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Cobblestones in Rhodes, Greece, 2020. Image courtesy D.F. Ruggles.

Garden and Landscape Studies Colloquium/Workshop

March 25–29, 2024 | Swati Chattopadhyay and Zeynep Kezer, Organizers

Riverine: A Multispecies Approach to Decolonizing Landscapes

This event is by invitation only.

The study of rivers and riverine landscapes continues to focus on human agency and the human capacity to “train” rivers, build dams and embankments, create water infrastructures, and design water elements in gardens. Whether the scholarship celebrates these interventions or critiques the destruction of lands and settlements in the production of water infrastructures, the study of riverine landscapes is grounded in an Enlightenment epistemology that is inherently anthropocentric and colonial. Thus, as with any effort to decolonize landscape histories, it must acknowledge that racialization and cross-species histories are intermeshed. It must also recognize the historical record of experiences in which the river and land emerge as active and indefatigable makers of history.

The Riverine workshop explores the conceptual and methodological issues that underlie pervasive disciplinary intransigence and asks the following questions: What would a historiography of the more-than-human riverine look like? How would such an approach inform the understanding of historical periodization and the choice of archives and sites of field research? What strategies of interpretation would it entail? What units of spatial analysis would facilitate movement between different spatial and temporal scales? How might it transform the understanding of the edge between water and land? What might be the role of visual representation in rethinking species boundaries and the spaces they inhabit? Which reference points and relationships could be productive for crafting new stories of the riverine? The workshop convenes a multi-disciplinary group of scholars to address these questions and develop a collaborative and comparative riverine research agenda.


  • Swati Chattopadhyay, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Zeynep Kezer, Newcastle University


  • Ömür Harmanşah, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Laura McLauchlan, Macquarie University
  • Ruth Mostern, University of Pittsburgh
  • Romita Ray, Syracuse University
  • Sudipta Sen, University of California, Davis
  • Bradley Skopyk, Binghamton University (SUNY)
  • Veronica Strang, University of Oxford
  • Ellen Wohl, Colorado State University

Image: Munzur Gözeleri, Munzur River near its headwaters, Tunceli, Turkey, 20 Aug 2023. Photographer: Zeynep Kezer.

Past Topics


The Enchantment of the Living World

February 9–11, 2023 | Luke Morgan and D. Fairchild Ruggles, Colloquiarchs

Program Abstracts and Speaker Biographies

The onset of the Anthropocene has led scholars to question long held ideas about agency, sentience, and subjectivity. As early as 1576, Montaigne challenged human claims of superiority over other living beings on the basis of the supposed uniqueness of the faculty of reason. Montaigne’s comments resonate with recent work in anthropology, sociology, and philosophy that explores the concept of human agency together with the vitality and interconnectedness of not only living beings, but even inorganic matter. Scholars such as Philippe Descola, Bruno Latour, Michael Marder, Jane Bennett, Tim Ingold, and Donna Haraway have developed new frameworks for considering both the “animacy” of the natural environment and the agency of its non-human things, leading Eduardo Kohn to proclaim that “The living world is enchanted.” Such speculation about the more-than-human world is gaining particular importance in the age of climate crisis, where the intersecting impacts of human and environmental actors have become a matter of profound concern. The colloquium explores the relevance of this developing body of work for landscape history and theory.  Engaging with recent work in new materialism, the plant humanities, actor-network-theory, post-humanism, “plant-thinking,” and deep ecology, we will ask why the human subject has historically enjoyed such privilege and how that privilege has created a binary between nature and culture in our historic and contemporary understanding of landscape.

