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Technology and the Garden

Dumbarton Oaks
May 6  –  7, 2011
Garden and Landscape Studies Symposium

In his classic work The Machine in the Garden (1964), Leo Marx posited that modernity came into being when the machine—a symbol of the forces of technology—entered the pastoral garden of the pre-industrial world. The machine was the engine of change and a profound disturbance to the garden, traditionally seen as a peaceful, static realm and the antithesis of the turbulent forces of technology and the nascent modern world. Yet gardens are products of technology, and this intimate connection invites further exploration. Scholars have long recognized the impact of technology on our understanding of nature and geography, but have rarely analyzed its relation to gardens and other designed landscapes. This is a significant gap in our scholarship that this symposium is intended to redress.

Expanding upon existing research in the history of technology, we will address framework issues including the impact of mechanization on gardens, the role of informal or artisanal knowledge in the continuity of working methods, and the links between technological innovation and design change. Through specific cases we will build on areas where there has been substantial study, such as water systems and gardens, and explore topics that have received little attention, such as the history of earth-moving equipment. We will also highlight contemporary explorations of landscape both as a place and an idea and present new modes of representation and garden experience created by artists using film, video, and digital technologies. The technics of the garden can be hidden or revealed, disguised beneath the earth, or celebrated on the surface. Technology can be approached at the full range of scales of garden and landscape design, through all historical periods, and in a diversity of places and cultures; how designers have dealt with this issue is a central question in garden history, and this symposium will serve as a beginning foray into this increasingly vital topic.


  • Tom Conley, Abbott Lawrence Lowell Professor, Harvard University, The Engineer in the Garden: from Amadis to L'Astrée
  • Nikolaus Correll, Assistant Professor, University of Colorado at Boulder, Robots in the Garden
  • Claudia Dias, Architect, Fifthseason Studios, New York, Green Roofs and the Idea of the Wild Thing: The Economics of Manipulating Nature
  • Georges Farhat, Associate Professor, University of Toronto, Optical Instrumenta[liza]tion and Earth Moving in Seventeenth-Century French Gardens: Craftsmanship, Site, and Historiographies
  • Alison Hardie, Senior Lecturer, University of Leeds, The Practical Side of Paradise: Garden-Making in Ming Dynasty China
  • Mark Laird, Senior Lecturer, Harvard University, Greenhouse Technologies and Horticulture: The 1st Duchess of Beaufort’s Stove at Badminton
  • Michael Lee, Postdoctoral Associate, Dumbarton Oaks, Infrastructure as Landscape Embellishment: Peter Joseph Lenné in Potsdam and Berlin
  • Scott MacDonald, Professor, Hamilton College, The Garden in the Machine (film screenings)
  • Alessandra Ponte, Professeure agrégée, Université de Montréal, The Planetary Garden: From Energy to Information, 1870s-1970s
  • Peter Raven, President Emeritus, Missouri Botanical Garden, The Genetic Modification of Crops and the Possible Use of These Techniques for Ornamental Plants
  • Katherine Rinne, Adjunct Professor, California College of the Arts, Garden Hydraulics in Pre-Sistine Rome
  • Anatole Tchikine, Lecturer, University of Dublin; Fellow, Dumbarton Oaks, L'anima del giardino: Water, Gardens, and Hydraulics in Sixteenth-Century Florence and Naples
  • Jan Woudstra, Reader, University of Sheffield, The Stoves at Hampton Court Palace (1688–1701): The Best Contrived and Built Stoves in England and Its Famous Collection of Indian Plants
  • Marina Zurkow, Video Artist, New York; and Una Chaudhuri, Professor, New York University, Queering the Green Man: Marina Zurkow’s Mesocosm (Northumberland UK) (includes video screening)



Samuel Hayes. A Practical Treatise on Planting; and the Management of Woods and Coppices. Dublin: printed by Wm. Sleater; and sold by Allen & West, London, 1794.