Landscape Urbanism is a Graduate Design Programme at the Architectural Association leading to a Masters of Architecture (MArch, 16 months) and to a Masters in Science (MSc, 12 months) in Landscape Urbanism.
The programme explores the role that design and designers (from architects, landscape architects, urban designers, planners perspective) can play when confronted with large scale territories (metropolis, rural environments, infrastructural and productive landscapes, etc.). At these scales of intervention, territories are configured by sets of economic policies, political decisions, social and cultural structures and engineering solutions where design inputs are left out or put at the fringes. Landscape Urbanism at the AA explores design not only as the source of aesthetic and performative proposals necessary to offer alternatives to today’s acute urban/environmental problems, but also as a mechanism to orchestrate, choreograph and negotiate their implementation at large scales over time.
Beyond the design of single buildings or pieces of urban design, landscape urbanism is interested in the design of spatial policies, organizational models, innovative regulatory plans and visual decision making tools with the capacity to integrate design within economic, social, cultural and political frameworks. The aim of the programme is to contribute to the enhancement of the discipline by making it more relevant at multiple scales and foster closer dialogues and debates with different disciplines ( geography, economy, ecology, political science, etc.), highlighting the unique capabilities of design.
The programme uses as a backbone the concept of ‘territory’ and sees it as a potential field of design praxis. Through these lens, it operates within contemporary conditions whereby urban environments are understood as intrinsically interconnected and related webs of consequential landscapes with implications at local, regional and planetary scales. These consequences are best reflected in current environmental concerns such as climate change, energy crisis, water/food/land consumption, and widespread pollution but less apparent in their social and political implications, currently being disguised by ecological and sustainable design driven agendas for the urbanised world.
The programme has been constantly evolving and integrates critical thinking as well as practices such as cartographic representation, scripted simulations and GIS mapping, all of which are widely available in geographical disciplines but relatively untapped within design disciplines interested in large territorial projects.
Following a research by design methodology, students develop the ability to abstract complex territorial formations and landscape-based models to generate novel guidelines that can potentially be deployed in comparable territories. These guidelines for new socio-spatial outcomes provide an alternative to conventional planning, urban design and metropolitan projects, challenging how urban territories are designed and ultimately reconfigured.