Landscapes of Civil Rights in the District of Columbia and the National Capital Area

February 25, 2022 | Mellon Colloquium, in partnership with the National Park Service, the Center for the Preservation of Civil Rights Sites at the University of Pennsylvania, and Tulane University

Program Bibliography

Garden and Landscape Studies, in partnership with the Mellon Urban Landscape Humanities Initiative at Dumbarton Oaks, is pleased to host the 2022 colloquium “Landscapes of Civil Rights in the District of Columbia and the National Capital Area” on February 25, 2022. The event will be livestreamed for an invited audience. This colloquium, in partnership with the National Park Service, University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Preservation of Civil Rights Sites, and Tulane University, will inaugurate a multiyear collaborative project led by the NPS to recognize, document, map, and explore frameworks for interpreting landscapes of civil rights in the District of Columbia and the National Capital Area with a focus on National Park Service lands. The project will develop a phased study of specific communities and/or ethnographic groups (including African Americans, women, Indigenous people, LGBTQ+, Latinx, Asian Americans, and people with disabilities) and how they have defined and used NPS lands for civil rights purposes, broadly defined.

Our intention for this colloquium is to open up questions about how we define civil rights, how civil rights movements identified with places and landscapes, and how communities identified with particular places as part of civil rights advocacy and struggle. We recognize that landscapes hold multiple narratives of place, and thus will be asking how we might frame discussions of civil rights to generate counter narratives. While the colloquium and subsequent project will focus on the District of Columbia and the larger National Capital Area (Department of the Interior Region 1) of the National Park Service, we will draw from practices from across the nation. Finally, we are interested in contemporary means and methods of documenting and mapping landscapes that may advance this work.


Interpreting Landscapes of Enslavement

October 25, 2019 | Thaïsa Way, Colloquiarch

Program Speaker Biographies

Anticipating a symposium on the legacies of segregation and spatial inequality in cities around the world in spring 2020, the fall 2019 colloquium focuses on strategies for revealing and interpreting histories of slavery and the legacies of racial injustice that are slavery’s aftermath as they are found in the landscapes of eastern North America. Featuring curators from such historic sites as Montpelier, Monticello, and Georgetown University, as well as scholars, journalists, and photographers investigating Confederate memorials and antebellum industrial landscapes, the colloquium explores ways of recovering and sharing the landscape narratives of enslaved humans, and the violence perpetrated on their descendants, in site histories and public education. The event features both prepared talks and roundtable discussions. Graduate students researching related topics also have an opportunity to share their work and receive feedback from significant scholars in the landscape disciplines. If appropriate, selected presentations from this colloquium might be considered for inclusion in the publication of papers from the spring 2020 symposium.

We are assembling scholars, journalists, and activists to engage in roundtable discussions in addition to a small number of scholarly presentations. Opportunities to discuss emerging research and lessons learned by those sharing the work are emphasized.

Programs in urban landscape studies at Dumbarton Oaks are supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This grant focuses on “Democracy and the Urban Landscape: Race, Identity, and Difference.”

Botanical Gardens and the Urban Future

November 2, 2018 | John Beardsley and Anatole Tchikine, Organizers

Program Abstracts

For the 2018 fall colloquium, Garden and Landscape Studies, in collaboration with New York Botanical Garden, will bring together a group of historians, landscape designers, and scientists to discuss the changing role of botanical gardens (including arboreta) in the urban context as both landscapes and research and public institutions. Of particular interest is the role of design in helping botanical gardens meet the challenge of operating as educational and community resources while maintaining their traditional focus on the preservation and study of plants. Historically, botanical gardens have proved to be a very adaptable and resilient type, serving as repositories of materia medica, teaching or taxonomical aids, and centers for plant acclimatization in the context of colonial botany. What are the likely scenarios for their development in the future? What are the most effective ways in which they could communicate ideas about nature to city dwellers in an age of advanced urbanization and climate change? What role could historical scholarship of botanical gardens play in this regard?

Programs in urban landscape studies at Dumbarton Oaks are supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation through its initiative in “Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities,” intended to foster the joint contributions that the humanities and the design and planning disciplines may make to understanding the processes and effects of burgeoning urbanization.

This event has been approved for 8 LACES (Landscape Architecture Continuing Education System.)


