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Landscape and the Academy

Dumbarton Oaks Music Room
May 6  –  7, 2016
Fully Booked
Garden and Landscape Studies Symposium | Daniel Bluestone and John Beardsley, Symposiarchs

On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of Dumbarton Oaks, which certainly counts among the most significant cultural landscapes in any university's care, the Garden and Landscape Studies program is planning a symposium on the history of academic landscapes and their prospects and perils as universities go global and digital. History provides numerous examples of pedagogical landscapes: the monastic-style cloisters that provided at least one model for academic settings implied ideas about the collective and contemplative life, while the “academical village” at the University of Virginia—where students and instructors lived in close proximity to each other and to the library, near gardens that produced some of their food—provided an early instance of self-sufficiency and perhaps even sustainability. More recently, land grant universities were established to teach applied agriculture.

But how valid are these pedagogical objectives today? Are universities still cultivating self-conscious relationships between their landscapes and their academic missions? Are these landscapes, beyond their applications in curriculum, still being used to foster new thinking in landscape design, aesthetics, environmental ethics, or community history? Universities might be seen as models of density, walkability, and sustainability, but how effective are they at transmitting these lessons to their students or to the larger public? If one were to imagine an ideal campus today, what would it look like, and what would people learn from it?

Furthermore, thinking globally, what are the models for universities outside of Europe and North America? As campus forms are exported to the developing world, how relevant and usable are they?  And how are universities dealing with the challenges of preservation, as student populations expand, uses change, surroundings develop, and neighboring communities evolve? Are there options for preservation beside resistance or capitulation? Can universities become models of adaptability?

Looking beyond specific instances of campus planning and design, we seek a larger understanding of the place of university landscapes in their academic and urban communities.

This symposium, organized by Daniel Bluestone (Boston University) and John Beardsley (Dumbarton Oaks), took place in the Dumbarton Oaks Music Room.

  • Peter Alagona (University of California, Santa Barbara), “From the Classroom to the Countryside: The University of California’s Natural Reserve System and the Role of Field Stations in American Academic Life”
  • Hilary Ballon (New York University), “The U.S. Campus Abroad”
  • Joseph Claghorn (Leibniz Universität Hannover), “Views of the Yard: The Evolving Image of Harvard's Core Landscape”                                         
  • John Davis (Harvard University), “Field School: The Landscape of the United States Military Academy at West Point”
  • Hazel Ruth Edwards, (The Catholic University of America), "On Hilltop High: The Enduring and Nurturing Landscapes of the Howard University Campus"      
  • Burak Erdim (North Carolina State University), “Academy and Landscapes of Development: Situating Planning Cultures in the Cold War Middle East”
  • David Foster (Harvard Forest), “Harvard’s Forest and Farm: A Consistent Mission to the Academy and Society”
  • Gary Hilderbrand (Harvard Graduate School of Design), “Transforming Campus Paradigms: Two Olmsted Brothers Cases”
  • Mark Hough (Duke University) and Linda Jewell (University of California, Berkeley),“Campus and Garden: Reconciling Typologies”
  • John Dixon Hunt (University of Pennsylvania), “'Landscape' in New British Universities”
  • Karen Van Lengen (University of Virginia), “Pedagogical Landscapes: The Vassar College Legacy”
  • Dino J. Martins (Mpala Research Centre), “Field Research Stations in East Africa: Impacts on Landscape Management, Conservation, and Sustainable Development”
  • Tianjie Zhang (Tianjin University), “Reconfiguring Mountain-and-Water (Shanshui) Campuses: Landscape Planning in Early Twentieth-Century Chinese Universities”

Wuhan University, China, November 2015. Photo: Tianjie Zhang