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Mellon Initiative in Urban Landscape Studies

Garden and Landscape Studies at Dumbarton Oaks has received a second major award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to expand the interdisciplinary program in urban landscape studies with a focus on “Democracy and the Urban Landscape: Race, Identity, and Difference.” This grant is one of eighteen made by the Mellon Foundation so far to significant institutions of higher education and research, including Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, through their initiative in “Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities.” Grants are 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 scholars from multiple disciplines including designers together to explore how urban environments have emerged as we know them today and how we might reimagine them in the future.

The program at Dumbarton Oaks involves three principal components: semester-long fellowships for both research and teaching projects, with additional opportunities for field research funding; a series of academic events, such as the Mellon Midday Dialogues, that create a framework for interactions among the fellows as well as the humanities scholars at Dumbarton Oaks and neighboring academic institutions; and a series of public programs including lectures, colloquia, workshops, and publications, all aimed at disseminating the initiative’s work nationally and internationally. 

The initiative will produce and disseminate scholarship that reframes the narratives of landscape history through a deeper inquiry into the legacies of race, identity, and difference as they shape the practice of democracy while acknowledging the importance of sustainability, adaptability, and resilience. The themes foster an understanding of cities as landscape systems by inviting engagement with such topics as topography, hydrology, climate, and urban form; landscape and public history; the urban/rural interface; racialized and gendered landscapes; political ecologies; and informal urbanism. In these ways, the project seeks to enlarge the discourse of landscape history to encompass a broad range of cultures, places, and questions.

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Image: “Seasons March,” a scene from Pina, the film by Wim Wenders, 2011. Jeremy Foster presented a Midday Dialogue in 2016 which analyzed culture, nature, and citizenship during periods of transition.