Bliss and Mellon Awardee narrative responses

How Designers Think

November 3, 2017 | Mellon Urban Landscape Studies Initiative

Program Abstracts and Speaker Biographies

In the past generation, humanity has crossed a number of significant thresholds: over half the world’s population now lives in cities, a percentage that is sure to grow, and we are living in an age characterized by significant and potentially irreversible anthropogenic climate and ecological transformations. Designers now in the middle of their careers are the first generation to have come of age with the challenge of imagining landscapes that might achieve long-term sustainability, resilience, and adaptability in the face of warming temperatures, rising oceans, and changing weather patterns. We will assemble a group of six to eight midcareer landscape designers to present how they think about a range of topics from urbanization and globalization to cultural and biological diversity, ecosystem services, and environmental justice in the city, in an effort to explore the conceptual contours of contemporary practice.

The colloquium is part of our program in Urban Landscape Studies, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation through their initiative in Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities, which is intended to foster the joint contributions that the humanities and the design and planning disciplines may make to understanding the processes and effects of burgeoning urbanization. At Dumbarton Oaks, the program brings landscape architects and historians together to explore how urban environments got to be the way they are and how best to manage them today. The colloquium provides the opportunity for our scholarly community to hear from a range of contemporary designers who are active in imagining better futures for our cities, and for the designers to engage with a historically informed audience.

The goal for the colloquium overall, as well as within individual presentations, is to bridge design and the humanities: to suggest the ways that humanities research and practice can inform each other in service of better understandings of cities past and present.

Speakers include Gina Ford (Sasaki, Boston) on flood management and coastal resilience; Aki Omi (Office MA, San Francisco) on working in a globalizing context, especially China; Sara Zewde (Gustafson, Guthrie, Nichol, Seattle) on community, race, and commemoration; Jose Castillo (Architecture 911, Mexico City), on the ways food and cooking transform cities; Michelle Delk (Snohetta, New York) on her firm’s interdisciplinary approach, using the Willamette River project as an example; Bas Smets (Brussels), on his explorations of the links between landscape design and film; and Jennifer Bolstad and Walter Meyer (Local Office Landscape Architecture, New York) on historical ecology and urban resilience.

Read the student narratives from the Colloquium.

Landscapes of Housing

October 14, 2016 | Sponsored by the Harvard Mellon Urban Initiative and the Mellon Initiative in Urban Landscape Studies at Dumbarton Oaks; Jeanne Haffner, Organizer

Housing programs lie at the very center of socio-spatial relations and the politics of space. Landscape—broadly defined to include ecology, topography, energy infrastructures, aesthetics and ideology—is part of this complex but its role has largely been ignored in housing studies. The aim of this one-day colloquium, jointly organized by the Mellon Initiative in Urban Landscape Studies at Dumbarton Oaks and the Harvard Mellon Urban Initiative, is to explore how housing shapes landscape and is, in turn, shaped by it.

Landscape has at times been used as the basis for social reform and the creation of “communities of dwelling.” It has also been utilized as a referent for particular housing forms, especially single-family housing, and has been seen as an answer to the perceived social problems associated with mass-produced modernist housing. More recently, housing has been the site of experimentation in ecological design, urban food production, building technology, and improved health.

Bringing together scholars and practitioners, this colloquium will pose questions such as the following: How have conceptions and practices with respect to landscape shaped novel designs for dwelling over time and in different parts of the world? What meanings are evoked today by established patterns of housing in post-Socialist cities and informal settings? In what ways have the material aspects of landscape, from concerns over stormwater and flooding to energy infrastructure and topography, shaped these discussions in different ways? Finally, what possibilities exist for scholars and practitioners to work together to develop new ways of thinking about the intersection of housing and landscape, and of implementing such ideas in practice?

