Landscape Interpretation And Spacial Justice

Institution(s): Northeastern

Discipline(s): Architecture

Faculty Member(s): Nicholas Brown

Keyword(s): Architecture, Diversity, Mapping, Social Justice, Urbanism, Design

Download PDF

How can we make justice central in the stories we tell about urban landscapes? What role can critical landscape interpretation play in struggles for spatial justice? How can architecture generate more complex ways of thinking about and interacting with land and place while also expanding our political imagination? These questions animate and unify an interdisciplinary seminar that combines critical theory and spatial practice, and draws from a range of fields including history, geography, sociology, ethnic studies, architecture, planning, and environmental design. Regarding critical landscape interpretation as a form of environmental design, we will consider the role of story and narrative in the social construction of space, and explore the relationships (and possible relationships) between spatial theory, history, and practice. The Los Angeles Urban Rangers—a collective of artists, historians, architects, and geographers—exemplify critical landscape interpretation. Appropriating the visual language and interpretive strategies of the National Park Service, the Rangers conduct fieldtrips (“Malibu Safaris” and “LA River Rambles”) that call attention to the complex political ecologies of the Los Angeles basin and empower residents to take a more active role in shaping the city. Bridging theory and practice, the Rangers articulate a vital role for critical landscape interpretation in prefiguring more socially and environmentally just worlds. Following the lead of the Rangers we will experiment with interpretive strategies in relation to the unique social and environmental histories, presents, and futures of the Boston metropolitan area and beyond.