscape Urbanism should be the new “disciplinary framework for reconceiving the contemporary urban field.” As he believes that the traditional professions in design lack “coherent, competent and convincing explanations of contemporary urban conditions,” and suggests that there should be cross sector inter disciplinary approach is necessary for the contemporary world.

New Developments in The UK

There are issues with housing developments which still place Landscape Urbanism as a less of a priority. This comes at a time, when UK the government announced they have given backing for 14 new garden villages and 3 new garden towns. These developments aim to provide a “combined potential to provide almost 200,000 new homes across the country.” With this announcement this gives me hope that these new developments could be pilots and set a precedent for successful sustainable development and I would like to see how they use ideas from landscape urbanism.

Landscape, Ecology, Sustainability.
Figure 7. The new developments have been mapped by the author.

There have been issues have been raised, as some developments will be constructed on green belt, this raises further questions as the government suggests they will “offer of new planning freedoms.” (DCLG, 2017) Which could have serious ramifications that could impact our countries natural landscape. I would hope that these developments would lay priority with landscape urbanism philosophy and the protection of natural environment.


Barwell, G. and Department for Communities and Local Government (2017) First ever garden villages named with government support. Available at: [Accessed: 2 January 2017].
Corner, J. (2003) Landscape Urbanism. London: Architectural Association. in Landscape urbanism: a manual for the machinic landscape. 58. ed.
Gray, C. (2006). From Emergence To Divergence Modes Of Landscape Urbanism. [online] p.29. Available at: http://file:///C:/Users/Razer/Downloads/From_emergence_to_divergence_modes_of_la%20(1).pdf [Accessed 2 Jan. 2017].
Peck, S. (2017). Landscape Urbanism Journal Archive. [online] Scenario Journal. Available at: [Accessed 2 Jan. 2017].
Waldheim, C (2006) Landscape as Urbanism. The Urban Design Reader.

Image Sources
Figure 1 : Alter, L. (2007). Farmadelphia. [online] ziger/snead. Available at: [Accessed 2 Jan. 2017].
Figure 2 : Urban Overheating Diagram. G, Whitten 2016.
Figure 3 : Urban Metabolism Green Networks. G, Whitten 2016.
Figure 4 : Urban Metabolism Nodes. G, Whitten 2016.
Figure 5 : Belfast Development 1. G, Whitten 2016.
Figure 6 : Belfast Development 2. G, Whitten 2016.
Figure 7 : The Author.


School of Architecture
Planning and Landscape
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear, NE1 7RU

Tel: 0191 208 6509


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