Panel 1: Landscape and the Creation of “Communities of Dwelling”

  • Daniel Bluestone, Director of Preservation Studies and Professor of Art and Architecture, Boston University
  • Sophie Hochhäusl, Assistant Professor of Modern Architecture, Boston University
  • Thomas Nybo Rasmussen, Landscape Director, Vandkunsten (Copenhagen, Denmark)

Moderators: John Beardsley, Director of Garden and Landscape Studies, Dumbarton Oaks, and Jeanne Haffner, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Urban Landscape Studies at Dumbarton Oaks

Panel 2: Housing, Landscape and the Post-Socialist City

  • Michael Hooper, Associate Professor of Urban Planning, Harvard Graduate School of Design
  • Christoph Bernhardt, Senior Researcher and Head of the Department for Historical Research at the Leibniz-Institute for Regional Development and Structural Planning; Lecturer, Center for Metropolitan Studies in Berlin
  • Christina Crawford, Assistant Professor of Art History, Emory University

Moderators: Eve Blau, Adjunct Professor of the History and Theory of Urban Form and Design and  Principal Investigator, Harvard Mellon Urban Initiative, and Márkus Keller, Research Fellow, Crisis History Research Group, Eötvös Loránd University (Budapest, Hungary) and Center for Metropolitan Studies, Technische Universität Berlin

Panel 3: Housing, Landscape, and Informal Urbanism

  • Bruno Carvalho, Associate Professor, Department of Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Cultures; Codirector of the Princeton-Mellon Initiative in Architecture, Urbanism and the Humanities
  • Christian Werthmann, Professor of Landscape Architecture and Design, Leibnitz University
  • Vyjayanthi Rao, Director, Terreform Center for Advanced Urban Research

Moderator: Anita Berrizbetia, Chair, Department of Landscape Architecture, Harvard GSD

Final Comments

  • Ellen Braae, Professor of Landscape Architecture and Planning, University of Copenhagen, and Henriette Steiner, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture and Planning, University of Copenhagen

Hubert Robert and French Garden Culture

September 27, 2016 | In collaboration with the National Gallery of Art’s Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA)


The Garden and Landscape Studies annual fall colloquium is a collaboration between Dumbarton Oaks and the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA) at the National Gallery of Art. In conjunction with the exhibition Hubert Robert, 1733–1808, on view at the National Gallery from June 26 to October 2, 2016, Dumbarton Oaks will host a one-day colloquium in the Oak Room of the Fellowship House, 1700 Wisconsin Avenue NW. The colloquium will include a series of presentations on Robert’s work and its artistic and cultural contexts. We are particularly interested in highlighting Robert’s contributions to landscape architecture and garden design in the second half of the eighteenth century, important aspects of his activities that are often overlooked in discussions of his other artistic output.

Landscape and Sacred Architecture in Pre-Modern South Asia

November 14, 2014 | John Beardsley and Subhashini Kaligotla, Colloquiarchs

Program Abstracts Speaker Biographies

Dumbarton Oaks announces the annual fall colloquium for 2014 titled “Landscape and Sacred Architecture in Pre-modern South Asia.” To be held on Friday, November 14, the colloquium is co-organized by John Beardsley, Director of Garden and Landscape Studies, and Subhashini Kaligotla, doctoral candidate in the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University and predoctoral fellow at the Getty Research Institute. Because Dumbarton Oaks and the field of garden and landscape studies more largely have already seen extensive research into Islamic gardens generally and Mughal gardens in South Asia particularly, we want to push the focus back in time. The colloquium will focus heavily though not entirely on temples, which form the bulk of the extant remains from the pre-modern era: Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain, both constructed and rock-cut. Speakers will also address other kinds of ritual sites, including monastic complexes, rock reliefs, water monuments, and funerary structures. Whatever the type, the architecture will be considered in connection to landscape: its relation to topography, climate, and hydrology; to water engineering and management; and to larger landscape contexts such as nearby settlements, rivers, and roads. Departing from the monument-based perspectives that have dominated architectural histories so far, presentations will explore the spatial configurations of sacred complexes, including the interrelationships of component structures, as well as the distribution of the larger built environment. Speakers will engage with the multiplicity of ways in which sacred places have been constituted: from worship rituals such as festivals and processions to the economic practices of food production and irrigation; from the pragmatic transformation of remote wilderness areas to the expression of landscape cosmology and symbolism; from spatial concerns such as circulation, approach, and orientation to the exigencies of transport and trade. Gardens and landscapes are also imagined realms. We therefore expect consideration of discursive modes as they pertain to material culture—how inscriptions, courtly texts, or architectural treatises, for example, gave rise to or relate to specific landscape practices. Much of the research to be presented in the colloquium is new and unpublished and marks both a paradigm shift within architectural history and an important contribution to the emerging field of South Asian landscape studies.

