Landscape Urbanism

Home / Programme / Bachelor of Science (ASD) / Courses / 20.111 Sustainable Design Option Studio 2 / Landscape Urbanism


Federico Ruberto, Eva Castro

Conditions of sprawl, post-industrialisation, rapid urbanisation and ‘natural’ disasters pose significant challenges to normative design practices, requiring an approach that operates beyond the quick fix or the local solution. In this context Landscape Urbanism emerges as a new design discipline responding to the specific demands and potentials of these conditions. Here ‘Landscape’ is not understood as a scenographic art; beautifying, greening or naturalising the city, but as a model of connective, scalar and temporal operations through which the urban is conceived and engaged with: the urban is diagrammed as a landscape; a complex and processual ecology.

Landscape Urbanism is, by definition, transdisciplinary. Whilst drawing upon the legacy of landscape design to address the dynamics of contemporary urbanism, it integrates knowledge and techniques from environmental engineering, urban strategy and landscape ecology, and employs the science of complexity and emergence, the tools of digital design and the thought of political ecology. Through these means the studio projects new material interventions that operate within an urbanism conceived as social, material, ecological and continually modulated by the spatial and temporal forces in which it is networked.
elements central to our methodology:


Rather than approach the question of infrastructure as a cosmetic problem –in need to be concealed, we treat it as an opportunity to engage with the machinic processes ranged across its sites. The critical role played by infrastructure in the organisation and management of the city’s complex systems of movement, communication and exchange is recognised as the basis from which its operation can be further developed and pushed beyond its tendency to fragment and divide toward other possibilities.

We pursue the formal and material articulation of infrastructure, coordinating its operations with the territorial processes, forms and parameters identified in the site, developing its relation to the ground, and elaborating its architectural composition.

Beyond the problem-solving and remedial capabilities, landscape and engineering techniques, such as soil remediation, water cleansing strategies, traffic control, earthworks… to name a few, become the medium through which concepts find the material constrains to emerge as highly designed spatial structures.

Ground Morphologies

Collectively, the approach to the different dimensions and registers of the site are coordinated through the morphology of the ground. It is especially through the treatment of the ground, through its formation, that we seek a means to resist the tendency to conceive a site as, ideally, horizontally articulated, absolutely flexible, and infinitely reprogrammable. We would argue that it is through form that landscape urbanism attains one of its principle means of agency as a design practice concerned to commit itself toward specific urban scenarios:

This type of ‘groundwork’ provides an opportunity to generate artificial topographies with the formal capacity to structure relations between environmental, social, cultural and economic factors on a given site. Whilst the techniques employed for this type of groundwork may be borrowed from those used in more conventional techniques of landscaping, it is through their architectural elaboration that these forms achieve the greatest potential to articulate determinate — though not deterministic — urban relationships.

Studio’s Structure
3 stages/ 3 workshops

  1. Indexing Territories
    The workshop understands mapping and diagramming as both exploratory and propositive, having an active and crucial role in the design process. Indexing records the constitution of a given territory. It registers its topographical, geological, environmental, demographic and socio-economic conditions as processes, forms and parameters. The aim is to develop the capacity to read information from fields and then decoding, synthesizing and systematically processing it into indexical models.
  2. Scripting Prototypes
    The purpose of the workshop is to explore different scripting techniques as a means of creating flexible design tools that are capable of accommodating change and a degree of indeterminacy within the design process. In this stage we will generate variations of material components, linking them to a research on infrastructural, environmental and/or other spatial performance.
  3. Meshing the Grounds
    This workshop will deal with the mediation of bottom up readings and strategic decision-making concepts.The overall arrangement of the material components produced in the previous steps will be adjusted and further articulated to respond locally to specific conditions and globally to relational strategies.

Testing ground

Agenda 02_ Nepal

On April 25, 2015 at 11:56 local time, part of the tectonic boundary between India and the rest of Eurasia began to slip, sending powerful earthquake waves to Nepal’s capital city of Kathmandu just 50 miles away. The earthquake measured 7.8 on the Richter scale… Just over two weeks later, a second earthquake of similar magnitude struck…

Nearly 9,000 people died, 22,000 were injured, 600,000 houses were totally destroyed and a further 290,000 were damaged.


  • temporal dislocation of the underprivileged communities
  • temporal living/ infra-human shelter conditions
  • migration of male labour
  • devastation of agricultural grounds/ landslides

Opportunistic Approach

  • tourism exploitation linked to infrastructure development and accessibility
  • new (post earthquake) building regulations: (ex)ploring policy guides
  • productivity as means to forge identity

We will seize the opportunity that presents itself; that of engaging foreign capital intending to develop tourist enclaves and new housing projects, whilst negotiating the needs of the local population to improve the conditions in what ought to become a regenerative process of urbanization.

‘Some natures rather than others’

‘The key political question is one that centers on the question of what kind of natures we wish to inhabit, what kinds of natures we wish to preserve, to make, or, if need be, to wipe off the surface of the planet (like the HIV virus, for example), and on how to get there. The fantasy of ‘sustainability’ imagines the possibility of an originally fundamentally harmonious Nature, one that is now out-of-synch but which, if ‘properly’ managed, we can and have to return to by means of a series of technological, managerial, and organizational fixes.’

‘The Post-Political Condition and the Environment’, Erik Swyngedouw