Three students received travel awards to attend the colloquium. Read their narrative reports.

Travel and Translation

November 1, 2013 | Garden and Landscape Studies Colloquium

Program Speaker Biographies

On November 1, 2013, Garden and Landscape Studies Program held a one-day colloquium on the subject of "Travel and Translation." Its aim was to explore the ways in which landscape design ideas are transmitted and exchanged—sometimes through literal travel and translation, and sometimes through study, absorption, and interpretation. This colloquium also marked the launching of a new Dumbarton Oaks series of translations of classic and rare texts on garden history and on the philosophy, art, and techniques of landscape architecture, the first two volumes in which were published in the fall of 2013. One is a travel report by the German court gardener Hans Jancke, “An Apprenticeship in the Earl of Derby's Kitchen Gardens and Greenhouses at Knowsley, England” (1874-75), the manuscript of which is owned by Dumbarton Oaks; the other is the translation of “Die Gartenkultur des 20. Jahrhunderts” (“Garden Culture of the 20th Century”) by the German designer Leberecht Migge, which appeared on the centenary of the book's original publication in 1913.

Given that the first two titles in the translation series are German, the focus of the colloquium was on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Germany and Central Europe, with comparative talks on Italy, England, Ireland, and the United States. Speakers included David Haney from the University of Kent, who translated the “Garden Culture” and discussed Migge's response to English and American ideas about metropolitan park design; Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn from Leibniz University Hannover, who addressed Jancke’s travels in the context of the education of gardeners in the second half of the nineteenth century in Germany; and Hubertus Fischer, also from Leibniz University Hannover, who focused on the travels and travel reports of German court gardeners in the early nineteenth century, especially Heinrich Ludolph Wendland. In addition, Finola O'Kane Crimmins from University College Dublin spoke on the travels of Irish revolutionaries in France and the impact of these experiences on the formation of their ideas; Raffaella Fabiani Giannetto from the University of Pennsylvania discussed the response to Palladian villa gardens in the context of the Grand Tour; and Kristof Fatsar from Corvinus University Budapest spoke about the history of adopting English landscape garden forms in Hungary in the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

This event was approved for 6.0 LA CES (continuing education credits for landscape architects).

Working with Farrand/Farrand at Work

March 8, 2013 | Garden and Landscape Studies Colloquium

Program Speaker Biographies

Dumbarton Oaks announces a one-day colloquium on Beatrix Farrand on Friday, March 8, 2013. Titled “Working with Farrand/Farrand at Work,” it will foreground the ways that Farrand thought and worked, and the efforts of current designers to work with surviving Farrand landscapes, adapting them to current conditions and purposes. Among the speakers will be Michael Van Valkenburgh on his firm’s work at the Princeton campus; Thaisa Way on Farrand’s relation to emerging ecological practices in the early 20th century; Betsy Anderson on the entrance drive at the Mount and its anticipation of ideas about sustainable design and storm water management; Dennis Bracale on the relationship between Farrand and the Rockefellers at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden; Mary Carroll on Farrand’s work with Lockwood de Forest at the Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens; Robin Veder on walking in the Dumbarton Oaks gardens; Patrick Chassé on lost Farrand landscapes; and Judith Tankard on Farrand’s later years and the move from Reef Point to Garland Farm.

The idea of the colloquium is to introduce new and unpublished research, much of it by practitioners who are attentive to history and engaged in research. It is also meant to foster discussion of current stewardship of significant Farrand landscapes, including Dumbarton Oaks.

Lawrence Halprin (1916–2009)

December 11, 2010 | In Collaboration with Landscape Journal

Program Abstracts Speaker Biographies Publication

Garden and Landscape Studies and Landscape Journal collaborated on a colloquium on the life and work of Lawrence Halprin, which took place at Dumbarton Oaks on December 11, 2010 and culminated in a journal publication in 2012. (Volume 31, Number 1-2, 2012)


In the early 1960s, Lawrence Halprin jumped the garden wall and found nature and the city. From this time until the closure of his office and his death in 2009, Halprin reinvented landscape architecture. He redefined the role of the landscape architect and landscape architecture in modern society. His legacy lies not only in his office’s durable built works and his own writings, but also in the processes by which landscape architecture is practiced and taught. The colloquium and resulting publication focused on this complex legacy through writings about his office practices in significant projects, his thinking, his (and his wife Anna’s) processes of participation, and the people and places shaped by this work.

Halprin first became known for his postwar California residential gardens, including work for Thomas Church on the iconic Donnell Garden pool and his own McIntyre Garden. In 1962 with architects Charles Moore and William Turnbull, he began the Sea Ranch project, a coastal community in northern California. In 1965, he was commissioned with architect William Wurster to repurpose the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory complex in San Francisco. In 1966 he was commissioned to design the Embarcadero Plaza, the first of his urban water plazas. The 1968 commissions for the Ira Keller Auditorium Forecourt and Lovejoy Plaza formed the basis for the new open space system in the city of Portland. Halprin’s expertise in urban projects brought a string of new projects into the office during the late 1960s and 1970s. Transformative urban pedestrian streets included Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis (1968), Skyline Park, Denver (1973), and the Charlottesville Mall (1976). In 1975 Halprin and Angela Danadjieva designed Freeway Park, Seattle, the first major urban landbridge.

Halprin also made significant contributions to landscape architectural theory through his writings. His notebooks 1959-1971 chronicle some of the experiences that shaped his design thinking. He hiked in the Sierra Nevada with his wife, Anna, his daughters, Daria and Rana, and his sketchbook. At the same time, he and his wife, Anna, a dancer, began a series of collaborations on movement notations and the creative process. Halprin developed this notation system for ‘scoring’ movement (motation), which was used to map users’ movements through designed spaces. Further development of the motation system led to creative and participatory 'procedures' he captured in The RSVP Cycles (1969) and, in practice, in the Take Part Workshops.

In 1974 Halprin won the competition for the design of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial (1997.) His submission was a memorable film simulating movement through the space using a model scope attached to a camera and a realistic model.

He was awarded the American Institute of Architects Medal for Allied Professions (1964), American Society of Landscape Architects Gold Medal (1978), the University of Virginia Thomas Jefferson Medal in Architecture (1979), the National Medal of the Arts (2002), and the ASLA Design Medal (2003).

The Publication

Despite Halprin’s pivotal importance as a modern landscape architect, most publications have stepped away from assessment of the larger impacts of his work, both built and written. The special issue of Landscape Journal that resulted from the colloquium contextualizes his work in terms of the critical practice and theoretical concerns of landscape architecture. Including essays by thirteen authors, the publication brings together three principal groups of commentators: contemporaries or near-contemporaries of Halprin’s, many of whom worked with him; senior historians, who take the long view on Halprin’s work; and emerging scholars who interrogate Halprin’s work and methods from a critical distance.  The focus is on the urban and large-scale work that became a signature of the firm, but the issue also addresses the mid-century context of Bay Area landscape architectural practice; participatory processes, specifically scoring, that characterized the firm’s work across scales and project types; Halprin’s work in Israel; design and construction challenges (with a special focus on the FDR Memorial); and issues in the conservation of Halprin’s urban projects.


Gardens of the Roman Empire

February 14–15, 2003 | Joint Byzantine Studies and Garden and Landscape Studies Colloquium